Prince Harry and his wife Meghan join their brother William and sister-in-law Kate at Windsor Castle – Copyright AFP Aamir QURESHI
The death of Queen Elizabeth II could help start a reconciliation between Prince Harry and his wife Meghan and the rest of the royal family following the split and their move to the United States.
The couple, who were on a rare visit to Britain when the Queen died on Thursday, were reunited with Harry’s brother William and wife Kate at Windsor Castle on Saturday. This was their first public performance together since they moved to the US in early 2020.
All dressed in mourning black, they gazed together at the growing rows of flowers left by the public before greeting well-wishers in separate couples, revealing little about the state of their relationship.
But the quartet’s decision – once dubbed the “Fab Four” in more recent times – to come out together in front of the cameras generally seemed like a sign of progress in repairing badly broken ties.
British royal reporters have reported that the heir to the throne, William, offered the “olive branch” to his younger brother, who has been increasingly critical of the family since leaving frontline royal duties.
Just two days earlier, it was a different story: Harry, 37, tearfully arrived alone by car at Balmoral Manor, where the Queen had previously died.
William and several other close family members – but not Kate – had previously arrived together in the same car, but also arrived too late to see the Queen before she passed away.
Royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams said separate arrivals on Thursday showed the brothers had become “alienated”.
He claimed that Harry and Meghan were seen to have “caused a lot of damage to the royal family in recent months” with their speeches against the monarchy.
“In the future, the ball is on their side and it all depends on how they want to play,” Fitzwilliams added.
– “Different Paths” –
Everything was so different before.
After the princes’ mother Diana died in a car accident in Paris in 1997, they touched the world by walking behind her coffin at her funeral.
William was 15 and Harry was only 12.
They seemed to have a close bond as adults, not interrupted by William marrying longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton in 2011 and starting a family.
But the relationship soured following the 2018 marriage of former British Army Captain Harry to Meghan – a mixed-race American television actress – in Windsor in 2018.
In a 2019 interview, he said that he and his brother were “on different paths”. A year later, Harry and Meghan sensationally announced their move to the United States.
In the couple’s subsequent explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021, Meghan publicly claimed that Kate made her cry.
However, the most devastating allegation was that an unnamed member of the royal family suggested the color of the skin of Meghan’s unborn mixed-race child.
William later reacted by telling a journalist that the royals were “not at all” a racist family.
Relations between the brothers cooled markedly when they reunited last year to unveil a monument to their mother.
They did not meet during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June.
More recently, Meghan told The Cut magazine in a lengthy interview that she now feels “free” to tell her own story, which some saw as a hidden threat to the monarchy.
– “Unpredictable” –
However, after the Queen’s death, there were tentative signs of a possible easing of the rift.
Despite Harry stating to Winfrey that his brother and father were “trapped” by the monarchy, Charles appeared to be open to reconciliation with his exiled son in his first speech as the new King of Great Britain, especially expressing “love” to him and Megan.
“He offers the olive branch, but offers (it) with great caution because he knows they are unpredictable,” Fitzwilliams said.
He added that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are popular with young people, but can take great risks by openly criticizing the monarchy, especially during and after national mourning.
“There is no doubt that the Sussexes will attract a lot of attention now,” said Fitzwilliams, as British public opinion is already firmly on the side of the rest of the family.
A joint appearance on Saturday with William and Kate, who this week became the Prince and Princess of Wales following Charles’ ascension to the throne, could open a new chapter in family relationships.
But with Harry due to publish his controversial memoir by the end of the year, things could easily go downhill.
“Obviously they will come to the funeral. It is impossible to say more than that,” said Fitzwilliams.
“If in Harry’s memoirs he stopped being critical, that’s different.”