Prince Harry was accused of creating “unnecessary drama,” acting “like a teenager in a reality show,” and “making it all about him” by various friends of the royal family after he raced across the Atlantic for a half-hour meeting with his father this week, returning to America just 25 hours later.
The trenchant criticisms reveal the persistent depth of mistrust when it comes to Harry among some of the inner circle of British society.
However, other sources said that King Charles, who had just announced his shock cancer diagnosis and begun treatment, welcomed his son’s gesture and could have easily asked him to delay his trip had he not wished to see him on Tuesday. One source added that Harry’s visit “clearly” meant another trip would be possible.
While the meeting with Charles undoubtedly represents an important step in repairing their relationship, the chances of fraternal reconciliation seem close to zero. One friend of Prince William told The Daily Beast that William “never” wanted to see Harry again.
Another added that Harry’s hop to the U.K. went against the royal family’s tendency to put institutional calm above “personal impulses,” and accused Harry of using the king’s diagnosis to “cast himself as the dutiful, concerned son” despite openly trashing his father and other family members in his book, Spare.
However, staffers at Buckingham Palace, seeking perhaps to calm the waters, have let it be known that the king welcomed his son’s visit, and one former courtier pointed out it would have been easy for Charles to ask Harry to come at a later date, had he so wished.
William has still not seen his father in person since the diagnosis, The Daily Beast understands, content with supportive calls and messages. Reports that Princess Beatrice made a special visit to London to visit her uncle are wide of the mark too—she has for many years lived in an apartment in St James’ Palace, which is part of the same compound as Clarence House. Princess Anne is thought to have seen Charles at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday morning.
Charles’ unprecedented revelation at 6 p.m. on Monday that he had been diagnosed with cancer marked an extraordinary break with protocol for the royals, whose medical conditions are usually closely guarded secrets.
Just hours after the stunning revelation was made, Harry’s team started briefing that he was headed to the U.K. to meet his father, triggering intense speculation about the king’s health. On Tuesday morning, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sought to calm nerves by saying the king’s cancer had been “caught early.”
Later that day, Harry arrived at the king’s London home, Clarence House, having been escorted there by police direct from Heathrow airport. He arrived at 2:45 p.m., and is understood to have spent between 30 minutes and 45 minutes with his father. Charles was photographed leaving the property at 3:35 p.m. He was driven to Buckingham Palace, from where he took a helicopter to Sandringham in Norfolk, east England, where, it is understood, he remains.
The following day, Harry is thought to have left the U.K. on a 3 p.m. flight, meaning he spent just 25 hours on British soil.
One friend who has known the family for decades told The Daily Beast, “To announce on Monday that he (Harry) was flying home immediately after (Charles’ diagnosis) was made public added unnecessary drama to an already febrile situation. It had people speculating that Charles was at death’s door, when in fact, his cancer is eminently treatable and, as the prime minister subsequently said, has been caught early.”
The family friend was unwilling to criticize Charles for agreeing to see Harry at such short notice, saying, “Any father would do the same thing.”
They added: “I don’t think Harry should have put him in the position by asking, quite frankly. It created panic at the worst possible moment.”
The Times of London reported sources close to Charles were “eager to stress that the brevity of the visit was not a slight to his younger son, but merely an indication of the 75-year-old King’s fatigue after the previous day’s hospital procedure.”
A friend of Prince William gave a fascinating insight into the depth of anger still felt toward Harry by many in the family and their circle, telling The Daily Beast: “The king announcing he had cancer was totally unprecedented and incredibly brave—but suddenly the focus was on what Harry was doing. He seems to have this knack of making it all about him. Some people think it’s a bit late to cast himself as the dutiful, concerned son after all the unforgivable things he said about his father, and brother, and their wives in his book.”
Earlier in the week, sources close to William said he “had made it clear” that he would not be meeting his brother, the Times reported; the two have reportedly not spoken to each other in over a year. The source said: “There is no plan, nothing in the diary.”
On Wednesday, as Harry left Britain, William carried out two public duties—an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle, and speaking at a London Air Ambulance of which he is patron—there, he thanked the public for their support of Charles and his wife Kate Middleton, still recovering from abdominal surgery. Sources had previously made clear to the Mail that Kate and his children remained William’s “priority,” and he would not be returning to full royal duties. Charles backs his decision “100%.”
Buckingham Palace aides have also been at pains to make it clear that Charles was delighted to see Harry, and the king was pictured smiling broadly as he left Clarence House after their meeting. It is believed to be the first time the two have had a face-to-face conversation since the late Queen Elizabeth’s death.
It is thought the king met Harry alone and was not joined by Queen Camilla, who was described by Harry in his memoir Spare as willing to “sacrifice” him and leave “bodies on the street” in what he alleged was a ruthless quest to improve her standing in the public eye and be named queen.
Asked if Harry’s trip, and Charles agreeing to see him, was not a clear sign of a wish to build bridges at least on his father’s side, the friend of William told The Daily Beast: “Of course, but members of the royal family generally don’t behave like a teenager in a reality show expressing their personal impulses. It fuels speculation and panic. They keep calm and carry on.”
Another friend of William scoffed at Harry’s reported willingness to meet William during the trip after his camp told the Daily Mail, “The duke’s primary reason to travel to the U.K. is to visit his father. If the opportunity were to arise to see the Prince of Wales then the duke would have gladly accepted it.”
The friend said: “William never wants to see him again.”
William has not spoken to his brother since the publication of Harry’s memoir, Spare, which made multiple highly personal criticisms of William and his wife Kate Middleton.
“If William wants to carry on being bad cop forever, that’s up to him.”
— Former courtier
One former courtier told The Daily Beast: “I don’t think it’s fair to blame Harry for coming over. Charles could have easily suggested a later date. Overall, I think the situation has turned out pretty well for everyone. Getting those two in a room together for half an hour is actually a remarkable achievement, and it sends all the right messages of forgiveness and reconciliation without rolling out the red carpet. If William wants to carry on being bad cop forever, that’s up to him.”
Asked if they thought it would now be easier for Harry to pay another visit on his father in the week’s ahead, the former courtier said, “If it’s been done once, it can clearly be done again.” The source said they expected Harry would continue to stay in hotels during his trips to London, as he did this week, as opposed to staying in one of the royal palaces or homes, saying, “It’s less complicated.”
Neither the offices of the king nor William wanted to comment on how they had viewed the flying visit by Harry, but the critical remarks made by friends to The Daily Beast mesh with a sense of irritation with Harry expressed by unidentified sources to the respected royal author Robert Jobson.
Jobson wrote in the Daily Mail this week, “Harry caused some disquiet by ‘taking it upon himself’ to fly over unbidden and at such short notice. Put bluntly, the king was unhappy about what amounted to a fait accompli served up by an emotional but well-meaning son.”
Jobson added, without citing his sources, that, “Charles just needs peace and quiet right now,” and that Harry’s visit meant the king had to delay his helicopter flight to Sandringham after his treatment, saying that he and Camilla “were left kicking their heels at Clarence House… while they waited for the errant younger son to appear.”
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