By Isabel Pulgarin
Theirs was a story-book romance. He was a prince, she an American actress. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. They met in 2016, married in 2018 and, ultimately rid of their duties, exited from the royal family in 2020.
Now, with the coronation of King Charles III set for May 6, many question if the entire royal family will be present for the occasion. Prince Harry and his family were invited via email but, at the time of this publication, they have not announced whether they will be attending.
Numerous British performers like Adele, Harry Styles, and Sir Elton John refused to perform at this royal event. Reporters point to recent PR disasters like the connections between Jeffrey Epstein and brother Prince Andrew. Some also point to an allegiance with ex-wife and deceased mother to the royal heirs, Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales.
The truth is, though, the family has been fractured since last December’s airing of the Netflix docuseries “Harry & Meghan,” showing intimate details of the Sussexes and never-before-seen home videos of their new family.
The two showed their Montecito, California home and how they welcomed their second child since fleeing London to get away from the family and the British media. Prince Harry - along with Elton John - is currently suing the media for invasion of privacy using phone-tapping.
On the docuseries, the couple talked of their early romance, how they met on Instagram, their first kiss in Botswana, and how they had fun the last night before taking their love public.
They talked about the awkward, culture-shock formalities between Markle and the royals, specifically the first of many when she hugged Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, wife to Harry’s brother Prince William.
“I didn’t realize that that is really jarring for a lot of Brits,” Markle said.
As a major royal for about two years, she was accused of bullying former royal staff, aides who reported to the press.
Her mother, Doria Ragland, gave her first public sit-down interview in the second episode where she recalled telling her daughter the negative media attention was ultimately about race but Markle didn’t believe it.
Harry talked about his family and their disputes, and the shadow over the family from the death of his mother, Princess Diana, in a car crash in 1997.
“It was terrifying to have my brother scream and shout at me, and my father say things that were simply not true, and my grandmother, you know, quietly sit there and take it all in.”
He gave his take on the severity and unfairness of the British media.
“It’s a dirty game. There’s leaking but there’s also planting of stories,” he said. “I realized I wasn’t just being thrown to the wolves; I was being fed to the wolves.”
But the family motto is ‘never complain, never explain,’ he said to 60 Minutes during his press tour.
This principle can be traced back to Princess Diana and her being told to be quiet during events so as not to gain attention.
The sentiments are shared by the two when Markle discussed her depression and the rumors that she made Kate Middleton cry, for example, when she said it was the other way around.
Markle was denied the help of a therapist because it might look bad on the family. British reporters said she had more than enough aid to adjust to royal life and considered her familiar to the limelight being an actress.
The couple took a tour of Australia during rumored tensions between the wives and brothers shortly after their marriage in October 2018. Markle was so successful and natural during their interactions it became a problem to the family. A similar jealousy arose against Princess Diana, when all the media wanted to cover was her.
“The issue is when someone who is marrying in, who ‘should be a supporting act’ is then stealing the limelight or is doing the job better than the person who was born to do this, that upsets people. That shifts the balance,” said Prince Harry in the docuseries.
But the biggest bombshells come from his memoir, “Spare,” published this past January. The title refers to his fifth place in line for the throne behind Prince William.
Prince Harry wrote that his father said to his mother, “Now you’ve given me an heir and a spare—my work is done,” and would joke whether Prince Harry was an illegitimate son.
His dedication read, “For Meg and Archie and Lili… and, of course, my mother.”
It starts by sharing intimate details of the prince’s youth and how, at 17, he lost his virginity in a field behind a pub and smoked marijuana, consumed magic mushrooms, and took cocaine.
“It didn’t make me feel especially happy as it seemed to happen to others, but it did make me feel different, and that was my main objective. To feel. To be different,” wrote Harry. “I was a seventeen-year-old willing to try almost anything that would alter the pre-established order.”
Prince Harry claims Prince William—aka “Willy”— aggressively confronted him claiming Meghan was rude, abrasive, and alienated half the staff.
Shifting to his brother, the Duke of Sussex wrote, “In some ways he was my mirror, in some ways he was my opposite. My beloved brother, my archnemesis, how had that happened?”
He detailed a physical altercation between them.
“He grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace, and knocked me to the floor. I landed on the dog’s bowl which cracked under my back. The pieces cutting into me. I lay there for a moment, dazed, then got to my feet and told him to get out,” wrote Prince Harry.
He details the day his father broke the news of his mother’s death when he was 12.
“There were complications. Mummy was quite badly injured, darling boy… I thought again, ‘injured but she’s OK, she’s been taken to the hospital, they’ll fix her head, and we’ll go and see her. Today, tonight at the latest.’ “They tried, darling boy. I’m afraid she didn’t make it.”
The duke said that his father didn’t hug him afterwards.
“… He wasn’t great at showing emotions under normal circumstances, how could he be expected to show them in such a crisis?” wrote Prince Harry.
He thought his mother was still alive and could come back in disguise until he was 23. But the decade after the crash, he poured over the photographs the paparazzi shot before police confiscated them for evidence.
“They’d never stopped shooting her while she lay in between the seats. Unconscious or semi-unconscious,” wrote Prince Harry. “And in their frenzy, they’d sometimes accidentally photographed each other. Not one of them was checking on her, offering her help, not even comforting her. They were shooting, shooting, shooting her.”
Reflecting on his decade in the military, he shoved the trauma of his earlier years down, flooding his thoughts with the white noise of a new-found purpose of being a soldier. He even wrote he killed 25 Taliban members, a fact many argue stands as a dangerous security risk for the royal family.
“He couldn’t cope with his mother’s death, it’s quite understandable. And here I think the royal family were wrong. He didn’t get enough support, I don’t think, when it happened. The fact that he couldn’t really grieve about his mother absolutely affected him hugely,” said Angela Levin, a royal author.
He and his brother urged their father to not marry the woman King Charles cheated on his wife with, Camilla Parker Bowles—now the Queen Consort—but would both welcome her to the family, nonetheless. Prince Harry labeled her “dangerous” and accused her of leaking private conversations between her and her stepsons to contacts in the press.
Prince Harry still holds respect for the monarchy but can’t foresee their future together —this said after it was revealed in his book, he found out his grandmother Queen Elizabeth died from BBC News rather than a phone call from family or their courtiers.
Knowing this family’s drama, many have easily chosen a side.
“Some would say, ‘We feel tremendous sympathy for you. This was obviously a very, very difficult experience with you.’ Others will say, ‘Enough now. You are extraordinarily privileged. You live a very privileged life in a multi-million-dollar mansion in Montecito in California. You were raised in a palace. Harry, stop the complaining,’” said royal editor Sarah Hewson.
Whether or not the family will be reunited at the coronation or later on, Prince Harry told 60 Minutes that the ball is in their court and he “really [looks] forward to having that family element back."