William and Harry: The rift that was once unthinkable

Laura Elston, PA Court Reporter
·3-min read

The Sussexes delivered their damaging allegations of racism against the royal family four nights ago, but the Duke of Cambridge’s admission that he has yet to speak to his brother is telling of the very depths of their divide.

William, in a rare move on an official engagement, spoke out publicly to defend the House of Windsor.

Members of the royal family are known for ignoring the occasional questions shouted to them by the media during royal visits.

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge school visit
The Duke of Cambridge publicly defended the royal family against Harry and Meghan’s allegations (Justin Tallis/PA)

But such was the duke’s strength of feeling when a reporter asked him during a tour of an east London school, “Is the royal family a racist family, sir?”, the future king replied: “We’re very much not a racist family.”

The monarchy has been plunged into crisis after Meghan and Harry accused an unnamed member of the royal family of raising concerns about how dark their unborn son Archie’s skin tone might be, and the institution of failing to help the suicidal duchess.

Asked if he had spoken to Harry since the interview, William replied: “No, I haven’t spoken to him yet, but I will do.”

Royal wedding
Harry and William arriving at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle for the duke’s wedding to Meghan (Ian West/PA)

Harry stopped short of attacking his older brother in the two-hour sit-down with Oprah Winfrey.

“The relationship is space at the moment,” Harry said.

“And time heals all things, hopefully.”

He added: “I love William to bits, he’s my brother, we’ve been through hell together, we have a shared experience, but we were on different paths.”

Royal Foundation Forum
The Cambridges and the Sussexes at the Royal Foundation Forum (Chris Jackson/PA)

According to the Finding Freedom biography, their rift stretched back to before the wedding when Harry was angered by what he perceived as his brother’s “snobbish” attitude to Meghan, after William questioned whether he should rush into things with the ex-Suits star.

But the Oprah interview has laid bare the depths of the Sussexes’ struggles within the royal family, with Harry saying he felt “let down” by the Prince of Wales, and Meghan accusing Kate of making her cry.

Following the Queen’s Sandringham summit in January, which was called to solve the Megxit debacle, William and Harry reportedly stopped speaking for two months.

William and Harry
Prince William, nine, and Prince Harry, seven, in Canada in 1991 (Martin Keene/PA)

When younger, William and Harry’s bond appeared unbreakable, and they were united in their experience of a royal childhood and the trauma of losing their mother.

They were each other’s best man on their wedding days, and Harry said when he was 21: “It’s amazing how close we’ve become.

“I mean, ever since our mother died, obviously we were close, but he is the one person on this earth who I can actually really … we can talk about anything.

“We understand each other and we give each other support.”

Diana's funeral
Prince William, Prince Harry and the Prince of Wales watch as Diana’s coffin is driven away from Westminster Abbey for her burial (PA)

Broadcaster Tom Bradby, a friend of the Sussexes who interviewed them for a documentary about their Africa tour, wrote about the rift: “The fallout began at the time of the wedding in 2018.

“Really damaging things were said and done.

“The atmosphere soured hard and early, but few meaningful attempts were made by anyone to heal the wounds.”

He added: “There is no doubt Harry and Meghan feel they have been driven out.”

On July 1 this year, William and Harry are due to come together to unveil a statue they commissioned of their mother on what would have been her 60th birthday.

The announcement last summer raised hopes the project would bring the brothers closer together.

But now, amid the fallout from the shocking Oprah interview, that prospect looks uncertain.