It’s the royal rift that few saw coming until recent years.
Prince William and Prince Harry have always been famously close, with no shortage of royal biographers and reporters having described the strong bond that the two brothers share with one another. Even in 2019, following the first hints of a falling out between the pair, biographer Andrew Morton – the man behind one of Princess Diana’s most famous biographies, Diana: Her True Story – wrote that William and Harry’s relationship was ‘incredibly intimate’.
“Nobody apart from each other knows exactly what’s gone on in their heads and their hearts for the last 20-odd years,” Morton said, “They both experienced the loss of their mother. The only people that they could trust to talk about it in a candid way was each of them.”
However, it seems that the relationship between the two has since soured – and has only continued to get worse.
So, what – if anything – happened to break down the strong brotherly bond shared by William and Harry?
In Earlier Years
With just three years in age separating the two, William and Harry grew up to be the best of friends.
The pair had plenty in common. They played the same games together as children, they both wished to work within the military in some way (and both eventually did) and, as previously mentioned, had learned to look out for each other following the death of their mother, Princess Diana, when they were just 15 and 12 respectively.
When William married Kate Middleton in 2011, Harry was, naturally, chosen to be his best man – a role that he filled brilliantly, by all accounts. According to reports, Harry’s best man speech saw him call William the ‘perfect brother’ and praise his ‘inspirational’ relationship with his new wife. He was also instrumental in organising their wedding reception, having worked with Kate’s sister Pippa to transform the throne room at Buckingham Palace into a nightclub for guests to enjoy into the early hours.
A decade on, it seems that the two now have an entirely different relationship to the one they possessed back then.
2016: First Signs Of Trouble
The first reports of a rift between the two came after William reportedly asked his uncle Charles Spencer to speak to Harry about his relationship with Meghan Markle, which William allegedly said was ‘moving too fast’.
Reports on the story stated that Harry was very upset by this – not so much by the conversation with his uncle, but by the idea that William would ask family members to interfere in his personal and romantic life.
2018: Harry & Meghan’s Wedding
William later filled the role of best man at Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle in 2018.
Despite his earlier reported concerns regarding the relationship, William appeared supportive following their engagement, with he and Kate releasing a statement describing their excitement for the couple, reading ‘It has been wonderful to get to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together’.
At the wedding, they still appeared incredibly close, with no sign of any fall-out between the royal brothers or their wives, despite previous reports that relations between Kate and Meghan were ‘tense’ in the lead-up, though many of these claims appeared substantiated. Whilst Meghan has since confirmed the two did have a brief disagreement in the week before the wedding – one which, she says, left her in tears – she went on to say that Kate had apologised and that the two quickly moved on from this.
2019: Charities Split
Rumours of a feud between the brothers began to circulate again after the announcement that the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex would begin operating their own charity, separate from that of William and Kate.
Having previously run the The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex as a foursome, the announcement was made that Harry and Meghan were to split from the charity and establish their own royal foundation, with William and Kate remaining at the helm of their previous joint venture.
Reports speculated that this was a sign that the brothers were drifting apart, reporting that the split reflected the alleged disagreements William and Harry were having behind the scenes. However, it’s likely that this decision was simply made to widen the scope of their charitable work.
2019: Harry Says He And William Have ‘Good Days’ And ‘Bad Days’
Harry confirmed that the two had previously fallen out during an interview for the ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey.
Speaking to journalist Tom Bradby, Harry hinted that many of their disagreements were a result of being under pressure as a member of the royal family and added that the two were ‘certainly on different paths’.
However, it didn’t appear to be a statement of animosity in any way, with Harry going on to say that the two were unable to see each other often as they used to be due to being incredibly busy, having already told Bradby “I’ll always be there for him and I know he’ll always be there for me”.
2019: Meghan And Harry Skip Christmas At Sandringham
Following the birth of their son, Archie, it was reported that Meghan and Harry would spend Christmas with Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland rather than attending celebrations at Sandringham with Harry’s side of the family.
Reports suggested that Harry’s increasingly fraught relationship with his brother had influenced this decision, though a statement issued by the couple later read that their plans had the support of Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. The statement also confirmed that ‘This decision is in line with the precedent set previously by members of the royal family’, putting to bed rumours that this was a surprise break in tradition in response to a family feud.
2020: Meghan And Harry Announce They Will ‘Take A Step Back’
Part in response to the ongoing media storm surrounding the Sussexes’ private life, Meghan and Harry announced their intentions to step back from their duties as working senior royals.
The announcement – the first of its kind since the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 – shocked millions around the world, with many speculating whether or not their decision had been influenced by tensions between the couple and the royal establishment. Even more surprisingly, it was later revealed that the couple allegedly chose not to inform William and Kate of the decision before the news was made public, fuelling rumours that tensions between the four were only set to rise.
2020: William And Kate’s ‘Awkward’ Greeting
All eyes were on the Cambridges and Sussexes at a Commonwealth Day service in 2020, with many reporting that the service marked the first occasion that the four had seen each other since Meghan and Harry’s announcement regarding stepping back.
The media’s speculation of tensions between Harry and William were fuelled further when footage appeared to show William giving a cold ‘Hello’ to Meghan as she greeted the couple, with Kate appearing to ignore the greeting completely. Many felt that this was a clear indication that there was a definite rift between the brothers and their wives, though some pointed out that, with Kate and William’s entrance pre-planned, it was likely that the four had seen and spoken to each other already that day.
2020: Reportedly Back In Touch
Royal insiders suggested to a number of media outlets that the brothers were back on speaking terms following the news that Prince Charles had tested positive for COVID-19.
With William and Harry having spent months of lockdown on different sides of the Atlantic, this worrying announcement reportedly encouraged the two to put their rumoured disagreements aside and attempt to reconnect with one another. Reports suggested that they had, like much of the public, been keeping in contact via video call during the early stages of the pandemic.
2021: The Oprah Interview
March 2021 famously saw Meghan and Harry, now living in California, sit down with Oprah Winfrey for a tell-all interview regarding what led to their decision to step back from their position within the royal family.
During the interview, the couple spoke of the toll that constant criticism and scrutiny of the couple, most often Meghan, at the hands of the media had taken on their mental health, with the Duchess Of Sussex admitting she had sought help from the establishment and was repeatedly turned away. In shocking scenes, Harry went on to describe incidents of racism towards Meghan within the royal family, alleging that there were discussions of concern over what colour Archie’s skin would be.
Harry also directly addressed the fall-out with William, stating that he hoped their relationship could one day get back on track.
2021: A Reunion
Harry and William saw one another for the first time since the interview in rather unfortunate circumstances, as they joined the procession at the funeral of their grandfather Prince Philip in April 2021.
The pair were seen speaking with one another after the service, as they made their way back to Windsor Castle alongside Kate. Meghan could not be present as she was too far into her second pregnancy at the time to travel. Whilst little is known about their conversations on this occasion, relations between the three appeared relatively warm.
2021: A United Front
Harry and William appeared together in public in July to unveil a statue of their late mother, Princess Diana. The brothers appeared friendly throughout the ceremony, which took place in the sunken gardens at Kensington Palace.
A joint statement was released by William and Harry, thanking the team involved in the making of the statue and writing ‘Every day, we wish she were still with us’.
2021: Back In Contact?
In recent days, reports have claimed that the four are back in contact via Zoom and that both couples are ‘very close with one another’.
The comments, made by royal expert Stewart Pearce, echo previous reports that Kate and Meghan had been in regular contact since the birth of Meghan and Harry’s daughter, Lilibet, and that there may be an end to the so-called ‘royal feud’.
If true, it certainly seems to point towards William and Harry putting their previous differences aside and repairing the rift we’ve seen reported across the media in recent years. Given everything that the brothers have been through – not just in the last decade but throughout their lives – we hope this is the case.