Explainer: What exactly is going on in the 'war' behind Buckingham Palace gates?
As Harry and Meghan speak out about their fears that the British press is out to get them and rumours grow of a rift with William, will they soon decide to leave public life behind for good?
Why does a rift seem to be opening up within the British royal family?
Some of its younger members can’t take the pressure. Queen Elizabeth herself is said to be deeply concerned about Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, who poured out their unhappiness in an ITV documentary last Sunday.
There’s widespread speculation that Harry and Meghan might step back from public life, move away from Britain or even give up their royal privileges entirely.
Why are the couple so fed up?
Essentially, because they believe the British press is out to get them. In interviews recorded for Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, Meghan recalled friends warning her that marrying into the House of Windsor would “destroy your life”.
Now she apparently agrees with them, complaining that her royal duties have “really been a struggle” and “not many people have asked if I’m OK”.
“I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip,” she said in comm-ents clearly aimed at traditionalists who wondered if a mixed race, divorced American actress was suitable for the role.
“But I think what that does internally is prob-ably really damaging.”
How does Harry feel about his wife’s concerns?
His attitude is fundamentally shaped by the death of his mother, Princess Diana, who was killed in a car crash while fleeing from paparazzi in Paris 22 years ago. By the prince’s own admission, he has had mental health issues since then and says that keeping them under control requires “constant management”.
Every click of a camera, he also told ITV in the interview, is “the worst possible reminder” that Diana’s life ended at the age of 36 (he’s now 35).
“I will protect my family,” he has vowed. “I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum.”
What exactly has the British press been saying about them?
Harry and Meghan are regularly accused of being self-righteous, hypocritical and careless with public money. Last August, they both spoke publicly about the danger of clim-ate change, but were then revealed to have flown on private jets four times in the space of 11 days (including a visit to Elton John in the south of France).
They broke with tradition by refusing to release any details of their son Archie’s christening and charged the British taxpayer £2.4m (€2.8m) to renovate a house in Windsor.
Their trip to Africa was supposed to highlight the issues of violence against women and wildlife conservation, but instead, some commentators are pointing out, it ended up being all about them.
Doesn’t this come under the category of ‘fair comment’?
Yes, but Harry and Meghan claim that other press coverage of them has crossed a line. During their time away, Meghan announced she’s suing the Mail On Sunday over its publication of a letter she wrote to her estranged father, Thomas.
She claims the newspaper infringed copyright and invaded her privacy under the Human Rights Act.
Harry, meanwhile, is also taking legal action, against the publishers of the Sun and the Daily Mirror, for alleged phone hacking.
“My deepest fear is history is repeating itself,” he declared in a hard-hitting statement. “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces. I have been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long.”
Does the prince have his big brother William’s support?
That seems very doubtful. As usual, members of the royal family don’t say much in public, but sources close to them are making their feelings quite clear.
“Harry is not in great shape,” one royal insider revealed this week. “I’d say he’s not well, declaring war on everyone, crying in public. These are not the actions of a well-balanced man.
“He and William are badly split over his mother’s legacy. Harry’s view is, ‘The press killed my mum and now they’re going to kill my wife’. William has a more nuanced view. He accepts you have to live with the press.”
Another source more sympathetic to Harry and Meghan has hit back strongly, claiming the couple are “single-handedly” modernising Britain’s monarchy and not getting any thanks for it.
So, Diana’s children are clearly drifting apart?
Yes. William was reportedly uneasy about Harry’s whirlwind courtship of Meghan, pointing out that he dated Kate Middleton for eight years before marrying her.
They were initially nicknamed The Fab Four, living beside each other in Kensington Palace and working for the same charitable foundation. Now Harry and Meghan have moved to Windsor and want to start their own organisation.
“We’re certainly on different paths at the moment,” Harry admitted to ITV.
“We don’t see other as much as we used to because we’re so busy. I love him dearly, but as brothers, you know, you have good days, you have bad days.”
Whose side is Queen Elizabeth on?
“Never wear private grief on a public sleeve,” is her motto, according to one royal biographer. She almost certainly supports William, who’s being groomed to become king one day, while Harry’s role is much less important.
However, Buckingham Palace is denying reports that the queen has removed a photo of Harry and Meghan from her reception room, insisting it has simply been “rotated” to another place.
Is this just a rough patch for Harry and Meghan or could they really disappear from public life?
We should know quite soon. The couple are planning to take six weeks off before Christmas and make some decisions about their long-term future.
“The rest of our lives’ work will be predominantly focused on Africa,” Harry has promised, adding that they would love to live in Cape Town but don’t see a move as practical right now.
At least one thing is sure – when the writers of Netflix’s hit series The Crown get up to 2019, they’ll have no shortage of material.
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