In this most eventful of weeks for the British royal family, the unanticipated return of Prince Harry to Britain has created new drama. Indeed, so unexpected have the tidings of the last few days been that the sudden arrival of the Duke of Sussex at his father’s side yesterday — a seismic and unprecedented event, given the current state of relations between Harry and the rest of the family — has barely been given the attention that it deserves. The meeting between the king and his younger son is said to have lasted around half an hour and to have taken place at Clarence House, before Charles headed off to Sandringham and Harry — who, notoriously, has no permanent residence in Britain — headed to the luxurious confines of a five-star hotel.
It is, as yet, unclear as to how the meeting between the two went, although given their recent moves towards a reconciliation, the potential for awkwardness has largely already been defused, despite the unobliging things that Harry has written and said about his father over the past year. Charles, understandably, was said to have been exhausted from the first round of cancer treatment that took place on Monday, and so the encounter between him and his son — the first time that they have been face to face privately since the Elizabeth II death in September 2022 — was shorter than it might otherwise have been. Yet it has been suggested that the two may well try to meet again during Harry’s time in Britain, to firm up the relationship that had been distinctly imperiled by the publication of Spare and the attendant hoo-ha that it produced.
But there remains little chance that Harry will be patching up his relationship with his brother. The bad blood that exists between the two is so tainted now that even their father’s illness is unlikely to bring them together. William has the excuse that his wife’s indisposition has meant that he does not have the time to see his younger sibling; as one palace source put it, “there is no plan, there is nothing in the diary.” Given that Harry is expected to return to California at the end of the week at the latest, the chances of any encounter, however fleeting, seem to be zero.
William has a justifiable reputation for bearing grudges and for a short temper — a consistent feature of his family. And the sheer number of insults and damaging revelations that were brought out into the public domain in Spare and in interviews around it will be extremely hard to forgive. The two brothers have not had any direct contact for years, and although it has been speculated that their mutual friend Mark “Marko” Dyer might be able to step in as a go-between, William shows little interest in reconciling with his brother. This is, it must be said, understandable. Harry stated in an interview last year that “There are some things that have happened, especially between me and my brother, and to some extent between me and my father, that I just don’t want the world to know, because I don’t think they would ever forgive me.” To which the only response must be that, if the jaw-dropping revelations in his book represent his pulling his punches, God knows what else has been omitted.
It is impossible to know whether Charles’s health issues will bring the family together, or whether William’s steadfast determination not to reconcile with Harry remains consistent, even amidst the latest news. He can certainly be praised for his implacable dedication to doing what he believes to be right, but there are some who might suggest that maintaining the integrity of “the Firm” — at a time when its key member is facing ill health — is a more complex matter than might be imagined. Perhaps William should take note of Charles’s words reported in Spare — “Please, boys, don’t make my final years a misery” — and consider what he should be doing in this situation to ameliorate a difficult situation. The ball, after all, remains firmly in his court.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.