King Charles has a “strategic need” to chart a course of reconciliation with his estranged son Prince Harry in the medium to long term—and, as part of his attempts to try and smooth that path, is not seeking an apology from him over accusations made by Harry in his book, films and other interviews, royal sources and friends of the king and Queen Camilla have told The Daily Beast.
The king hopes that an unconditional apology might be well received by the prince, and that Harry may shelve his own demands for an apology to Meghan Markle, the friend said, allowing for a “reset” of relations.
The friend of the king and Camilla told The Daily Beast that while Charles hopes to be able to build relations with Harry in due course, he would not be tempted to start dishing out apologies.
They said: “It has been reported that Charles wants an apology from Harry, but that’s far from the case. [Charles] wouldn’t expect that. He knows the Windsors are a stubborn lot and Harry is no exception. The quid-pro-quo is, can Harry accept that he won’t be getting an apology either?
“Don’t forget that Charles authorized Jonathan Dimbleby to write a book which attacked his parents, but ultimately they all basically forgot about it, chalked it down to experience and moved on. Charles wants to hit the reset button—but not at any price.”
In interviews to promote his book, Spare, Harry said he wanted “accountability” from the royals.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Harry explicitly sought an apology, saying: “The way I see it is, I’m willing to forgive you [the royal family] for everything you’ve done, and I wish you’d actually sat down with me, properly, and instead of saying I’m delusional and paranoid, actually sit down and have a proper conversation about this, because what I’d really like is some accountability. And an apology to my wife.”
While there is little doubt that an entente cordiale with the Sussexes would represent a win for King Charles, such hopes and dreams are balanced by concerns on the king’s side over the past years of doing anything that may breathe new life into the media narrative of a destructive royal feud.
Arranging a meeting with Harry, no matter how cordiale, would risk doing just that. Indeed, the palace has been notably quick to quash as false rumors of “peace summits” or other tête-à-têtes in recent weeks.
However, the fact that courtiers are understood to have told Harry he would be made welcome if he wished to visit his father at Balmoral earlier this month is “clearly a positive sign that things are moving in the right direction,” the friend said.
Harry did not take up the offer, but it was encouraging that Harry’s side apparently diplomatically blamed tight logistics for not making the meeting work.
Harry’s camp said he couldn’t get to Scotland due to the brevity of his stopover in the U.K., an argument somewhat undermined by the revelation that Harry apparently did find time to visit his cousin Eugenie in Portugal on his European trip.
The friend said: “The Harry issue doesn’t have to be sorted out immediately but it will be sorted out eventually. Charles loves Harry but his priority is to fulfill his duty as king and not let his mother down. That means constitutional considerations have to come first.”
Less encouraging mood music was provided by a renewed failure by the king to offer Harry a U.K. base. Having been brutally evicted from Frogmore Cottage in the wake of the publication of Spare, Harry no longer has a domicile in the U.K. which imperils the legality of his last remaining constitutional role of Counselor of State. The Sunday Times quoted a source as saying that it was deemed “reasonable” for Harry to be offered “a pied-à-terre” on the royal estate, but an official Buckingham Palace spokesperson told the paper: “These claims are not true.”
While the late Queen Elizabeth II was often personally indulgent towards Harry, whom she adored, she was notorious for taking a tough line on family members she considered had abandoned their duty.
Her sister Princess Margaret wasn’t allowed to marry Peter Townsend. Her uncle David, better known as Edward VIII, who abdicated in 1936, was completely refused rehabilitation after she took the throne, even though she was said to be immensely fond of him personally. Whenever there was a conflict between her personal feelings and protecting the Crown, the call of duty won out.
Charles has inherited that instinct, but times have changed, and the reality is that, while people are sympathetic, the continued alienation of Harry and Meghan reflects poorly on Charles as a leader. It will only become an even more pronounced problem if his grandchildren, who are a prince and princess, grow up in California without any apparent contact with Harry’s family.
And while royal sources like to give the impression that Charles has no need to hurry, the simple fact is that Charles is already 74. At the age of 73, he was the oldest person yet to ascend to the British throne. Given that both his parents lived well into their nineties, he is generally expected to do the same.
But time is not, actually, on his side, and were something unthinkable to happen and Prince William to take the throne, even the most optimistic of palace spinners concede that an outbreak of brotherly love would be unlikely.
William has remained implacably furious with his brother, outraged by what he sees as his betrayal of him and his family, and their privacy, for financial gain. He has no wish to see him, The Daily Beast understands from sources.
Charles, however, does.
A former staffer who worked for the king in their time at Buckingham Palace, told The Daily Beast that Charles has a “strategic need to resolve the issue” of Harry’s estrangement from the family.
The former staffer said: “It’s not sustainable for the king, who is the national symbol of unity, to be on such bad terms with his son that they haven’t been pictured together in years. Ultimately Charles has not just a personal but also a strategic need to resolve the issue.”
However the thorny question of just how a resolution can be achieved is complicated by the fact that Charles’ advisers will be unwilling to weigh in on what is “essentially a family matter,” this source said.
“The division between state and family is sacrosanct so Camilla will be pivotal in all this,” the source added, “She is the only one who will be in a position to advise him who he will listen to. She is a pragmatist and I’m sure she understands the importance of putting this saga to bed.”
Camilla’s position is well known within the family where it is summarized as “Least said soonest mended,” the source said.
Indeed, this was the formulation used by the queen’s official companion Fiona Shelburne in one of the few on-the-record statements to come out of the palace on the matter.
In comments likely authorized by the palace, Shelburne, also known as Lady Lansdowne, told the Sunday Times: “Of course it bothers her, of course it hurts. But she doesn’t let it get to her. Her philosophy is always, ‘Don’t make a thing of it and it will settle down—least said, soonest mended.’”
Maybe, maybe not. All the signs are it might take more than the silence of a stiff upper lip to break this impasse.
Buckingham Palace and Harry and Meghan’s office did not respond to requests for comment.