With the Sussexes temporarily back at their former British residence for a work-focused visit, and the Cambridges freshly relocated to their “modest” Windsor abode (complete with 19th century gilded mouldings and imported marble Graeco-Egyptian fireplaces), it has been the most time the two dukes have spent in the same space since 2019.
The close proximity, predictably, has become the focus of a large portion of the media coverage surrounding Harry and Meghan’s five-day visit to the UK. Windsor Home Park, if you were to believe the stories, had all the right ingredients to become the backdrop for fresh drama between the two families.
Given that it has been several years since relationship fractures between the brothers first formed, and over a year since a conversation of any considerable length, it was no surprise then that a queue of “experts” and “insiders” were quickly dishing on the situation before the Sussexes had even returned:
“Harry and Meghan SNUBBED by royals despite staying near William and Kate,” shouted one headline.
“The Cambridges have no interest in seeing them, and who can blame them?” a commentator claimed.
“Catherine and William will try to avoid any contact with Harry and Meghan until they know the contents of Harry’s memoirs,” added a royal biographer to a tabloid.
If you follow the royal beat primarily for the tea (and I don’t mean the Queen’s morning pot of Assam) then this might be the kind of content you signed up for. But just how reliable is the alleged intel?
Speak to real sources and you’ll find that the breathless speculation is questionable at best, gossip with an agenda at worst.
“There’s a laughable effort to suggest the [Sussexes] have been shunned,” someone familiar with the current family dynamics tells me, adding that Sussexes kept their work-focused itinerary—which saw them in Dusseldorf, Germany on September 6 for an Invictus Games launch event—as tight as possible so not to be away from their children for too long. "The true story is, they never reached out to the Cambridges.”
Even a senior palace aide confessed to me, “Looking at [the coverage], you would be forgiven for thinking that certain family members have had a say in the matter. They have not.”
Of course it’s not the first time speculation has spiralled around potential reunions between the two siblings. Last summer, when the Duke of Sussex and Duke of Cambridge came together to unveil a statue celebrating the life of their late mother, much was made about the fact that it could become a day of reconciliation (in the end, it was not—Harry left the event just 15 minutes after their photo call). It was a similar scenario during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June—but beyond some polite hellos, there was little else to report.
“People are desperate for steps to be made but behind the scenes there hasn’t been movement,” explains a family friend. “What [Harry] is waiting for is accountability… Many lines were crossed by William. He was at the centre of a number of painful moments, be it the actions of his own staff or turning his back when support was needed. It was a dark time and one that, so far, William has been unprepared to unpack.”
Equally, adds the friend, Prince William is “still waiting” for an apology from his brother for making details of private family matters public. “When you look at the bare facts, it becomes obvious why it is pretty much the same state of affairs as years ago.”
For those that have been following this story since the start, the above may sound familiar. But the reality is, just because there’s a hunger for new details, doesn't mean there will be new developments to serve.
Though recent tabloid reports claim there is hesitation on the Cambridge side to engage with the Sussexes for fear of details ending up in Harry’s forthcoming memoir, the fact that his manuscript was finished months ago (a fact known to all family members), makes it pretty clear that the book is not an obstacle to reconciliation. It just makes for compelling clickbait.
Still, being so close to each other over the past week will no doubt have felt surreal for both men. When renovations at Frogmore Cottage were nearing completion in late 2018, I remember a member of staff telling me about Harry’s eagerness to show his brother around once it was finished.
Returning to a property that was once filled with so much hope has felt “surreal," the Duchess of Sussex recently told The Cut. "It was bittersweet, you know? Knowing none of it had to be this way.”
Watch: Meghan and Harry arrive to cheers at One Young World Summit