- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
To outward appearances, the Markle Sparkle was fully in evidence as the Duchess smilingly worked the room, her hand touchingly entwined with Harry’s.
With her midnight blue ball gown shimmering in the glare of the flash bulbs, the five-month pregnant royal appeared in sparkling form as she joined her husband for the premiere of Cirque du Soleil in Jan 2019.
Yet following an extraordinary TV interview with Oprah Winfrey that has left the Royal family reeling, we now know that the “suicidal” former actress only went ahead with the engagement at the Royal Albert Hall because she did not think she should be left alone.
The claim, along with the suggestion that an as-yet unnamed Windsor questioned how dark Archie’s skin might be when he was born, form the main charge of the bomb dropped on the monarchy during the couple’s two-hour tell all.
As the Sussexes on Monday night walked away from the smouldering wreckage of the programme’s UK airing, viewers were rightly left wondering whether the crater-sized hole in their relationship with the royals can ever be repaired.
If allegations of racism within The Firm – along with its failure to deal with the Duchess's mental health problems – were not damaging enough, the incendiary interview also lay painfully bare the fractured nature of Prince Harry’s family ties.
In allowing his wife to throw a grenade under the Duchess of Cambridge and detailing how his father stopped taking his calls, Harry lit the fuse on a slow burn stick of dynamite that arguably promises to cause the greatest devastation of all in the long run.
For while criticism of the “institution” will have to be addressed by what Princess Diana described as the palace’s “men in grey suits”, Charles and William will find it much harder to brush off the debris of dysfunctionality at the heart of Harry’s claims.
By describing both his father and his brother as “trapped” – and refusing to rule them out of the running as the relative who made the “racist” remark – Harry is casting aspersions not only on their character but the very establishment into which all three were born. Little wonder, then, that royal watchers are now questioning whether he should keep his title and place as sixth in the line of succession.
A source close to the heir to the throne on Monday night suggested Charles will be left “absolutely devastated” by his younger son’s suggestion that he had let him in down in the run up to Megxit in January last year.
“There will not be any anger, just deep upset and sadness,” they said. “He absolutely adores Harry and won’t want to feel ostracised from Archie. He’ll be feeling very despondent at the idea that they won’t be coming back any time soon.”
Only four years ago it was Harry, 36, not William, 38, who was the closer of the two royal brothers to Charles, 72.
The future king was very upset when William refused to acknowledge his role in their upbringing during the commemorations to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 2017. Instead it was left to Harry to concede: “He was there for us, he was the one out of two left and he tried to do his best and to make sure we were protected and looked after.”
Amid reports that Charles had felt “edged out” by Kate’s parents Michael and Carole Middleton when it came to spending time with his grandchildren, relations between father and eldest son hit rock bottom when a previously unseen photograph of Prince George inadvertently appeared in a video broadcast featuring his grandfather.
According to insiders, William “hit the roof” and for a period, Charles became much closer to Harry.
Although Charles was said to be “a big fan” of Meghan – agreeing to walk her down the aisle in her own father’s absence – the mounting acrimony between the Sussexes and the Cambridges in the wake of the 2018 royal wedding placed him in the invidious position of having to play peacemaker to his warring sons.
As William and Charles joined forces in a bid to insulate the monarchy from the growing crisis, Harry and Meghan soon began to feel marginalised.
With talk of "transition" already high on the agenda, Charles was increasingly involving William in his decision-making – much to the chagrin of Harry who felt pushed out by their "away days" to Duchy of Cornwall estates. He also resented William for what he perceived as “positioning himself as an exemplar” – not least when Diana had insisted they be brought up as “equals”.
The New Year 2020 release of a photograph showing the Queen and her three heirs – Charles, William and George, only served to compound the Sussexes’ sense of sequestration.
By then Harry and Meghan had already decided they wanted to step down as senior royals – but their mistrust of Charles’s operation was laid bare when Harry felt compelled to telephone the Queen about their growing unhappiness after being repeatedly rebuffed by his father’s private secretary, Clive Alderton.
His father had asked him to commit his plans for a "quasi" royal role to paper, but Harry refused, fearing they would be leaked by Clarence House. (One former royal aide described “the endemic paranoia that everyone is secretly briefing against each other” behind palace gates).
Harry then claimed the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Edward Young, cancelled a scheduled meeting with her at Sandringham, prompting him to “take matters into his own hands” by issuing their Instragam statement announcing they were stepping back as “senior” royals.
According to one former royal aide: “Private family matters used to be completely sacrosanct but in recent years the lines have become blurred.
"Private secretaries have been over-stepping the mark when it comes to trying to manage the Royals’ relationships with each other.”
As with all families, money also played a destructive role – as evidenced by Harry’s dismay at the plug being pulled on his family’s taxpayer-funded security.
As one well-placed source put it: “Like any parent, Charles did get fed up with the constant calls from Harry for more money.
“He ploughed a lot into the wedding and the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage (the couple's Windsor home) and did his utmost to make them feel financially supported but when they said they were upping sticks, they asked for even more.
“If he was less inclined to take calls, it might be because he didn't want to be treated like a cash dispenser. I think a lot of parents will be able to identify with that.”
Yet while insiders describe Charles – if not William – as “willing to forgive”, the worst fear of those closest to the royals is that “the trust has gone”.
Referencing the fact that the Queen’s Christmas present to Archie of a waffle maker had featured in Harry’s interview with James Corden, the source added: “They’ll be wary and afraid of making contact now, because they are no longer able to guarantee that any passing comment won’t end up being taken out of context or appearing in the media.
“There is nothing the royals value more than discretion.”
They thought that sunlight would be the best disinfectant. But in airing their dirty linen in public, Harry and Meghan have left a stain on the monarchy that could prove impossible to wash clean.