Harry and William’s ‘unique bond’ broken after tumultuous royal rift

Prince Harry is ‘a silly little boy’ says Jenni Murray

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According to several reports, Prince William will bear the brunt of the majority of blows in his younger brother’s highly-anticipated memoir. The book, which was first announced in the summer of 2021, is set to be a “wholly truthful” account of Prince Harry’s life within the Firm, touching on how he coped with the death of his mother, his military career and his and Meghan Markle’s ultimate exit. Titled Spare, the Duke of Sussex hints at his destined role within the Royal Family — the spare heir. Given the pointed title, it was expected Harry would delve into his relationship with his brother, and leaked excerpts and promotional interviews suggest this is more than likely to be the case.

On Thursday, it was reported that Harry writes about a physical altercation between him and William in the book. The Duke allegedly recounts an incident in 2019 which saw the brothers exchange insults until the then-Duke of Cambridge pushed him to the floor.

Royal sources have since suggested that William would be “devastated” by the forthcoming book, with one labelling it “an utter distortion of reality”.

By all accounts, Harry and William shared a close relationship as children — typical of brothers growing up so close in age.

According to Andrew Morton, the royal biographer who wrote Diana: Her True Story, the boys were “inseparable”. Speaking to the Daily Beast in August, Mr Morton claimed Diana, Princess of Wales, saw Harry as his brother’s “wingman”.

He said: “Like any mother, Diana would have been concerned about the breakdown in the relationship between her children. She said on Panorama, and she said to me, on numerous occasions, that she saw Harry as a wingman for William, because his job is a lonely job, and you cannot trust many people around you. She saw Harry as being there to back up his brother, but that’s not how things turned out.”

It has been said that Harry and William were aware of their future roles within the monarchy. Ken Wharfe, a bodyguard to Diana, Princess of Wales, and the two boys in the late Eighties, claimed the Princes were aware of their royal destinies from a young age.

In his book Battle of Brothers, Robert Lacey wrote: “According to Wharfe, Harry and his brother got embroiled in an argument in the back seat of the car, with their nanny vainly seeking to referee the dispute.

“‘You’ll be king one day,’ said the four-year-old Harry. ‘I won’t. So, I can do what I want.’ ‘Where the hell did he get that from?’ asked Diana.”

That being said, the late Princess reportedly tried to shield her younger son from the ‘Spare’ label, focusing on her role as a mother of two children, rather than the mother of the heir and spare. James Patterson, author of Diana, William and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother, told Fox News in August: “I think she tried to control it as much as she could. I think she was troubled about it.”

He added: “I think she was very aware of the situation. She had experienced how difficult it was to be in her role as a princess… She wanted to have her own life. And that was very hard for her. She didn’t want the boys to experience the same struggles she faced. She tried as much as she could to control it. She simply wanted them to be normal kids and understand that the real world doesn’t operate in the same way it worked within the palace. They shouldn’t see themselves as special or different.”

In 1997, at ages 12 and 15, Harry and William suffered a tragic loss following the death of their mother. The brothers walked behind their mother’s coffin during the funeral procession to Westminster Abbey in September of that year.

William later described the experience as “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done”, while Harry said it’s something no child “should be asked to do”. Later, the Prince of Wales said he and his younger brother were “uniquely bonded because of what we’ve been through”.

And to mark the 10-year anniversary of Diana’s death, Harry said: “William and I can separate life into two parts. There are the years that we were blessed beside us with the physical presence of both our mother and father. And then there are the 10 years since our mother’s death. She was our guardian, friend and protector. She never once allowed her unfaltering love for us to go unspoken or undemonstrated. Behind the media glare, to us, two children, she was quite simply the best mother in the world.”

The brothers seemingly maintained a close relationship, carrying out engagements together, launching campaigns and continuing their mother’s legacy.

In 2011, William chose Harry as his best man for his wedding to Kate Middleton, and on April 29, the brothers stood side-by-side as the future Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s history-making wedding took place.

Harry and William were seen smiling and chatting as Kate walked up the aisle, and the younger brother is said to have whispered “wait until you see her” before the bridge made it to the altar. Later, in his best man speech, Harry reportedly gushed about the newlyweds, describing William as “the perfect brother” and saying he loved Kate “like a sister”.

In the years that followed, Harry, William and Kate were often described as the royal trio, joining forces to carry out several royal engagements. In May 2016, they launched the Heads Together campaign to tackle the stigma around mental health, making an effort to “change the national conversation on mental wellbeing”.

However, according to royal author Katie Nicholl, Harry “felt very much like a spare wheel”.

Harry became a part of his own royal duo when he started dating Meghan Markle — an LA-born actress. Having engaged in a whirlwind romance, the couple announced their engagement just over a year later. But according to several reports, it was Harry’s budding romance that became the catalyst for the infamous ‘royal rift’.

The elder prince supposedly expressed concern about how quickly his brother was moving with Meghan. In his book, Mr Lacey claimed William enlisted Diana’s brother Charles Spencer to try to talk to Harry too.

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“After several more peppery reactions, William turned to his uncle Charles Spencer for help,” the book read. “The result of the Spencer intervention was an even more bitter explosion. Once again Harry refused to slow down. He didn’t blame his uncle. He understood why Diana’s brother should want to help. Yet he was furious with his elder brother for dragging other family members into the row.”

When the royal engagement was announced, William expressed his happiness for his younger brother and his wife-to-be. In a statement, he and Kate said: “We are very excited for Harry and Meghan. It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together.”

Then, in May 2018, William stood as his brother’s closest confidante for Harry and Meghan’s wedding at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. Just as Harry had acted as best man in 2011, William returned the favour.

Months later, in November of that year, rumours of tension between the brothers began circulating, mainly because the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had chosen to leave Kensington Palace and move into Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor estate.

Writing for Vanity Fair at the time, Ms Nicholl claimed the move was due to tension caused by a row between the brothers at Christmas in 2017. “Harry felt William wasn’t rolling out the red carpet for Meghan and told him so. They had a bit of a fall out which was only resolved when Charles stepped in and asked William to make an effort. That’s when the Cambridges invited the Sussexes to spend Christmas with them,” she reported.

In March 2019, William and Harry officially split households, making global headlines at the time. In a statement made by Buckingham Palace representatives, it was said the “long-planned move” will “ensure that permanent support arrangements for the Duke and Duchess’ work are in place as they start their family and move to their official residence at Frogmore Cottage”. Neither household addressed the speculation surrounding the split.

For several months, speculation of a spat between the brothers went unconfirmed. It wasn’t until October 2019, when Harry and Meghan took part in an ITV documentary, that the rumours were proven to be true.

Not long after they returned from Africa, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex travelled to Canada for an extended break over the festive period.

Upon their return, in January 2020, the long-speculated feud came to a head. Harry and Meghan shocked the world when they announced their plan to step back as working royals and move to North America.

At the time, a Buckingham Palace statement stated the royal household was “saddened” by the decision.

The brothers later released a joint statement following reports William had bullied Harry out of the family. The statement read: “Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a UK newspaper today speculating about the relationship between the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Cambridge. For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful.”

During the six-part series, the Duke also claimed that William yelled at him during the infamous Sandringham Summit whereby it was decided that the Sussexes stepping back from duty was the only path forward for them. “It was terrifying to have my brother scream and shout at me, and my father say things that just simply weren’t true, and my grandmother quietly sit there and just take it all in,” he said.

Just over a year later, tensions between the royals were exacerbated when Harry and Meghan sat down for their first tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey. Harry claimed his father and brother were “trapped” within the institution, and Meghan said “concerns” were raised about baby Archie’s skin colour before he was born and she had suicidal thoughts during her time in the Royal Family.

When asked about the racism allegation, William said the royals were “not a racist family”.

Harry returned to the UK the following month, in April 2021, for the funeral of his grandfather Prince Philip. However, according to several reports, tensions remained.

When the Sussexes visited the UK for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, they were not seen interacting with the then-Cambridges and jetted back to the US before the festivities came to an end.

In September, the brothers were brought together by grief following the death of their grandmother. They joined forces for a walkabout days after Queen Elizabeth’s death, held a 15-minute vigil with her other grandchildren and walked behind her coffin as she left Buckingham Palace for the last time on the day of her funeral.

While the royals put on a united front to mourn the loss of the country’s monarch and their matriarch, it later became apparent that there were grievances yet to be aired.

Harry and William didn’t meet up when the Prince and Princess of Wales flew to the US to visit Boston in December 2022.

Later in the month Harry and Meghan’s documentary series saw Harry speak about the breakdown of his relationship with William.

Now, leaked excerpts of the book suggest the younger prince has further bombshells to deliver, leading many to doubt any hope for a brotherly reconciliation.

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