They were the Fab Four—Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, and his younger brother, Prince Harry, and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex—and the world was at their feet. Now, that relationship is in tatters as the two couples walk down radically separate paths. William and Kate are on the traditional royal road that ultimately leads to the throne, while Harry and Meghan have veered off onto a detour after stepping down as senior royals. It’s a situation that once seemed impossible for the two brothers and their wives, and one that will radically transform all of their futures.
“I’ve put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can’t do that any more; we’re separate entities,” William told a friend after Harry and Meghan’s announcement, according to an article by Roya Nikkhah of the Times. “I’m sad about that. All we can do, and all I can do, is try and support them and hope that the time comes when we’re all singing from the same page. I want everyone to play on the team.”
The relationship has been tense for months, with Harry feeling that his brother and sister-in-law didn’t give Meghan a chance, while William voiced concerns about Harry’s rudeness, especially to staff, and that his personality had changed. By the time Archie was born, the brothers were barely speaking to each other. Then came the Sussexes’ intimate revelations in a documentary last fall, when Harry confirmed the rupture, stating, “We’re brothers; we’re on different paths. We don’t see each other as much as we used to.” He further admitted, “as brothers, you have good days, you have bad days.”
Now, William is reportedly seething at Harry’s decision to go public with the split. This week, although Harry arrived early for the family’s meeting at Sandringham to discuss the Sussexes’ future, his older brother noticeably didn’t drive up to the country house, and past a phalanx of media vans, until just 15 minutes before it was scheduled to start.
It’s not hard to understand why William may be so aggrieved by Harry and Meghan’s actions. He and his family are directly affected. William and Kate are now the only working royals of their generation. So, while Harry and Meghan are going on an adventure, William and Kate are facing the end of their idyllic life as parents to young children, able to take advantage of a stable of royal workers to work what is effectively a part-time schedule, at least when compared to that of Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
Last year, while Charles completed nearly 550 engagements and Camilla did around 225, William did a smidge more than 215 while Kate completed around 120. Of the total Wales’ workload, Harry and Meghan did 17 %. Now, William and Kate will have to take on some of that work.
If that wasn’t enough, the majority of the current rota of 15 full-time royals are senior citizens. If Charles’ plan to streamline the full-time royal family to just the Wales family comes to fruition, then Meghan and Harry’s absence will create a massive hole. Right now, Charles and Camilla combined with William and Kate undertook one third of the 3,400 engagements done in 2019, with Charles accounting for half of that Wales total.
The Cambridges can look at the data and the calendar and see a time when they will have only a few other royals helping ease their heavy workload. This year, with Prince Andrew on the bench because of his scandalous friendship with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, the only full-time royals under 70 beside William and Kate are his uncle, Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex.
Princes William and Harry have always been close. Just 27 months apart in age, the siblings went to the same schools, going on separate paths only when William went to university while Harry went directly into the military for a 10-year career, which included two tours in Afghanistan. Yet even then, their paths crossed as William joined him in the armed forces as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot while Harry became an Apache attack helicopter pilot. They created a joint charitable foundation together, played polo together and have always lived close to each other.
Yet time and marriage have separated them. In 2011, William married Kate Middleton. While they were the Three Musketeers for a while, undertaking joint engagements especially for their youth and mental health causes, the arrivals of George, Charlotte and Louis meant William and Kate were increasingly focused on their parental duties, as well as taking on higher-profile tours and engagements befitting their future as king and queen.
So, when Harry fell in love with Toronto-based actress Meghan Markle, the world rejoiced; finally, he had a partner in life just like his big brother. Twenty-five months since they announced their engagement, their lives as full-time royals are over. And their relationship with the Cambridges is in tatters, perhaps irrevocably.
While decisions regarding Harry and Meghan’s future are made, the royal show must go on. On January 14, Prince William held an investiture at Buckingham Palace on behalf of his grandmother, the Queen. Then he and Kate were to spend the day in the northern English city of Bradford to “visit a number of projects which support the community and promote cohesion within it, in one of the U.K.’s most diverse cities,” as the royal press release states. The show goes on.
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