Buckingham Palace announced this weekend that the Queen has asked Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince Harry to convene with her at Sandringham today so that they can agree on a Sussexit plan going forward as they consider all the options for Harry and Meghan Markle’s new royal playbook. This in and of itself is unusual, for the British royal family to actually inform the media and the public of their private schedules and agendas. “Never complain, never explain” has always been the motto – but these are different times. Even they can’t ignore the scrutiny of the last week or so, even they have to break protocol and if not exactly “explain” then at least tell people that they’re on it, that they’re meeting to come up with a solution, knowing that the weekend papers in the UK would be all over it in the Sunday papers. Not that that made any difference. The Sunday papers were all over it. Especially The Sunday Times. Most of the noise this weekend has come from the explosive quotes published in The Sunday Times.
Let’s start with Tom Bradby’s piece. Tom has known Princes William and Harry for years. He interviewed Will and Kate when they announced their engagement. He attended both weddings. He was the one who accompanied Harry and Meghan to South Africa during their 2019 fall tour and interviewed them for the documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, and you know the fallout from that show. Tom wrote in The Sunday Times this weekend that the documentary “was my idea” and that initially Harry and Meghan had no intention of focusing on anything other than their work on the tour but that after a “great deal of persuasion” on Tom’s part, they opened up about how “the past year had been for them personally”; Tom now wonders if it ended up being a “pressure release valve, in the hope that this, of itself, might alter the dynamic within the royal family”.
I mean, he’s speculating there, but he has spent enough time with the Sussexes to be able to more accurately than most put forward their position. And he continues:
'It is quite hard to know who is right and who is wrong in this, and foolish perhaps to even try to decide. Some other members of the family say Harry and — particularly — his wife come across as extremely difficult. They feel they have done their absolute best to create space for the newcomer.
Harry and Meghan, on the other hand, find some other members of the family (with the exception of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh) jealous and, at times, unfriendly.”
So, according to Tom, Harry and Meghan think some people in the royal family are jealous of them. WHO COULD THAT POSSIBLY BE?! Whoever it is, there’s been some sh-t happening behind the palace gates. And it’s now undeniable that things got super ugly, as Tom continues:
“It is pretty clear to me from conversations with both sides that this exit could suit everyone, at least in terms of narrow self-interest. But there is no doubt Harry and Meghan feel they have been driven out.”
Beyond stepping down from royal duties then, what will the Sussexes do? Here’s what sounded off the alarm bells – Tom invoked the prospect of Harry and Meghan going even more public:
“I have some idea of what might be aired in a full, no-holds-barred, sit-down interview and I don’t think it would be pretty.”
Well, it’s not like it’s pretty now, especially when you consider the other exclusive piece published in The Sunday Times by Roya Nikkhah. Some of these quotes, largely favourable to Prince William, are just as, if not more, inflammatory. But before we go into those quotes, consider where they came from. If Tom Bradby was giving context to the Sussex’s point of view, Roya Nikkhah’s article came from Team Cambridge – a “friend” of William’s, apparently, which means that these statements, in The Sunday Times, would have been endorsed, released with his consent.
“I’ve put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can’t do that anymore; we’re separate entities.”
“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 same team.”
Now here’s how all that originally looked when The Sunday Times went live with the story:
The “arm around my brother” quote is big and bold, meant to elicit the very reaction that it did. Shortly after, however, note the change:
Much less provocative, right? Why the adjustment? Was there a phone call? A realisation, perhaps, that that might not have been the best look? That the “same team” quote would be a much better face for the Cambridges?
The original quote about “arm around my brother” is still in the story, though, and it got enough traction even if it’s not blasting out your eyes anymore. But all of this maneuvering must be considered as we are watching this play out in real time, how each household is continuing to angle for public favour against one another.
Today The Times followed up with another story. They cite a source who says that Prince William bullied Harry and Meghan:
“The source added that the couple regarded themselves as having been pushed away by what they saw as a bullying attitude from the Duke of Cambridge.”
This has prompted a joint denial by both William and Harry released this morning:
“Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a UK newspaper today speculating about the relationship between The Duke of Sussex and The Duke of Cambridge. For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful."
It’s the word “bullying” that’s been used here – and William, of course, would never want to be seen as a bully. So they’ve come together to advocate for mental health hours or even minutes before the big summit at Sandringham. Is that a sign that a conciliatory attitude will prevail?
More on Sussexit to come.