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Inside Prince Harry's increasingly isolated and desperate LA life

Prince Harry extended an olive branch with a flying visit to see King Charles (AP)
Prince Harry extended an olive branch with a flying visit to see King Charles (AP)

As the country has been left reeling after the news of the King’s cancer diagnosis, there was a (very) faint glimmer of hope on the horizon: namely, that there could be a thawing of relations between Charles and his youngest son.

As soon as the news broke, the Duke of Sussex was seen hopping on the first plane out of LAX, rushing to be by his father’s side. Could this suggest there might finally be a reconciliation of sorts between Harry and his dear Pa? Alas, any hopes of that were swiftly dashed. Because while some noted that the gesture was appreciated by the King, other sources told Charles’s biographer Robert Jobson that Harry actually caused “some disquiet by ‘taking it upon himself’ to fly over unbidden”.

Whether he was summoned or not, the fact remains that Harry flew the 10,000-mile round trip for a mere 30-minute reunion with his father. The Duke looked thoughtful as he pulled through the gates of Clarence House just before 2.45pm on Tuesday, before re-emerging almost unnoticed at 3.31pm. There he was driven, without a police escort, down the Mall, before disappearing into the traffic. The meeting was the first time the Duke has seen his father in person since the King’s coronation last May, and marked their first proper face-to-face catch-up in at least 17 months. Just 24 hours after he touched down at Heathrow Harry was off again, flying back to be reunited with Meghan and their children in Montecito.

A convoy of cars believed to be carrying Prince Harry arrive at Clarence House following the announcement of King Charles III's cancer diagnosis (AP)
A convoy of cars believed to be carrying Prince Harry arrive at Clarence House following the announcement of King Charles III's cancer diagnosis (AP)

While he was here, it’s believed Harry stayed at a hotel rather than in one of the royal residences – a clear sign that things remain frosty between the Duke and the rest of the royal family – and there was no chance of him seeing his estranged brother while in town. Sources reported there was “nothing in the diary” for the brothers during the fleeting visit, while a source close to William was quoted as saying there were “no plans” for the two to meet. The Duke’s transatlantic dash was a whistlestop visit, and one that it was suggested Harry dropped everything for, in order to be by his father’s side as quickly as possible. But then, what exactly was he dropping? Since the start of the year, Harry has been spotted at a string of questionable events, which has led some to question whether the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have reached new lows in their life across the pond.

Last month, Harry and Meghan attended the premiere of the new film Bob Marley: One Love in Kingston, Jamaica. There they were photographed beaming alongside Jamaica’s prime minister Andrew Holness, who has made it clear he wants to break away from the monarchy. Holness was accused of “ambushing” William and Kate during a state visit in 2022, when he told them his country would be “moving on” from the British monarchy. Harry and Meghan also posed with Marlene Malahoo Forte, Jamaica’s minister of legal and constitutional affairs, who has vowed to press ahead on an “urgent” referendum to “sever ties” with the monarchy. The event marked Harry and Meghan’s first official outing as a couple for more than two months.

Meghan and Harry at the One Love premiere in Kingston (Getty Images)
Meghan and Harry at the One Love premiere in Kingston (Getty Images)

It's understood the Sussexes were flown to the island by private jet courtesy of Paramount Pictures, the production company behind the new biopic, and Meghan was seen smiling and laughing as she was photographed alongside Brian Robbins, the chief executive of Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon. The surprise photo call with the Jamaican prime minister came while the King and the Princess of Wales were recuperating at the London Clinic (where the King had been treated for an enlarged prostate), with one well-placed source quoted as saying it was “not especially welcome back in London”. Another branded the move “misguided”. Others close to the King suggested Harry may have accepted the invitation because he is oblivious to the political or familial sensitivities of being pictured with the Jamaican prime minister.

“I think we’re witnessing an act of desperation more than betrayal,” says Kinsey Schofield, LA-based royal expert and host of the To Di For Daily podcast. “The Sussexes are schmoozing with media moguls that might give them a shot after humiliating professional failures. Meghan’s animated series, Pearl, was cancelled by Netflix but could find a home at Nickelodeon, which caters to children and young adults. I think it's worth noting that despite receiving millions of dollars from Netflix, Harry and Meghan have never appeared on a red carpet to help promote a Netflix project. Not even their own.”

Despite the fact that no expenses were spared getting them there, and the couple spent the night before the premiere at the five-star Half Moon resort in Montego Bay, where four-bedroom villas cost $4,300 a night, the event itself was hardly the sort of glitzy red carpet do the pair is used to. “The tony twosome didn't quite get the treatment they clearly expected at the Jamaican film premiere, being sat at least eight rows back with many of the audience dressed in cargo shorts, baseball caps and flip flops,” says Richard Mineards, a British columnist at the Montecito Journal, who lives down the road from the Sussexes. “Hardly the most glamorous occasion.”

Just a few days earlier, Harry made headlines for attending another dubious event. It was announced that he was due to accept an award as a ‘Living Legend of Aviation’, due to his work serving as an Apache helicopter pilot in Afghanistan from 2012 to 2013. Cue much outrage, as thousands (over 12,000, in fact) signed a petition on Change.org calling for the award to be reconsidered. Colonel Richard Kemp said: “I can think of many people who did pretty extraordinary things while serving in the British and American armed forces which would be much more deserving of an award like this."

Prince Harry, John Travolta, Lauren Sanchez and Jeff Bezos at the Living Legends of Aviation Awards (Lauren Sanchez / Instagram)
Prince Harry, John Travolta, Lauren Sanchez and Jeff Bezos at the Living Legends of Aviation Awards (Lauren Sanchez / Instagram)

The accolade was granted at the Legends of Aviation Awards, which are dubbed the ‘Oscars for Flying’. There, Harry was set to join an exclusive club alongside other illustrious celebrity recipients of the award, including Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman and Harrison Ford.

The awards do was held at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, with tickets costing up to $1,600 and VIP tables going for as much as $40,000. Before the night itself came around, most assumed Harry wouldn’t dream of attending such an event in person, but there he was, in his dinner jacket and bow tie, lobbing jokes at John Travolta, who presented him with the award. “I was one year old when you danced with my mum. As you’ve told everybody here and continue to dine out on that probably every single night,” Harry quipped. “But look at us now! It’s great. So, if we’re not going to dance together, we’ll fly together.”

It's worth noting that just last night, William was at an aviation event of his own, where he was spotted beaming alongside Tom Cruise at a gala fundraiser for the London Air Ambulance. Held at the glamorous new Raffles London at the OWO hotel, William was all smiles, dressed in a sharp suit and trading banter with Cruise, as he thanked the nation for its “kind messages of support” for his wife and father. Could this have been a dig at Harry and Meghan who took over a week to send their best wishes to Kate and Charles? Following on from Harry’s sad-looking night out a few weeks before, it felt like a pointed dig from William at his brother, as he slunk out of the UK and back to California.

Prince William poses for a photo with US actor Tom Cruise at the London Air Ambulance Charity Gala Dinner at The OWO in central London (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Prince William poses for a photo with US actor Tom Cruise at the London Air Ambulance Charity Gala Dinner at The OWO in central London (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

At Harry’s aviation awards, as well as Travolta, the Duke was spotted rubbing shoulders with Jeff Bezos’s fiancée Lauren Sanchez, who received an award for her founding of an aerial film and production company, and Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe, a minor German royal who’s a cousin of the outgoing Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II. Meghan had been due to attend the awards with Harry, but ended up pulling out at the last minute because one of their children was unwell. You wouldn’t exactly call the crowd A-list, and the fact that Harry still chose to attend shows just how keen the couple are to court those who might help get some of their ailing projects off the ground.

“We’ve seen both Harry and Meghan interact with Jeff Bezos and his partner Lauren Sanchez lately,” says Schofield. “Bezos has two powerful media entities that Harry and Meghan could benefit from in Prime Video and Audible. Meghan, who needs a new home for her cancelled podcast Archetypes, was spotted within the VIP area around Jeff and Lauren at her second Beyoncé concert and Harry spent time with them at the Aviation awards. Before the Sussexes struck their deal with Netflix, Harry was developing an Invictus project with Prime Video. Perhaps Harry is trying to get back on their radar and in their good graces?”

But despite the fact that rumours have been swirling that the Sussexes were soon to be dropped by Netflix, with their lucrative five-year deal set to run out in 2025, last week an executive at the streaming giant announced they’re currently working on multiple documentaries, as well as a scripted television series and a film adaptation. Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s chief content officer, revealed that the Sussexes had several major projects in the pipeline and were working with Brandon Riegg, vice president of unscripted content. The couple are under pressure to produce a hit that will justify their reported $100 million payday.

I think the Sussexes must feel very disappointed in the way that their American dream has panned out

So far, the only confirmed project is a film adaptation of Carley Fortune’s Meet Me at the Lake, a romantic novel that will be produced by the Sussexes’ Archewell Productions. Netflix is said to have stumped up £3 million to secure the film rights for the book. It’s also been reported the Duke is hoping to return to Africa to make a documentary, though the recent allegations of rape and torture levelled at the non-profit African Parks, where Harry serves on the board of directors, may put that project in jeopardy. “How can you promote a glossy documentary you’ve made on Africa when the charity you’re in leadership of is accused of abusing locals?” says Schofield.

Of course, all this may prove academic if there’s no one at Archewell to actually produce the content in the first place. Last month, the company lost yet another senior member of staff after production manager Bennett Levine quit after just two years. This follows the departure of both internal content head Ben Browning and Fara Taylor, who led the marketing team, last year – so far, neither has been replaced. To add to the Sussexes’ woes, last month Archewell Foundation’s tax returns revealed an $11 million fall in donations last year to just $2 million, tipping it into a loss.

Prince Harry and Meghan attend the sitting volleyball match between Poland and Germany at the 2023 Invictus Games (Getty Images for the Invictus Games)
Prince Harry and Meghan attend the sitting volleyball match between Poland and Germany at the 2023 Invictus Games (Getty Images for the Invictus Games)

So, as Harry returns to California, can he get his life back on track? Only time will tell if the King’s diagnosis can start to heal old familial wounds and mark a way back into the Firm for Harry. Whether we’re likely to see the Sussexes spending more time in the UK now remains to be seen. Back in Montecito, it’s likely they’ll lie fairly low at first out of respect for the King. But when they are spotted out and about again, it’s important they’re seen to be promoting the right sort of projects.

“They still have an opportunity to turn around their image and reputation with some strategic moves,” says Hollywood publicist Jane Owen, founder of Jane Owen PR. “If I were their publicist, I would suggest they nail down a high-profile project to work on – something they can talk about when they do go to events. They should also do a couple of well-chosen interviews that show they can do more than complain about the trials and tribulations of being royal.”

Others are more sceptical about whether the Sussexes can ever recover from their current plummet in popularity – the latest polls reveal almost 47 per cent have an unfavourable opinion of Prince Harry, while 54 per cent reported negative feelings towards Meghan, the lowest such rating she’s had in five years. “Reputation-wise, their brand has taken such a dive that they are likely having to branch out and network under far less glamorous circumstances,” says Schofield. “When you are seen as a professional liability, you must compromise. It's not just Spotify or Netflix, it's the revolving door of Archewell employees. Do they get along with anyone? Certainly not their families. I think the Sussexes must feel very disappointed in the way that their American dream has panned out.”