Three weeks that will make or break royal brothers


June should be an absolutely spiffing month for the Queen, with “should” clearly being the operative word here.

The annual Trooping the Colour should see her extended family loyally cram onto the Buckingham Palace balcony for a cheerful orgy of flag-waving public ardour and a heady injection of Rule Britannia pomp. Ascot should be on, an event that combines two of Her Majesty’s greatest passions – horses and the chance to ignore Sarah, Duchess of York. (I jest, of course.)

The Order of the Garter service means 24 members of the chivalric order will descend on Windsor Castle for a suitably medieval ceremony and the chance to wear a ridiculous velvet hat.

But, in 2021, we are a long, long way from the predictable and the routine and though the Great Reopening is now only weeks away in the UK, things for the 95-year-old sovereign are still far from usual.

Still, June may well end up being a particularly significant month for the Queen and represents one of the most promising moments yet for her grandsons Princes William and Harry to possibly reconcile.

In fact, the next three or so weeks could make or break whether Harry ever truly patches things up with his family.

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The reason? At some point in the very near future, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex is set to give birth to her second child, a little girl, and the bub’s arrival could be the catalyst so desperately needed to bring the two men back together.

That or things could fall even more spectacularly apart, so no pressure now.

Babies after all have a way of bringing people together, or tearing them apart.

It is now nearly 100 days since Harry and Meghan’s prime time audience with Oprah Winfrey which marked the beginning of what has felt like a West Coast onslaught against the royal family including Harry accusing the royal family of cruelty in regards to wife Meghan’s mental health woes, bullying and “total neglect.”

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After so much acrimony and the deepening gulf between the California-based duke and duchess and the royal family in London, could the Sussexes’ daughter, who will be eighth-in line to the throne, offer both sides a chance to reconnect?

Duncan Larcombe, the former royal editor of The Sun and author of Prince Harry: The Inside Story, has argued that the little girl’s delivery could help bring the two sides back together.

“The next real sign we will get of whether the thaw is continuing will come with the birth of Meghan’s daughter,” Larcombe has told the Daily Beast.

“How William and Kate respond to the birth is critical. That will be when the olive branches come out.”

So, could the gradual process of past hurts being forgiven (or at least politely ignored) begin in the lovey dovey wake of Baby Sussex’s birth?

Beyond that, even if this adorable bundle of joy’s birth does precipitate a certain trans-Atlantic thawing of tensions, would it be enough to really start to repair the damage of the past few years?

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Writing in The Sun, veteran royal biographer Tom Bower has argued that “Reconciliation is only possible if the Sussexes apologise.”

If this is indeed the case then we may be a very, very long way off seeing any sort of détente here.

Despite the groundswell of anger from many quarters in Britain that greeted the Sussexes’ Oprah revelations, they would seem to have no regrets. Harry, speaking during an episode of his recent mental health TV series The Me You Can’t See, said of their Oprah interview: “I like to think that we were able to speak truth in the most compassionate way possible, therefore leaving an opening for reconciliation and healing.”

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Whether the royal family feels that Harry and Meghan’s bruising barrage was “compassionate” and might promote “healing” is another question entirely.

Keep in mind there is a much bigger picture here. While the hurts of the past few years have dominated the narrative in terms of the falling out between the two princes, there has been strain underlying their relationship for decades.

Going back to the boys’ teenage years, Harry was forced to accept the galling double standard that while his elder brother, as a future king, was given pass after pass when it came to his bad behaviour, the younger Wales was repeatedly raked over the coals for his mistakes.

Take the combination of the men and booze. In the late 90s, Prince Charles converted the bombproof basement of his Gloucestershire home, Highgrove, into Club H, a place where the princes could relax without fear of their beer-logged antics ending up splashed across the front of the next day’s papers.

Robert Lacey, in last year’s excellent Battle of Brothers, wrote: “it was William who had opened the first bottles behind the well-stocked bar in the cellar of Highgrove and had led the group forays to [local pub] The Rattlebone Inn after hours”.

“It was William who was the blue-eyed glamour boy at the centre of the so-called ‘Glossy Posse’ that surrounded the young princes, pouring out the drinks and inspiring all the revels that would coax his younger brother … into errant and self-destructive ways.

“Nothing seriously discreditable was ever written about the future William V — the ‘King of the Castle’. It was Harry who was cast as the ‘dirty rascal’.

“In this culturally distorted scenario, it was evidently the predetermined function — the very destiny — of the younger brother to carry the can for his ‘exemplary’ elder sibling.”

Lacey similarly points to the events surrounding the infamous episode in January 2005 when Harry wore a Nazi uniform to a dress up party. William was reportedly there with Harry when they picked out their outfits and, Lacey writes, “We know that Harry chose his costume in conjunction with his elder brother — the future King William V, then 22, who had laughed all the way back to Highgrove with the younger sibling he was supposed to be mentoring — and then onwards to the party together.”

Yet despite William’s part in this PR debacle, he never came in for a moment of recrimination or an ounce of opprobrium. There was only one guilty party here who came in for a public tarring and feathering.

Is it any wonder, as Kate Nicholl has written in Harry: Life, Loss and Love that “Harry began to resent his supposed “golden-boy” older brother … nothing seemed to stick to William, the heir to the throne; all the blame and disappointment lay at the feet of Harry.”

It is against this backdrop and the fresher wounds connected with the arrival of Meghan on the royal scene, that have led to the deep-seated fissure in the relationship between William and Harry.

The big question is, is it too much to ask that a wee baby might finally help begin to mend their bond?

What is not up for debate though is that, for both sides here, the stakes are high.

The ongoing melodrama sparked by Harry and Meghan’s revelations has dominated royal headlines for months now, proving to be a constant source of distraction for the palace from all the good, hard work such as trying to keep the fractious Scots from getting too het up about independence.

For Harry and Meghan, setting themselves up in defiant opposition to the palace is a long-term strategy fraught with risk, most notably because the well of sympathy for a prince badly used and ill treated by his family is liable to run dry given the global events of the past 18 months.

Essentially what the coming weeks and the birth of the littlest Sussex present is the most fertile moment for Harry and the royal family to reconnect. If one or both sides don’t seize this opportunity, they all run the risk of the rift between them only becoming even more tragically entrenched.

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Given Harry told Jane Goodall in 2019 that he and Meghan would only be having two children, there won’t be any adorable other babies to help all the grown-ups sort out the breach.

Baby Sussex will most likely never be Queen but she has a huge part to play in the future of the royal family.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.



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