The Royal Family is, as one of our 'Future of the Monarchy' panelists put it, “eating itself” alive, as their internal family strife is splashed across the front pages of publications across the globe.
From the troubles facing Prince Andrew to the estrangement of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan from the rest of the Windsors, the monarchy is in trouble.
Omid Scobie, Yahoo UK’s royal executive editor, asked experts just what King Charles can do to mend relationships both inside the family itself and with the public. Watch to find out why, in one panelist’s view, if Harry and William don’t grow up, the entire institution could collapse.
The 'Future of the Monarchy' was hosted by Yahoo in April 2023 shortly before the coronation of King Charles III.
Joining Omid were author and co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party, Catherine Mayer; King Charles’ biographer and royal editor at The Evening Standard Robert Jobson; and journalist and broadcaster Afua Hagan.
Watch the full clip above
- In January, Prince Harry revealed that the issues with his father and brother remain unresolved. And reports that the King was too busy to see his youngest son during his recent visit to the UK show just how much of the Windsors family drama is still playing out in the public eye.
Elsewhere, Prince Andrew's stock has fallen so low in recent years that according to a recent Yahoo poll, 68% of Brits think he should never return to public life.
Royal scandals, of course, are nothing new. The late queen led the family through many of them but was rarely, if ever, touched by them herself. Charles, on the other hand, must navigate this period of familial dysfunction while being intrinsically caught up in the very dramas he's trying to resolve.
So, Afua, how worried should Charles be about the impact that this internal dysfunction could have on the long term stability of the monarchy itself?
- Oh, he needs to be very worried about it. He needs to be very worried about Prince Andrew and everything that he's been involved in and how that impacts the royal family. He does need to be worried as well about how long this reconciliation may take between William and Harry, between himself and Harry, and how that impacts how people see the royal family.
Because if they continuously see them as this big dysfunctional-- dysfunctional-- excuse me-- Kardashian like celebrity family, then people are going to continue to question why they are paying for them. Why are they paying for them to have all of these dramas playing out? And I think, if you've got a poll that says 68% of people don't want to see Prince Andrew return to public life, that's a prominent member of the royal family. You have to take that into consideration.
And let's not forget as well. There is quite a lot of people who are still not very happy to see Queen Camilla become Queen Camilla, who still have not forgotten the '90s and the war of the Wills. That is still something that a lot of people do care about. And the popularity of the Queen Elizabeth II has had is not going to automatically transfer to King Charles for many reasons.
And one of the reasons-- one of the reasons will be his relationship with Camilla, what happened with Princess Diana. That still plays out for a lot of people. And I think it's a lot more people than perhaps we realize. So all these things together make for this dysfunctional family. And so he needs to be very worried about how the royal family is eating itself and destroying itself from the inside.
If he wants the royal family to remain popular, then he's going to have to neutralize some of these things. I mean, you can't take away what happened in the '90s. You can't undo all that. But make the family less dysfunctional going forward if you can. I mean, I'm thinking about Charlotte and Louis and George and Archie and Lilibet.
When they grow up and they start dating and we're going to start talking and writing about them, I hope it's not going to play out in the way that it did for Harry and Meghan.
- We-- we--
- We're artificial intelligence though.
- We've heard so much about Harry and Meghan's experiences from their own mouths, through the Netflix docuseries, through Harry's book. Alongside that, Harry has repeatedly said that he wants accountability. He wants apologies. He wants conversations with his family. And time and time again, he hasn't had that. Robert, Charles' sort of inability to convene and command his own family is one thing.
But how do you think that sort of reflects on his leadership skills? Because this is something that, I would say, he probably could have nipped in the bud much earlier.
- Well, I think it's all a question of trust. And trust takes time to build. Harry has shown no reason why they should trust him and speak to him without ego blurting to all his pals. And he's done it time and time again. So until they can actually come up with a trustworthy situation, I think it's going to be difficult. The King obviously loves both his sons the same and who want to try to build bridges.
He's not somebody who likes confrontation. Never has been. But unfortunately, both his sons are quite volatile and quite confrontational. I think, really, it's time, at this point in time, that maybe two 40-year-old men, rather than being regarded as boys, grew up, became men. But first, people that are around, you can't say men anymore. But really, grew up and be an adult and a father.
And now they're fathers themselves. Be more adult and support their father and show respect to their father at this time. And that doesn't mean blurting out every five minutes and complaining, but actually, acting as royal dukes used to in the past, which is as a league meant to the monarch. And I think that's what they've got to do at this moment in time. And if they can't do that, then I do fear for the monarchy in the long term.
I think both Afua and Catherine are very right in what they're saying. We're on a way-- we may not be on the ledge. We may not be on the edge of the precipice. But they're damn close to it. And I think, if Harry, and particularly, William has got to take the lead and maybe extend his hand and say, OK, let's just agree to disagree.
Otherwise, this story will become a Kardashian showbiz story that runs and runs and dominates the royal story for many years to come.
- But, Catherine, shouldn't the lead be taken by the monarch. And let's be devil's advocate for a second and say Harry can't be trusted and he will blurt everything out. Is there anything-- is there anything wrong in him and Charles making amends and that being shared or leaked or whatever it is?
If Charles took that step to sit down with his son and have that conversation to give him the accountability that is clearly needed to be taken, then I think that would be a huge change in how people see the story around the royal family.
- Again, there's also the optics of it. Quite apart from what you think would be sensible, I was with some people recently who are actual friends of Charles and Camilla. And they were aghast. And they were going, like, we understand that this is a difficult situation. But surely, as a father, you would just put your arms out. And that's the way-- if even people close to them see it that way, that's, again, the way that the wider world is seeing it.
So all of us who know more about the arguments within the palace and all the enmities that there are there. And Robert made a point about how angry-- I mean, I've not spent much time around Harry or William-- a little more around William-- and both of them struck me as angry in different ways. Back then, before any of this blew up, you could see Harry was somebody who would get that sort of pink flush coming up his neck when he didn't like something.
Very-- you could see everything he was thinking. And William was just clenched. And-- and--
- Yeah, Harry wears his heart in his sleeve, does he? Yeah, very much.
- But-- which is also more appealing to be around.
- Oh, very. I think so, yeah.
- But-- but my point here is that this has been brewing up in a dysfunctional family. So to your question about Charles, Charles, again, spare is good on-- because people were so quick to rubbish it. They sort of missed both its historical significance. But also, some of the stuff, it was very good on the description of Charles sort of always there at night with his red boxes and his writing of memos and whatever.
- And the sticker on his head, that was-- [CHUCKLES]
- Yeah, but he-- but he is-- he's a bit hapless and funny and hopeless in all sorts of ways.
- A bit eccentric, yeah.
- And eccentric. But he's also absent in-- for a huge reason.
- Yeah, there was that one time, wasn't there, where Harry remembered one moment when he was playing with his dad. They rolled him up in the carpet and let them out. That was hilarious. But that was one moment.
- Exactly, so he's basically been-- Charles himself was farmed out at a ludicrously young age. He had this upbringing devoid of decent parenting. And then, of course, it's that thing of it replicating. So I don't think that there is an ability there quite apart from all the other people who, for reasons we were talking about with aides and whatever, all the people with vested interests in there, who had a vested interest in sort of fighting different corners.
We also know that there were some really good people who were working with Meghan and Harry and who were trying really hard to make it work. So it's not that everybody did a bad job. But it's where we are where we are. And where we are is somewhere incredibly damaging. But where we also are is with an institution that has never been any good at dealing with any of this and with people who have no idea how to deal with it.
- I feel we're obviously moments away from the coronation. We're going to see Prince Harry over here without Meghan, without Charles's grandchildren. What do you think the sort of visual impact of those missing figures will be on the day itself?
- That's a really good question. I think, if we have a moment where we see Prince Harry processing down with Westminster Abbey by himself, that will be very powerful, you know? ? And it really feeds into the title, spare. You know, and actually, I feel for him. It probably will be quite lonely. I hope that he'll be seated with his cousins and people that he knows and that he loves and that who love him as well.
But I think it is very powerful that he's decided to make this journey without his family. And I also think there's going to be a lot of newspaper editors. They are going to be absolutely fuming that they don't have the opportunity to stare tear strips off Meghan Markle. They don't have the opportunity to talk about what she's wearing or not wearing, to talk about if she used a left or a right leg.
First, if she dared to roll down the window of a car or rolled it off. Did she lean out? Did she not? Did she wave? Did she not? There's going to be a lot of people that are very angry that they don't have the opportunity to do that. And I think that's a very--
- I wish that wasn't a real example. But that's-- that's really--
- But it actually is.
- It truly is a real example, isn't it?
- It's a thing that actually happened. People wrote about her rolling down the window and waving out. And for some reason, that made her a brazen hussy. I still haven't managed to make that work.
- Yeah, that's name and shame. That was Tom Bower or however you pronounce it.
- Yeah, and you know, it's just-- it's just absolutely ridiculous. It's a non-story.
- That's not-- I mean, what that does--
- It's not journalism.
- It's not journalism.
- It's just bullying.
- You know-- and you know, but these are the type of people that--
- Why not?
- --the royal family have to contend with. So I think it's very powerful that Prince Harry will be there by himself. I think it will be hard for him. But like I said, I hope he is seated with people that he loves. But it makes a real statement that also they've decided just to remove some of the family from that element of-- I mean, you can only really call it bullying, can you?
But also, I think, this is division of labor. It's division of parenting. How many of us have had occasions where you've got two things happening on the same day? Dad goes here. Mom goes here. Mom's doing the party. Dad's doing the important occasion.
- Challenge of every funeral, wedding, family get together.
- Exactly, absolutely.
- I think we can all agree on the devastating impact that Prince Andrew has had on the image of the monarchy. Now that story sort of faded now. I feel like it's been written out of the news cycle. However, this year, we, of course, see Virginia Giuffre again work on her book, that's supposed gag that is on her is lifted--
- --moments away from the coronation. Robert, do you think the royal family are bracing themselves for more embarrassment from Prince Andrew? Because in the recent months, we've seen kind of a soft hand towards him. He was alongside the King at the Easter Sunday church service. He's not as out of sight as perhaps I would imagine aides would like him to be.
- The best thing that Prince Andrew could do at the age of 60 old is to get his golf clubs go and just retire because-- and stop worrying about whether-- they've done a deal. They've done this deal. Whether it's right or wrong, I don't know. I don't agree with it. I think it should have been the full course of the law.
But as they both took that decision, then I think it's time for him to pack his bags and not have anything more to do with the royal family. He's the least popular member of the royal family. And he shouldn't really even be at the coronation, in my view. I think that he should just accept that his choice of friendship, a convicted pedophile, was unacceptable in the public.
- Two convicted pedophile.
- Well-- and a sex trafficker I think she was named as--
- Underage sex trafficker. Splitting hairs here.
- No, no, but I mean, she wasn't convicted of pedophilia. She was convicted of sex trafficking. So all I would say is that friendship is unacceptable. And it's time for him to either go and fight the case legally and get it dealt with once and for all or have nothing more to do with the royal family.
- Catherine, should the royal family--
- But can I pick up just on that one point as well? Because the thing about Andrew is, in that interview of his, he also didn't-- he claimed to have not seen anything that was going on in the Epstein house. He basically-- he erased-- he erased the victims. He then, in that settlement, gave this statement talking about, like, his sympathy for the victims, et cetera.
He then, in trying to then brief about how he was actually innocent and all of that, has undone any attempt to an apology. So you can't say that this is over even if you thin--
- No, no, no.
- Even if-- no, no, no, no, but--
- That's what I was saying. What should he do? I think that--
- No, no, but--
- Unless they bring a case against it.
- It's not about what he does.
- It's not about what he does.
- It's not about what he does. What I'm saying is, for the monarchy, you know, I mean, he is a profoundly otherworldly man. I traveled in China with him when he was the UK trade ambassador. And it was unintentionally full of huge laughs just because of the stuff that he'd say that you couldn't believe that he'd said. And, you know, but the point is that this is a really-- this has been so damaging.
And what you saw was the institution giving credibility to people who then were able to exploit that credibility to the detriment of all of those victims and also giving shelter to one of its own members rather than turning him over or encouraging him to go to the law.
- But what can he do, could they do?
- Yes, but--
- It's not been proven.
- My point--
- What can he do? What can the King do?
- They could have been-- they could have, A, discouraged any attempt to what Ahmed called the soft hand, any attempt to rehabilitate him. And B, they could have encouraged him to answer to-- as you say, to the FBI.
- Oh, that should have been done.
- So, well, and it's still--
- It should be done.
- He still-- he still could do. But there is no-- absolutely no return to public life for him. But another thing is we shouldn't ignore the scandals of Charles' own making. When we're talking about the crises ahead, it's his misfortune that the point of accession coincides with this point of incredible economic turbulence of people not knowing whether they can heat or eat, and therefore, a lot more sort of sensitivity to high-- high public spending.
But that doesn't get away from the fact that, for-- there are lots of reasons for why Charles has spent his life as Prince of Wales on this huge fundraiser. But the fundraising was incautious at best. And you know, you've had stories coming out about cash and carrier bags and all of that. I went to dinner with him back in 2013.
I think I'm probably the only journalist ever to have been to one of his private dinners where he was-- small group of people, 24. It was him and Camilla. And a number of aides, including Michael Fawcett around the table. And then a bunch of ultra wealthy people that he was trying to fundraise for. There are very few modern fortunes that really bear that much close scrutiny.
You have only to look at what happened with the opioid crisis and what that meant for funding and all the money that was coming there from a company right at the heart of it. And so it is a dangerous thing to fundraise. It's a difficult thing to do. And you have to be really careful. And he has not been really careful. And it means that, although he did a lot of that for very good reasons, there are potentially big scandals that will bear up with him.
So I think you cannot rule out that there will be more stories about that. There will be more stories about Andrew, because there may well be-- or about Epstein, certainly. And we know that the Meghan and Harry story hasn't finished. So it's just this picture not of a smooth transition but just of one crisis after another.
- Afua, a quick question before we go. Catherine listed a litany of potential crises that are up ahead. We've seen how the royal family shouldn't have handled things in the past. Looking forward, what do you think is the secret to sort of navigating potentially rough seas?
- Modernizing. The royal family really needs to get a handle on being able to move with the times. One of the things, I believe, Meghan Markle wanted to do was be able to work with charities that she chose. And you know, Harry and Meghan also had that plan of potentially living in one of the Commonwealth countries, perhaps, and doing work out there. But they were told that wasn't an option. Why couldn't it be an option?
Modernize. Go with the different things that people in the family can do. And it can be beneficial. And that comes from having younger people around you, having younger aides around you who can advise you better. They need to be able to modernize to navigate those rough seas and to navigate any relationships that will come in the future. You know, it talks about Charlotte, George and Louis, and Lilibet and Archie, and any of the other of the royal children.
Whoever they decide to date or who comes into planet Windsor-- as Catherine calls it-- they might want to do something different. Different doesn't necessarily mean bad. But the royal family has to modernize and modernize quickly to deal with what's coming.
- Oh, it's time for us to take off from planet Windsor. But as the monarchy starts, a new chapter under King Charles's stewardship, only time will tell if some of the issues facing the monarchy will be resolved and whether he'll manage to secure the future of the institution itself.