Feature writing


Did Prince William and Prince Charles really plot a ‘silent coup’ against Harry and Meghan?

The Daily Beast

June 28, 2020

New books claim to trace the conflicts between Prince William and Prince Harry, from their childhood, to Meghan Markle, and a “silent coup” tied to Prince Andrew’s Epstein scandal.

Whatever the state of the relationship between Prince Harry and Prince William, two things are most certainly not helping: royal “sources,” and an expanse of miscommunication-facilitating ocean between them.

The apparent fraternal conflict is being exacerbated by a wealth of new claims about the circumstances by which Harry and wife Meghan Markle ended up quitting their roles as “senior royals.”

The author Nigel Cawthorne claims Prince Charles and William used Prince Andrew’s BBC Newsnight interview—in which he offered such a disastrous defense of his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein that it led to his own royal expulsion—as a means of orchestrating a “silent coup” against Harry.

Cawthorne, in his forthcoming book Prince Andrew, Epstein and the Palace, says that Charles and William’s teams at the Palace decided to use the moment to start leaking stories that Harry and Meghan were about to depart their roles. And from those leaks eventually sprang forth the flood—which saw crisis talks organized by the Queen and Harry and Meghan effectively out of their jobs, and pretty hastily exiled to Canada, and now Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, esteemed royal biographer Robert Lacey’s Battle of Brothers: William and Harry—the Friendship and The Feuds, to be published in October, will look at William and Harry’s complicated relationship.

The popcorn-munching précis: “With an unrivaled knowledge of court life and access to impeccable sources, Robert Lacey investigates the untold reality of the brothers’ relationship, explaining what happened when two sons were raised for vastly different futures and showing how the seeds of damage were sown as their parents’ marriage unravelled.”

And then there is Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand’s Harry and Meghan book, Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of A Modern Royal Family, scheduled for August, which may contain its own set of explosive revelations about not just the brothers’ relationship, but how the royal family treated Meghan and the couple more generally.

Aides are reportedly worried about William being painted as “the bad guy” in this book.

As reported in the Mail—which says some of Cawthorne’s claims are disputed—Andrew’s appallingly executed, and received, Panorama interview was seen as a “starting shot” in “pruning the unwieldy monarchy.” Charles has reportedly always been keen on streamlining the main royal players—and doesn’t get on with Andrew—and so, if Cawthorne is right, the interview was seen as a timely excuse to also deal with Harry and Meghan.

“The Charles-William faction at the palace is in seemingly unstoppable ascendant,” Cawthorne said. “The starting shot was Andrew’s BBC Newsnight interview. The Charles faction at the palace clearly saw that it created the opportunity of removing not only Andrew, but also Harry from royal engagements.

“The first rumors of Harry ‘quitting’ the royal family started circulating around the day of the interview, even before the backlash to Prince Andrew’s performance.”

If there is an alliance between Charles and William, this also comes at a moment when their relationship has reportedly warmed, as signaled in the cute Father’s Day image of them together last weekend.

Cawthorne says Harry and Meghan had been planning their royal departure for months in secret before their dramatic January announcement, which plunged the family into a very bruising public crisis, as debate raged about Harry and Meghan’s status and finances.

“Harry’s retirement is irrevocable and it is unclear when Prince Andrew will return from his sabbatical. In the modern history of Buckingham Palace it was probably one of the most stunning silent coups,” Cawthorne told the Mail.

However, Cawthorne also told Yahoo, “Charles and William genuinely wanted to find a way forward for what the Sussexes were looking for and to support them in their discussions with the palace.”

But wait, a source tells Us Weekly that William is angry at Harry all over again. “William is so tired and done with the drama of it all. Seeing Harry cut ties with virtually every aspect of his English life and identity is so hard to fathom.”

“It breaks William’s heart,” the source said of the couple’s move, adding that the brothers “need space and time to breathe, then hopefully they’ll work it out.”

In May, Us Weekly reported the brothers were in touch during the pandemic. “William’s advised Harry to return to London or move elsewhere, somewhere safer. He’s concerned about his brother’s well-being and safety.” This tangle of conflicting reports of scheming, fallouts, and extended hands comes after reports that both brothers supported Charles when he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

The source of the brothers’ beef dates back to 2018, when William allegedly asked Harry if he was sure his relationship with Meghan wasn’t going too fast, to which Harry went reportedly “ballistic.” The relationship has been off its tracks ever since.

In October, Harry told ITV, “We’re brothers, we’ll always be brothers. And we’re certainly on different paths at the moment, but I’ll always be there for him, as I know he’ll always be there for me.”

“We don’t see each other as much as we used to because we’re so busy, but you know, I love him dearly. The majority of this stuff [in the press] is created out of nothing, but you know, as brothers, you know, you have good days, you have bad days.”

Amid all this, Kate reportedly reached out to Meghan, and the couples tried to make nice, but “the fab four” were a fab four no longer. William was reportedly angry at Harry and Meghan buggering off to Canada to leave him “to pick up the pieces” in England. Now, William seems both worried for Harry’s mental health, and still furious about having to play the well-behaved King-in-waiting back in Blighty.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the brothers—and Kate and Meghan—have been playing a smooth media game.

Kate’s pictures of William for Father’s Day last week were followed by the revelation of the “chat sofa” they use when disciplining their kids (no shouting, lots of calm explanation).

In California, Harry and Meghan were seen helping fellow workers prepare food at L.A. charity Homeboy Industries. It was also revealed this week that they have signed up as speakers with the Harry Walker Agency, whose clients include the Obamas. Meghan also reportedly wants to take a central role in the social justice movement.

And so William and Harry’s complicated relationship continues at a distance, perhaps ameliorated by being in touch with each other in recent weeks.

“I have been astonished and sometimes moved to tears by the fresh details and insights I have discovered in researching this story of family conflict,” Lacey, an adviser on The Crown, said, trailing his upcoming book. “It has been both enthralling and painful to trace this drama through the memories of close witnesses and some of the people most intimately involved.”