Rumors of a rift between the two royal brothers Prince William and Prince Harry have been accelerating ever since Harry announced his engagement to Meghan Markle.
Now, with Harry and Meghan stepping down from their roles as senior royals, rumors of the brothers not getting along have reached a peak. The rumors became so overwhelming that a rare official statement by a royal spokesperson was issued in January 2020 denying claims that Harry was “bullied” out of the royal family by William.
So, what is the truth? Here is the real story behind the Prince William and Prince Harry feud.
Prince William and Prince Harry are not as close as they used to be
William and Harry are only two years apart in age, born in 1982 and 1984 respectively. Princess Diana wanted to raise them with a semblance of normalcy, so she took them to amusement parks and even to McDonald’s just like a regular mom.
Diana and Charles divorced when the boys were 10 and eight years old. Tragically, Diana died in a car accident five years later. Their mother’s death bound William and Harry together even more tightly. They were each other’s best man at their weddings.
But where William was always seen as the quiet, serious one, Harry was labeled the loud, playful one. There has always been a suspicion that Harry envies William’s “golden boy” status even as he doesn’t envy William’s position as the future king of England. But considering the lengths he’s gone to recently to get out of the spotlight, Harry envying William seems even less likely. So, what happened?
Harry’s engagement brings alleged conflict with William
Two words: Meghan Markle. That’s not to say that she’s to blame for the brothers’ estrangement, merely that that was the initial catalyst. William was not against Harry’s relationship with Meghan but did question the speed at which the relationship was progressing. Harry took this as a slight against both Meghan and himself. According to The Sun, Harry allegedly accusing his brother of “trying to wreck this relationship before it even started.”
William’s engagement and marriage to Kate Middleton had been seen as ushering in a new era of royals. But Harry and Meghan were treated less than favorably by the press, for any number of reasons centering on Meghan’s nationality, race, occupation, and anything else deemed un-Windsor-like.
Harry wants more normalcy
Living his whole life as an official “Plan B Should Anything Happen To William” left quite a scar on Harry. But once William wed Kate and they began having children, Harry’s place in succession moved farther and farther away. This suited Harry just fine, though that doesn’t mean he was shirking royal duties. He just felt more at ease once the weight of rule had mostly been lifted from him.
When Harry married Meghan, the two brothers and their wives became royalty’s “Fab Four” and the new face of the monarchy. But speculation surfaced that Meghan and Kate weren’t getting along. When Meghan and Harry left the charity they jointly founded with Kate and William in June 2019, the media leapt upon it as a sign of estrangement. The story changed to William and Harry not getting along instead.
Harry outshining William, the actual heir
Remember when we said that Harry was possibly envious of William’s status as the “chosen one?” That sentiment can also be seen going in the opposite way. Harry grew up and began to have a bit of a reputation, reminiscent of his uncle Prince “Randy Andy” Andrew.
In contrast, William’s quiet normalcy wasn’t quite as photogenic. Some even suggested that, as William’s hair began to thin, he was jealous of Harry’s still-boyish looks. But the fact is that being quiet like William is not as media-grabbing as Harry dating an American actress. William will be king regardless of what Harry does, but until then, he’s just not that publicly interesting.
Stealing the spotlight in Africa
In fall 2019, Harry and Meghan went on a trip to Africa with their four-month-old baby Archie. They were followed by a TV crew, and Harry addressed the feud in the ABC documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey.
“Part of this role and part of this job and this family being under the pressure that it’s under… inevitably, you know, stuff happens,” he said. “But, look, we’re brothers. We’ll always be brothers. We’re certainly on different paths at the moment but I will always be there for him and, as I know, he will always be there for me.”
Harry even seemed to admit that the feud was indeed real. “We don’t see each other as much as we used to because we’re so busy, but you know, I love him dearly. The majority of this (reported conflict) is created out of nothing, but you know, as brothers, you know, you have good days, you have bad days.”
Different paths for William and Harry
William and Kate are in preparation to one day take the throne, which leaves Harry and Meghan in a strangely conflicted place. As royals they have duties to charity and nation and maintaining the good standing of the crown abroad, but in a family already filled with royals doing royal things, they’re strangely not necessary.
This doesn’t mean that they don’t have standards to keep up. William and Kate were reported unhappy with Harry and Meghan’s decision to keep the christening of their baby Archie private. An unnamed source quoted in US Weekly said William “thinks his brother is going overboard keeping Archie out of the spotlight.” The same source lays the blame squarely on Meghan, a position the media tends to affect at every opportunity. Which leads to…
Harry and Meghan’s poor relationship with the media
Harry and Meghan’s deteriorating relationship with the press, in addition to the idea of a scaled-down, retooled monarchy, led to the announcement of a break from royal duties. It was not timed well, as Queen Elizabeth’s son Prince Andrew had been removed from his schedule of duties and accolades due to scandal.
But Harry and Meghan’s decision to step away was purely their idea, with a goal to protect themselves and their growing family from the rigors of royalty in media. Harry has never forgiven the press as an institution for the treatment and even death of his mother, and has mentioned that he does not want the same treatment for him and his family.
Us Weekly reported a source claiming that “William was blindsided” by Harry’s announcement to step down, since “when they were younger, William would be the first person Harry would go to with big news like this.”
The future of the monarchy itself
Nothing concerning the royal family is more speculated about than what will happen when the Queen dies. Will Charles become king or abdicate in favor of William? What will happen to the monarchy as an institution? Will Britain become a republic and eschew the royal trappings? It’s hard to believe that something this important could boil down to a supposed rift between two brothers, but it’s possible.
The behavior of the royals versus their treatment by the press may sway the public to back dissolving the monarchy in its entirety. Part of the idea behind moving many of the royals off of public financial support was to lessen the tax burden and perceived waste.
Harry and Meghan have given up their estate at Frogmore Cottage and plan to live at least partly in Canada, but their options for self-support are surprisingly limited. William and Kate’s place is as secure as the monarchy itself. Each brother has made his own way known. Only the future will tell what’s in store for them, in their public or private lives, together or separately.