Why a Kate Middleton-Meghan Markle Friendship "Was Never Going to Happen"
"They did what they had to do to keep up appearances," an insider says. "There was nothing else beyond that."
When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle joined Prince William and Kate Middleton along with the rest of the royal family in March at Westminster Abbey for their last official engagement as senior royals, there appeared to be no love lost between the brothers and sisters-in-law. Harry had all but admitted his relationship with his brother was strained during his infamous ITV interview several months before. Meanwhile, persistent rumors about an argument between Kate and Meghan at a bridesmaid dress fitting, resulting in a permanent chill, had been swirling around since the Sussexes' wedding in 2018. But, according to one royal insider, it was always clear that Kate and Meghan were never going to be friends.
"A close friendship between the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex was never going to happen," my source said. "They are two very different women who have always been on two totally different paths. It's now quite clear that they did what they had to do to keep up appearances, but there was nothing else beyond that between them."
To Harry, Kate was the sister he never had. She often cooked roast chicken dinners for him while he was still single and living next door to the Cambridges at Nottingham Cottage. Harry and Kate always seemed very much at ease in each other's company—especially when they were joking around at William's expense.
When Harry and Meghan announced their engagement in Nov. 2017, the familiar threesome became a foursome and were quickly dubbed the "Fab Four" by the British tabloids. "There was this incredible pressure on Catherine and Meghan to become best friends," my insider said. "They got on well enough, but this fantasy of them becoming close confidantes because they were both outsiders who had married into the royal family was nothing more than a media creation and public relations dream."
Now that Harry and Meghan have moved to Los Angeles and Kate and William are more popular than ever in the U.K., it appears the kid gloves have come off. Friends of both couples are suddenly revealing just how tense things were between the women before the Sussexes decided to step down as senior royals.
In an explosive new profile of Kate in Tatler's July/August issue, unnamed sources allege that a deep freeze between the women set in early. Kate, always careful to adhere to royal protocol, and Meghan, determined to shake up the status quo, were polar opposites in their approaches to royal life. One source quoted in the story said, "I don't think that [Kate] ever pulled Meghan under her wing and said, 'I'll show you the ropes.' Catherine and William were very circumspect from the beginning about Meghan, which hurt and incensed Harry. William rightly cautioned Harry to slow the relationship down. That's why they all fell out."
In the same story, a friend of William and Kate's refuted that she had not been welcoming to Meghan, saying, "Help can only be provided if it is willingly accepted."
As for the much speculated incident between Kate and Meghan involving bridesmaids attire, a source close to the Cambridges told Tatler, "It was a hot day and apparently there was a row over whether the bridesmaids should wear tights or not. Kate, following protocol, felt that they should. Meghan didn't want them to."
Based on the wedding photographs, it appeared Meghan won that round, but, it reportedly did not endear her to Palace insiders. The magazine reports that Kate "sought the opportunity to put Meghan in her place, reprimanding her for speaking imperiously to her Kensington Palace staff."
In response to the Tatler story—which also claimed Kate was "furious" about her increased workload since the Sussexes' exit and contained less than glowing comments about the Middleton family—the Palace issued a rare comment. A Kensington Palace spokesperson said: "This story contains a swathe of inaccuracies and false misrepresentations which were not put to Kensington Palace prior to publication." It is unclear which part or parts of the story the Palace was refuting. Tatler editor-in-chief Richard Dennen said the publication stands by its story.
More hard feelings between the women were uncovered recently when the Daily Mail reported in April that a friend of Meghan's said that Meghan believed if Kate had suffered the same constant criticism that she faced, "no one would have put up with it, and the broken and outdated system would have been revised. Those outlets responsible for their vicious attacks would have been shut out."
Reports that Meghan had been dubbed "Duchess Difficult" by staffers have dogged the Duchess of Sussex from the very beginning. "The stories about Meghan's high-handedness with the staff started as soon as she moved into Nottingham Cottage and got worse after the wedding. It didn't help that her office was a revolving door. A lot of people came and went rather quickly," said my source. "There has never been a word about Catherine being cross with anyone at the Palace. I think it bothered Meghan that she was being painted in a very unfavorable light and Catherine was seen as the flawless future queen."
Another source told The Times recently that Meghan "was convinced there was a conspiracy against her and so she basically put herself in isolation when they moved to Frogmore."
Against the backdrop of all this Palace intrigue, a stark contrast between Kate and Meghan that shaped the narrative emerged. "Catherine has always been extremely cautious, kept her head down, and never attempted to be a royal 'star,'" said my source. "She is very mindful that she will be queen consort someday and that is the guiding force behind everything she does. Meghan, on the other hand, had all these plans with Harry to 'modernize' the monarchy and became quite frustrated when it became clear that they had far less power within the family than she expected. Obviously, she was disappointed by the reality of royal life. In the end, both women could not understand the other's point of view."
Any hope of a thaw between Kate and Meghan seems unlikely as both couples' lives grow ever more distant. While William and Kate have assumed the lion's share of official royal duties during the COVID-19 pandemic and seem to be everywhere these days via video chats with school children and NHS workers, Harry and Meghan have been holed up in Los Angeles in Tyler Perry's $18 million mansion since moving to the States—emerging only briefly to deliver meals to those in need during the pandemic on behalf of Project Angel Food.
According to my source, William and Kate—along with several other members of the royal family—were stunned when, just as Queen Elizabeth took to the airwaves to urge the public to self-isolate (and on the very day Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalized with the coronavirus), Harry and Meghan announced the name of their new charitable entity, Archewell. "It was stunningly bad timing," said a royal insider. "And it was something that most definitely could have waited given the circumstances." The source adds that William and Catherine were taken aback by what they considered to be an "insensitive" move by Harry and Meghan.
A tell-all book, Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, due out in August and written with Harry and Meghan's full cooperation, is expected to add fuel to the fire. In early May, my sources said that Harry and Meghan's book could have been fueled by "their anger at having to play second fiddle to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge." The flip side of the story will come in September when Kensington Palace: An Intimate Memoir From Queen Mary to Meghan Markle by Tom Quinn is published, which depicts Kate as "one of the nicest royals" and Meghan unable to accept being runner-up.
"Given all that's going on in the world right now, it will likely be a long time until Catherine and Meghan are at the same place at the same time," said my source. "But when and if that time comes, don't expect a joyous reunion. It's no longer possible to put a good face on things now that so much has been revealed about the true nature of their relationship. They married into the same family but beyond that, Catherine and Meghan are two women who could not be more different and certainly not what anyone would consider 'friends.'" And for more on the future king and queen, check out William and Kate's Most Adorable Couples Moments Through the Years.
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.