Many people have chosen to lay the blame squarely on Duchess Meghan for Prince Harry’s transformation from one of the most popular and easy-going members of the Royal Family into the guarded man who exposed family conflicts in the couple’s stunning interview with Oprah Winfrey. But the truth is, the duke’s unhappiness with royal life had been building long before Meghan came along. In misreading the signs that Harry was growing increasingly frustrated by his life behind Palace walls, his father, Prince Charles, and brother, Prince William, made a fateful mistake.
“Both Prince Charles and Prince William underestimated what could eventually happen when Harry’s long-simmering anger finally exploded,” a royal source told Best Life. “They thought that Meghan, with her experience with public life as an actress, would help the prince finally settle into his role as a senior royal. The truth is, she was the match that lit the flame that turned into a wildfire.” Read on to find out what events in Harry’s life led to his shocking exit from the Royal Family and why his rift with his brother and father may never fully heal. And for more on where mistakes were made with Meghan, check out The Royals Made This One “Fateful Mistake” With Meghan, Says Insider.
Harry’s resentment over his mother’s treatment by the press had been brewing for years.
Prince Charles and Prince William seemingly had no idea Harry’s lingering resentment over how his mother, Princess Diana, was treated by the British media and his dissatisfaction with not having a defined royal role would one day explode into a crisis of epic proportions.
In 2017, Harry spoke with Newsweek and it was clear he was still struggling over the loss of his mother. The prince told biographer Angela Levin that his memories of Diana’s funeral nearly 20 years ago still haunted him. “My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television,” said the prince. “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”
Harry stunned the Royal Family when he also made this shocking statement: “Is there any one of the Royal Family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.” In his interview with Oprah, Harry said almost the same, telling her his father and brother were “trapped” within the institution, which reportedly angered Charles and William.
“All the signs have been there for a long, long time. Harry began opening up to the press years ago,” one royal source told Best Life. “I don’t think Charles or William ever expected Harry to go so far as to move to the United States and go on television to air his grievances in public, but he’d already done that in his ITV interview. It should have come as no surprise he would do it again. Even though things had been getting progressively worse since he and Meghan left the Royal Family, his father and brother felt blindsided.”
Another Palace insider claimed: “Charles and William both believed Harry would always put duty first, as he’s done all his life. They didn’t realize that Harry now had a reason to leave because he was determined to protect his his wife and his son [Archie Mountbatten-Windsor] from the tabloids and live as normal a life as possible. He did what his mother always longed to do—he broke free on his own terms.” And for more on the Sussexes’ departure, check out This Is Who Helped Harry & Meghan Leave Royal Life, Say Insiders.
Tensions between William and Harry over his decision to date Meghan Markle strained their relationship early on.
In 2016, when news broke that Harry and Meghan were dating, the prince was angered by the racist coverage Meghan was subjected to in the British tabloids and online. The prince was so infuriated that the Palace issued a rare, strongly worded statement on his behalf, admonishing the press to leave his girlfriend alone.
The Daily Mail reported at the time that William did not support Harry’s decision to issue the statement, reportedly concerned by his “hot-headed” brother’s “tirade.” But a Kensington Palace spokesman refuted those rumors, saying, “The Duke of Cambridge absolutely understands the situation concerning privacy and supports the need for Prince Harry to support those closest to him.”
There had also been stories that Harry was offended by William’s comments that he should “slow down” after being introduced to Meghan for the first time. A source told The Sun in 2018, “William told his brother they knew nothing about her background, her intentions, what she was really like. He just wanted to stress that becoming part of the Royal Family is a massive undertaking and the pressure and scrutiny is unrelenting.” The insider went on to say that Harry “accused his brother of trying to finish the romance before it had begun. The brothers’ relationship has not really recovered.” And for more on what William’s dealing with now, check out The One Thing William Must Do to Save the Monarchy, Say Insiders.
Harry saw disturbing parallels between the media harassment Diana was subjected to and the tabloids’ biased and hateful coverage of Meghan.
In the 2017 BBC documentary Diana, 7 Days, Harry could barely contain his fury as he recounted the events leading up to Diana’s death that infamous night in August 1997, when she and her companion, Dodi Fayed, and their driver were killed in a car crash in a tunnel underpass after being chased through the streets of Paris by a swarm of paparazzi. “I think one of the hardest things to come to terms with is the fact that the people who chased her into the tunnel were the same people that were taking photographs of her while she was still dying on the back seat of the car,” he said in the broadcast 20 years after his mother’s death. “And then those photographs found their way back to news desks in this country.”
In a 2019 interview with ITV, Harry said he worried about Meghan’s safety and his “deepest fear is history repeating itself.” He also poignantly stated, “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.” Last month, he reiterated his feelings when he told Oprah his “biggest fear” was the possibility Meghan suffering the same fate as his mother. And for more fallout from the Oprah tell-all, check out This Royal Has the Most to Lose From Harry & Meghan’s Interview, Insiders Say.
Harry and Meghan’s wedding pushed them further apart from William and Kate.
Publicly, it appeared that the biggest drama surrounding the royal wedding in 2018 was the surprise news that Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle, would not attend the ceremony after it was revealed he’d cooperated with photographers to stage fake photos of him preparing for the wedding. But as the world now knows, there were plenty of other conflicts going on behind the scenes. The story about Meghan making Kate cry during a bridesmaids’ dress fitting has been reported by countless news outlets. But, when Meghan and Harry sat down with Oprah Winfrey, the duchess said the “reverse” is what had actually happened, claiming it was Kate who made her cry and that she was disappointed no effort was made by the Royal Family to correct the reports.
Not surprisingly, this did not sit well with William and Kate. A Palace insider told Page Six that Kate was “mortified” Meghan had talked extensively about incident that she thought had been settled. Another source told Best Life William was “furious” that Kate has been embarrassed by his sister-in-law in such a public way. “The way to infuriate William is to attack Kate. He is very protective and was positively livid over Meghan’s dragging Kate into the fray,” the insider said. And for more on who’s been in Kate’s corner, check out This Royal Stood by Kate After Harry & Meghan’s Tell-All, Says Insider.
Harry felt he was being “pushed out” of the Royal Family and was upset over Charles and William’s behavior around the Sandringham Summit.
After the shocking news that Harry and Meghan would be stepping back from their royal roles in January 2020, Queen Elizabeth charged Charles and William with sitting down with Harry to expedite an official exit agreement in hopes of settling things quickly. The situation was so contentious that William refused his grandmother’s invitation to join her for lunch with Harry before the negotiations began at the Queen’s estate in Sandringham.
After an agreement was reached, the Palace announced Harry and Meghan could not be part-time royals, Harry would give up almost all of his military titles, and the couple would pay back the taxpayer funds used to renovate their home, Frogmore Cottage. The couple was also told they could not use the name “Sussex Royal” in launching their own brand in North America.
Harry was furious. Days later, he stunned attendees at a dinner for his charity Sentebale when he spoke candidly to the crowd, saying, “It brings me great sadness that it has come to this. The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly. It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven’t always gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.”
“Harry did feel he was being pushed out,” said an insider. “By the time it was all over, he wasn’t on speaking terms with William and was deeply hurt that his father hadn’t done more to help him.” Additionally, Harry told Oprah that some time during the negotiations, his father had stopped taking his calls and cut him off financially. And for more royals news sent right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Harry and the royals publicly disagree over his and Meghan’s claims of racism regarding their son.
Among the Sussexes’ many stunning revelations during their interview with Oprah was the allegation that there had been conversations with an unnamed family member about the color of Archie’s skin before he was born. When Oprah pressed the couple to identity the royal, Harry quickly said he’d never reveal who made the remark, but on CBS This Morning, Oprah said that it was neither the Queen nor Prince Philip, according to Harry.
Two days after the broadcast, the royals issued a statement that subtly refuted the couple’s allegations, stating “some recollections may vary,” while noting that Harry, Meghan, and Archie “will always be beloved family members.”
Shortly thereafter, Gayle King, a friend of the couple, said on CBS This Morning that she’d spoken with the couple and was told by Harry that his initial call after the broadcast with his father and brother was “not productive.” King also reported Meghan was upset no one from the Royal Family had spoken to her.
“It’s hard to see how both sides can come together and reach some sort of truce at this time,” a royal insider told Best Life. “Had Charles and William realized Harry would no longer have his feelings and plans ignored, a lot of this might not have happened.”
And for more inside information about the Royal Family, check out The One Thing the Queen Didn’t Like About Kate Early On, Says Insider.
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.