It’s being called the biggest crisis to face the royal family since King Edward III abdicated in 1936 to marry his divorced lover – and in a way, what’s happening now is even worse.
Yes, the entire face of the monarchy had to change when Edward followed his heart and yes, the British people had to come to terms with his shy, stammering brother as his replacement at a time of great global turmoil.
But the royal family banded together, kept their lips zipped and marched to their long-held motto: never complain, never explain.
There have been many dramas since then, of course – death, divorce, friction – but somehow the royals have rallied and carried on. But there’s one big difference now: Harry is no believer in the never complain, never explain mantra and his revelations in his memoir, Spare, have rocked the royals to their core.
READ MORE | Harry’s memoir shines spotlight on the ‘spare’ royals who were born to live in the shadow of the heirs to the throne
Another major difference is Queen Elizabeth is no longer there to steady the ship and without her The Firm is floundering in a troubled sea – and her son and heir is facing a nightmare.
Royal experts say if King Charles doesn’t step in and wave the white flag before his 6 May coronation, the event is in danger of turning into “a circus”.
Harry and Meghan have reportedly been invited to the spectacle, but it’s anyone’s guess right now whether they’ll attend.
“There’s a lot that can happen between now and then,” Harry told ITV journalist Tom Bradby in an interview to promote his book.
“But the door is always open.”
Sources in both camps told the UK’s Sunday Times that the relationships are “fixable”, but it’s “going to take a lot of flexibility on all sides”.
The king is open to the idea, one insider says. He loves his son – his “darling boy”, as he calls Harry – and would love nothing more than to mend fences.
“Charles has reiterated the door remains open and Harry and Meghan are welcome at any time,” another source told The Telegraph.
READ MORE | Prince Harry reveals the deeply personal significance of the necklace William yanked off his neck
William, however, might be harder to win over. “He’s extremely hurt by the way his brother portrays him in Spare,” the insider says. “But his loyalty is ultimately to the country and he will reconcile if he believes it’s best for the future of the monarchy.”
A close friend of both brothers says reconciliation is imperative. “The silence [from the royal family since the release of Spare] has been the right thing, but this isn’t going to go away. This has to be resolved and neutralised so that when William has the top job, his brother isn’t still sniping from the sidelines.”
A recent poll by research company Ipsos Mori shows the popularity of the high-ranking royals has taken a dip since Harry and Meghan’s Netflix documentary and the release of Spare.
READ MORE | From penis frostbite to killing Taliban fighters: 10 jaw-dropping revelations from Prince Harry’s memoir, Spare
Prince William is still the most popular member of the family, but he slid eight percentage points down the rankings and has especially lost ground with people in the 18 to 34 age group. Kate fell seven percentage points down the rankings. Charles dipped slightly and is fourth on the popularity list behind William, Kate and Princess Anne.
The slump in the ratings is a worrying sign, experts say, and an indication that the public, especially the younger members, are becoming fed up.
A reconciliation is vital – and speed is of the essence, a royal insider says. “They’ve got to get a move on and get it done by April. Then we need to get the wives in. The king needs a clear run for the coronation.”
Talks have to be held face-to-face in England, a source tells the Sunday Times. “It needs Harry over here, in the room with the king and Prince of Wales, a couple of other family members and some of ‘his people’ he trusts, who always had his back, so he doesn’t think he’s being ambushed.
“People he trusts could be someone like [Ed Lane Fox, Harry’s former private secretary] and Christopher [Lord Geidt, the late queen’s former private secretary who advised the Sussexes during their tenure as working royals].”
Both sides need to hold their hands up and admit they didn’t get everything right, the insider adds. “They need to admit we got a lot wrong and say to Harry, ‘We understand the pain you’ve been through’.
“The king can do it. Not everyone here behaved well, but Harry’s got to be able to sit down and say, ‘We didn’t behave well either.’ That takes a lot of academic flexibility, which Harry isn’t great at.”
The date of King Charles’ coronation – 6 May – falls on the fourth birthday of Harry and Meghan’s son, Archie.
It was chosen in consultation with the government, the Church or England and the royal household and, according to royal expert Katie Nicholl, is “definitely not a snub” to Charles’ grandson.
“I think it’s very much a happy coincidence,” she told Entertainment Tonight.
“Obviously, a huge amount of planning has to go into an important moment in history and the royal calendar is full of anniversaries and birthdays. So, I think this is absolutely one of those occasions where it’s a coincidence – and hopefully a happy one.”
Most experts agree Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, would be the best mediator. The 67-year-old church leader is a long-time trusted friend and confidant of the royals, having officiated over many of their weddings, christenings and funerals.
“There is always a way forward,” the archbishop has said of the royal feud. “But it [reconciliation] has to be at the right time.”
Chief among the topics would be an insistence that Harry stops dishing the dirt on the family.
“They [Harry and Meghan] have to now be quiet and get on with their thing in America,” the Times insider says. “Harry has got to realise that what they say might all go down better there, but in the UK people have taken it very badly. You’ve said your piece, but why are you trying to torch the whole house?”
THE ROYAL WIVES
The question must be asked: where are the wives in all of this? According to the UK’s The Sun, Kate, Princess of Wales (41), is “standing firm” and offering support to William.
Kate came in for a hammering in Spare, with Harry saying she was indeed the one who made Meghan cry in the bridesmaids’ dress fiasco, among other things. But friends say the mom-of-three is “too busy” with her duties to “concern herself over Harry’s book”. She’s been on a spate of solo engagements since the release of the memoir, including a visit to a nursery in Luton, Bedfordshire, where she looked radiant as she high-fived pupils, made masks with them and chatted to the teachers.
READ MORE | 'Camilla is astounded': Queen Consort comes in for a pounding from Prince Harry on his publicity trail
Kate has been credited in the past as acting as a “peacemaker” for the warring brothers. At the funeral of Prince Philip in 2021, she played a role in helping the brothers put on a unified front for the grieving queen.
In the past, long before Meghan arrived on the scene, she was close to Harry, but friends say she now feels “hurt and betrayed” by him. It remains to be seen what role she can play in brokering any kind of peace.
Camilla, Queen Consort (75), has also maintained a dignified silence while sticking to her work commitments. She will continue to be a pillar of support for Charles, but friends say she’s always been “cautious” of Harry, who branded her a “villain” and “dangerous” in his memoir.
In her book Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall: From Outcast to Future Queen Consort, Angela Levine writes, “Camilla always felt quite wary of Harry and used to see him out of the corner of her eye looking at her in a long and cold way. She found it rather unnerving.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE
Harry’s book is a lot more than a personal outpouring – it has raised deeper, more fundamental issues about the monarchy and its survival, says royal analyst Catherine Mayer, who wrote a biography on King Charles.
She believes the Sussexes’ accusations of bullying, racism and misogyny “have the power to dissolve faith in the idea of a hereditary head of state if they are not addressed”.
“This is, after all, an institution that stands for inequality, so there are huge things at stake.”
READ MORE | The royals at a crossroads: why the queen’s death has left her family and her kingdom faltering
Mayer says the monarchy continues to play a vital role in British society, boosting morale in times of national crisis, helping to facilitate cordial international relations, being a source of national pride for many and boosting tourism.
As such it should strive to get its house in order to continue to be a respected institution.
“What we are talking about is the status of a significant institution of state, with significant powers and significant taxpayer funding, so whether you are pro- or anti-monarchy, the royal family deserves to be considered seriously,” says Mayer.
TIME TO BREAK THE SILENCE
Some commentators believe peace talks are a waste of time.
Tom Bower, who wrote an unauthorised biography on Meghan, suggests it would be naive for Charles and William to seek a peace summit and urges them to issue a statement rebutting the Sussexes’ claims instead.
“There’s no compromise with the Sussexes,” he told Good Morning Britain. “They are set on one thing which is to get an apology, a capitulation. They want William, Kate and Charles to say the Sussexes are absolutely right and have been wronged.
“At some stage, the royal family – which is still supported by the majority of Britons – has to draw a line and say these allegations are untrue. Harry and Meghan have so far earned over $120 million just by rubbishing, in my view, a family who provides a huge service to Britain.”
But those in camp Sussex believe it’s up to Charles to light the peace pipe. “If King Charles truly wants to show leadership and modernise the monarchy, then acknowledging the institutional racism within is the only way forward,” says Omid Scobie, the Sussexes’ friend and biographer.
SURVIVAL OF THE FIRM
Royal author Phil Dampier believes the monarchy “will survive this too”.
“Charles is popular with a lot of people, as are William and Kate. I don’t see the end of the monarchy. On the contrary, I think it will thrive.
“It is significant that a lot of Commonwealth countries like Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica aren’t immediately getting rid of the monarchy following the queen’s death. That’s quite telling – they actually want to give Charles a chance.”
Fellow royal author Christopher Wilson agrees the monarchy will survive, but hopes Harry and Meghan will cool it now.
“To some long-term observers, this is the worst crisis to hit the royals since the abdication of King Edward VIII, which tore the family apart and threatened to capsize the monarchy.
“There’s no question that Charles, witness to many crises, has the experience to tough it out. But what must hurt him, as a father, is to watch his son take a wrecking ball to the institution that once nurtured him.”
Sources: dailymail.co.uk, yahoo.com, hellomagazine.com, cosmopolitan.com, nypost.com, thedailybeast.com, theguardian.com, harpersbazaar.com, pagesix.com