Once one of the most popular members of the Royal Family (second only to Queen Elizabeth), Prince Harry is now seeing his popularity hit an all-time low in the U.K. After months of revealing interviews about his family—reserving his most damning criticisms for his father, Prince Charles, and brother, Prince William—and the recent news that he’s writing a tell-all memoir to be published next year, Harry’s stock has plunged precipitously, making him the subject of widespread derision and outrage in England. The latest YouGov poll from the U.K. reveals that the Duke of Sussex is only one step from the bottom of the list that ranks the popularity of 15 members of the Royal Family. He came in one slot above the disgraced Prince Andrew, who withdrew from public life in 2019 amid reports of his connections and alleged involvement with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. (The Duke of York has denied those allegations.)
Andrew dropped to the very bottom of the overall ranking after his disastrous attempt to clear his name in an interview with the BBC that resulted in him getting booted from Buckingham Palace and losing his royal patronages. His attempts to slip back into public life earlier this year after the death of his father, Prince Philip, were thwarted by Charles, who reportedly is determined to keep Andrew out of the spotlight.
That’s why it’s even more shocking that, in another YouGov poll among British baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), Harry is less popular than Andrew. The Duke of Sussex has a 12 percent favorability rating among that demographic, one point below the Duke of York, who scored a rating of 13 percent, tying with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
Of course, Andrew was never so close to the top of the list, but Harry’s plunging popularity is a far more stunning fall from grace. Read on to find out why the Duke of Sussex has never been less popular and what events specifically have led to this moment.
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Harry has not been able to escape “second son syndrome.”
Being the second son in any Royal Family means always being overshadowed by the heir. While the heir to the throne knows exactly what lies ahead in the future, the spare’s role is undefined. There is, however, an unwritten rule that the spare be the heir’s close confidante and champion, as Princess Margaret did with her sister, the Queen.
Like Andrew before him, Harry has an older brother who is direct heir to the throne. Both men made names for themselves while serving in the military, both were dubbed “party princes,” and both have struggled with their images for years. Andrew, who is 12 years younger than Charles, also has clashed with his brother in many situations over the years, including keeping private security for his daughters (which was taken away in 2011 as a cost-cutting measure) and his battle to have Princess Eugenie’s 2018 wedding to Jack Brooksbank be treated with the same pomp and circumstance Harry and Meghan’s nuptials received months earlier.
Despite his success with The Invictus Games and Sentebale, a charity he co-founded to continue his mother’s work with AIDS awareness, Harry’s current conflicts with his brother have now begun to overshadow his many contributions and accomplishments as a royal. The prince has been looking over his shoulder for some time, trying to outrun the inevitability that interest in William and Kate’s children would eclipse attention once paid to him. The prince once told biographer Angela Levin that he wanted to make his mark before the attention shifts to the Cambridge kids. In 2019, Levin recounted her conversation with Harry to Yahoo’s Royal Box (via Express): “One of the things he said to me though was that he was in a big rush to make changes and to do something that’s really valuable. Because, he said, ‘All too soon George and Charlotte will be hogging all the films.'”
But things allegedly changed when Harry married Meghan. Unacquainted with royal protocol and determined to “hit the ground running,” insiders say the Duchess of Sussex quickly became frustrated when she learned that no matter what she and Harry did or wanted to do within The Institution, their efforts would always be eclipsed by whatever William and Kate did. “Meghan somehow thought the Royal Family was meritocracy and that she could supplant centuries of royal tradition with hard work and plans to change the way things are done,” one source told Best Life. “Harry believed what was happening to her mirrored his own experience. She was the match that set fire to Harry’s explosive behavior that continues to this day.”
Another royal insider told Best Life: “Harry could not escape ‘the second son syndrome.’ He’s a big celebrity in California, but can’t seem to leave the jealousy and hurt of the past behind. In fact, it’s gotten worse because now he is reliving it by talking incessantly about it and now he’s going to be writing about it. Even all those miles apart, he is still fighting William for the spotlight.”
RELATED: Princess Diana’s Warning Is at the Root of William and Harry’s Rift.
His $20 million book deal evoked widespread outrage.
Harry rocked the Royal Family to its core more than once this year, but last week’s news that he had inked a $20 million book deal set off immediate furor in the U.K. Early reports that claimed one of the four books would be published only after the Queen’s death were denied by his spokesperson (via People) on July 27, but the damage had been done.
The reaction to the news from outlets in the U.K. and the Commonwealth was widespread outrage. In his column for The Daily Mail, Piers Morgan, reacting to news of the book deal, called Harry a “sell-out” and said his royal titles should be removed. He described the prince’s decision to publish a memoir next year as “sad, pathetic, and totally unnecessary, and it will obviously cause yet more pain to his grandmother who is still mourning the loss of her husband Philip.” Royal reporter Dan Wooton echoed Morgan’s take, tweeting: “Surely Harry can’t stoop any lower … STRIP HIM OF HIS TITLES NOW.”
On July 21, The Daily Mail reported that the majority of Brits are not interested in reading Harry’s upcoming memoir. The outlet stated that a new poll of 5,808 adults revealed 80 percent were “not very interested” or “not interested at all” in reading the book. Responses to the outlet’s story about the upcoming memoir were brutal in their criticisms of Harry and Meghan, with one U.K. commenter writing: “The people of the U.K. loathe them for what they have done, the lies they have told, and the damage they have done to the Royal Family through their hatred and jealousy.”
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Harry claimed he left the U.K. for a more private life, but since landing in California, he’s given more interviews than ever.
Harry’s antipathy and distrust of the media dates back to his mom, Princess Diana’s, final years and only intensified when he began dating Meghan. While on their 2019 tour of Africa, where the couple first publicly shared their unhappiness with royal life in their interview with ITV, Harry shocked the press who accompanied the couple on the trip when he railed against the media, chastising them over their coverage of the couple and announcing that Meghan was taking legal action against the British tabloids. In a recent interview for his docuseries on mental health, The Me You Can’t See, which he co-produced with Oprah Winfrey, the prince admitted one of his biggest fears was history repeating itself, with Meghan suffering the same fate as Diana.
Harry has said one of the key reasons he and Meghan left the U.K. was to escape the non-stop media coverage and live a more private life, but earlier this year, he and Meghan sat down with Winfrey for their bombshell tell-all interview, during which he exposed not only his inner most thoughts about life as a royal, but also made stunning accusations against the Royal Family that have only intensified in subsequent sit-downs.
“For someone who wanted a private life, Harry has an odd way of showing it,” one source told Best Life. “His disclosures in these shocking interviews have done nothing but focus more media attention on him and Meghan, which goes against everything he said he wanted. And then there’s the memoir. Who writes a book about their own life while claiming they don’t want media coverage? In the U.K., his behavior is viewed by many as extremely hypocritical.”
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Harry’s claim that Prince Charles cut him off financially conflicts with reports from his father’s staffers.
Harry’s public war with his father began when the prince told Winfrey in the Sussexes’ now infamous CBS interview that the family “literally cut [him] off financially” when he and Meghan departed for America in the “first quarter of 2020.” However, the Independent reported a senior aide for Clarence House contradicted Harry’s claim, telling the outlet that the Prince of Wales had given his son and daughter-in-law a “substantial sum” of money for a longer period of time after they quit royal life.
The outlet reported that a published accounting of Charles’ finances show he continued to fund the Sussexes until the summer of 2020. Harry and Meghan were still listed in the report as receiving money from Charles’ income from the Duchy of Cornwall even though they stepped down much earlier that year. Harry has said he and Meghan inked multi-million dollar deals with Netflix and Spotify out of financial necessity, noting that without the £7 million ($9.8 million) inheritance he received when Diana died, the couple “would not have been able to” leave the U.K. and start their new life.
“The constant whinging about money by a man who has lived one of the most privileged existences on the planet is both laughable and unseemly,” one royal source told Best Life. “Banging on about struggling financially while living in a $14 million dollar mansion in California was the final straw for a lot of people in the U.K. Complaining about his lot while the world was in the grip of a global pandemic that cost millions of people their lives and their livelihoods was just ghastly. Since then, he has become completely unrecognizable to so many of the people who were rooting for him on his wedding day.”
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Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.