Harry’s waiting for accountability and William wants an apology: Why the brothers’ relationship is at a standstill

·5-min read
Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (L) and Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attend the unveiling of a statue of their mother, Princess Diana at The Sunken Garden in Kensington Palace, London on July 1, 2021, which would have been her 60th birthday. - Princes William and Harry set aside their differences on Thursday to unveil a new statue of their mother, Princess Diana, on what would have been her 60th birthday. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DOMINIC LIPINSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Harry and William were last photographed together at an unveiling of a statue of their mother, Princess Diana, in July 2021. (Getty Images)

It’s the sad tale of two cottages and two brothers. After two-and-a-half years separated by an ocean, this week Prince William and Prince Harry briefly lived a mere 150 yards from one another.

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.

Britain's Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (L) and Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, react as they attend the annual One Young World Summit at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, north-west England on September 5, 2022. - The One Young World Summit is a global forum for young leaders, bringing together young people from over 190 countries around the world to come together to confront the biggest challenges facing humanity. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
Harry supported Meghan in Manchester on Monday when she spoke at the One Young World Summit. (Getty Images)
DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 06: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrive at the town hall during the Invictus Games Dusseldorf 2023 - One Year To Go events, on September 06, 2022 in Dusseldorf, Germany. The Invictus Games is an international multi-sport event first held in 2014, for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women, both serving and veterans. The Games were founded by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex who's inspiration came from his visit to the Warrior Games in the United States, where he witnessed the ability of sport to help both psychologically and physically. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Invictus Games Dusseldorf 2023)
Harry and Megan at the Invictus Games Dusseldorf 2023 - One Year To Go event in Germany yesterday. (Getty Images)

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.”

Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, (L) and Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, arrive for the unveiling of a statue of their mother, Princess Diana at The Sunken Garden in Kensington Palace, London on July 1, 2021, which would have been her 60th birthday. - Princes William and Harry set aside their differences on Thursday to unveil a new statue of their mother, Princess Diana, on what would have been her 60th birthday. (Photo by Yui Mok / POOL / AFP) (Photo by YUI MOK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
At the Diana statue unveiling last July, the brothers seemed to be enjoying one another's company. (Getty Images)

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.”

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge pose for a photograph as they visit Sportsid House at the 2022 Commonwealth Games on August 02, 2022 in Birmingham, England. The Duchess became the Patron of SportsAid in 2013, Team England Futures programme is a partnership between SportsAid, Sport England and Commonwealth Games England which will see around 1,000 talented young athletes and aspiring support staff given the opportunity to attend the Games and take a first-hand look behind-the-scenes. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
William - along with wife Kate and daughter Charlotte, seven - was last seen in public at the start of August at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. (Getty Images)

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