Cracks in William and Harry’s relationship ‘happened before Meghan Markle arrived’
The trigger for this tragic falling out between William and Harry was said to be the speed with which Harry rushed into marriage with Meghan but, that wasn’t the full story.
There were said to be rumblings of discord between the princes well before Harry met the American actress.
Sadly I think it was always on the cards that these two brothers, once so fiercely close, would one day become estranged.
There is a history of fractured relationships in their mother’s side of the family.
Diana had had a painful falling out with her brother, Charles – or Carlos as she called him, the brother she had similarly adored and been so close to.
It happened after her separation from Prince Charles over a house she had wanted to use on his Althorp estate.
Diana also fell out with her mother, repeatedly. When the Princess died she and Frances Shand Kydd had not spoken for several months. And Frances had fallen out with her own mother too. This bust-up was less surprising.
Ruth, Lady Fermoy had been responsible for Frances losing custody of her four children. Ruth had given evidence against her daughter after her divorce from Diana’s father.
Frances was left with no choice but to walk away from them.
Just six at the time, Diana carried devastating feelings of loss and abandonment into her adult life which impacted disastrously on her marriage; and brother Charles, who was just three at the time, and has had two failed marriages, has said he was in and out of therapy for 20 years.
Diana fell out with friends too, often for no reason they could fathom. One minute they would be sharing confidences, chatting on the phone several times a day, gossiping over lunches, seeing movies together.
And the next, there would be total silence.
Diana wouldn’t ring and wouldn’t answer her phone or reply to messages. The relationship would be inexplicably over – in one case for a whole year. For the lucky ones, it would begin again – just as abruptly as it had ended.
She would make contact and carry on as if absolutely nothing had ever happened. Others never came in from the cold.
Employees also felt the brunt of Diana’s unpredictability.
She fell out with a succession of cooks, housemaids, dressers, secretaries and butlers, many of whom had been treated like friends and confidants. They were left hurt and bewildered by being suddenly frozen out – the cheque for unfair dismissal was rather poor consolation.
William and Harry are very different But they are both Diana’s sons.
Neither is as erratic as their mother –and, of course, some of her behaviour could be attributed to her fragile mental health – but they both have a lot of her in them, particularly, Harry.
He is impulsive and unpredictable in the way she was and is more of an extrovert. Throughout his teens and early twenties his recklessness often landed himself in trouble – and in the last year, he seems to have been as reckless as ever.
William on the other hand, was introverted and cautious as a child, and managed to steer clear of scandal.
He is a steadier character who thinks things through, weighs up pros and cons, and takes his time to reach a decision. Overall, he is probably more at ease with himself than his brother, despite Harry’s showmanship.
Harry never had his brother’s confidence.
Harry wears his heart on his sleeve, as Diana did; William is a master at keeping his feelings hidden.
Growing up they relied heavily on each other, as children of broken homes often do. As Earl Spencer said in his address at Diana’s funeral, “fundamentally she had not changed at all from the big sister”.
He also spoke sympathetically of her eating disorder, describing his sister as “most childlike in her desire to do good for others so she could release herself from deep feelings of unworthiness of which her eating disorders were merely a symptom”.
After the separation, William and Harry also went back and forth from their parents’ houses at weekends. They had nannies and they went to boarding schools, which to some extent shielded them from the worst of their parents acrimonious relationship.
But children are sensitive to atmosphere and their security is easily undermined by unhappiness at home.
And those boys clung to one another, their relationship cemented by mutual need and shared experiences that they could never talk about to others. Only they knew what it was like to be Diana’s sons.
Only they knew the humiliation of being at an all-boys school when stories emerged about their parents’ infidelities; and only they knew the pain of grieving for the mother who she was snatched from them so suddenly, while millions of strangers took ownership of her death.
The impact of losing their mother and in such tragic circumstances was enormous, and as Harry bravely admitted in 2017, he struggled for many years to deal with it.
He confessed that he had suffered two years of ‘total chaos’ in his late twenties. Living in the public eye, he said, had left him feeling that he could be ‘very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions.’
William tried to persuade him to seek help but it was only when he was 28 and feeling “on the verge of punching someone” during a royal engagement, that he took his brother’s advice. For almost two decades since his mother’s death he had ‘shut down all his emotions.’
But there were other and equally difficult undercurrents in their childhood. There was no escaping the fact that William was the heir and Harry, as his mother would jokingly declare, the spare. And Harry was only too aware of that.
He grew up feeling second best. William was the good looking Prince, the clever one, the important one; meanwhile Harry felt himself to be none of those things.
He was the one who had the knack for getting into trouble while William carefully steered clear of it.
But William knew his destiny from a tender age and understood that a future king could not afford to get caught behaving badly like his contemporaries. He had a maturity beyond his years and he was careful where Harry was not.
Being the spare has always been a difficult role to play. The heir has his or her future mapped out and is the focus of attention from the parents, the press and the public.
The spares are royal and yet they are not very important, particularly as time passes and they fall further down the line of succession.
Having been third, Harry is now sixth in line. Yet he is still subject to media scrutiny, still restricted in how he lives his life, still unable to disappear into anonymity.
Princess Margaret struggled with it. Prince Andrew has struggled with it; and unless things are radically different in the years to come, the reality is that Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis may struggle too.
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