The Palace Has Issued This "Warning Shot" to Harry & Meghan, Say Sources
"These kinds of allegations will not be left unaddressed," one insider said.
Historically, the Royal Family's response to rumors and tabloid stories has been summed up by five words: "Keep calm and carry on." But now, things are changing. In recent weeks, the Palace has made clear that they are no longer going to remain silent if Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan, or friends and supporters in their camp, put out what they deem to be "false or misleading statements" detrimental to the royals, as Best Life reported last month. Though it may have taken some time for the royals to come to that conclusion, a new showdown over a comment in a documentary has proven their approach has evolved.
Earlier this year, "The Firm" was thrown into chaos after the Sussexes' bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey. It took Queen Elizabeth two days to issue a formal statement about the couple's allegations of racism and mental cruelty within "The Institution," and Her Majesty noted "recollections may vary" in response to the claims. The only public comments from the royals about the couple's assertions of racism came when Prince William visited a London school with Duchess Catherine after the interview and a Sky News reporter called out to him he left the facility: "Sir, is the Royal Family racist?" William continued walking to a waiting car as he said: "We are very much not a racist family."
Since then, the royals have refrained from commenting on Harry's explosive statements in various interviews about his father's—and indirectly, his grandparents'—failings as parents and the family's inability to recognize or help him with his mental health issues. They said nothing when The Me You Can't See, Harry's docuseries on mental health for Apple TV+ (co-produced by Winfrey), further laid bare his struggles since the death of his mother, Princess Diana. "At that point, the family felt it best to stay the course and do what they always did which was to keep calm and carry on," a source told Best Life. "But things keep escalating. The Palace was starting to realize something had to be done about the nonstop barrage of these destructive and questionable comments."
The first sign that there were changes afoot came when Harry and Meghan announced the birth of their daughter, Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, in June and the media in the U.K. began asking when and if the couple alerted the Queen that they would be using Lilibet as the baby's first name. It was her childhood nickname given to her when she couldn't pronounce Elizabeth, and it was later used solely by Prince Philip. When the BBC reported that the Queen had not been told in advance, Harry threatened the outlet with legal action. ITV also asked Palace aides about the BBC's reporting, and they did not deny the story.
The latest developments prove the Palace is willing to jump into the fray in a more aggressive way, signaling they will no longer allow Harry and Meghan to control the narrative about the widening rift between the Sussexes and the Royal Family. Read on to find out what "warning shot," as one insider called it, the Palace just issued to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and why it could be a "game changer."
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The Sussexes' biographer made a claim in a new documentary about William that set off alarms at the Palace.
A new ITV documentary titled Harry and William: What Went Wrong premiered on Sunday, July 4, and according to the Daily Mail, one Sussex supporter's comments in the special forced the Palace to "step in."
In the documentary, Omid Scobie, a friend of the Sussexes and co-author of highly favorable biography Finding Freedom, intimated that Kensington Palace aides planted stories in newspapers about Harry's mental health, and suggested they may have been instructed to do so by William. Scobie alleged these reports came after Tom Bradby's 2019 ITV interview with Harry and Meghan aired where Harry all but confirmed rumors of a rift with his brother. "We're on different paths at the moment," Harry said at the time.
"[Scobie's] comments crossed the line and could not be ignored," said a royal source. "At the time, William was deeply concerned about Harry's state of mind and would have never had his staff leak stories about his brother's mental health. Besides being protective of the family, William has been championing the need for mental health awareness for years. The Palace had to step in."
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ITV made a last minute edit to the documentary after the Palace was alerted to the comments.
Deadline reported Scobie's comments were included in a rough cut of the documentary special and when Kensington Palace was given the chance to respond, officials warned ITV and the production company, Spun Gold, that if those claims about William's office briefing outlets on Harry's mental health struggles were included in the broadcast, it could be considered defamatory.
The reference to Harry's mental health was reportedly edited out at the last minute before the show aired in the U.K., but 1.9 million viewers still heard Scobie's claim about the Kensington Palace briefings. In the finished version, Scobie says, "I would say it was no coincidence that it was shortly after [the Bradby interview] aired, I believe the next day, that there was source quotes that came from a very senior aide at Kensington Palace that said that William was worried about his brother. Now, whether William directed that or not, no one will ever know. But it came from his household, the household that he is the boss of."
"This was clearly a warning shot that these kinds of allegations will not be left unaddressed," a source told Best Life of the Palace's response to Scobie's claim. "Harry and Meghan now know their comments and those of their supporters won't go unchecked. It could be a game changer."
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Harry and Meghan are reportedly "angry" and feel "silenced" by the Palace's intervention.
While there has been no shortage of shocking and inflammatory statements made by Harry about life in the royal fish bowl, a Palace source told Best Life that he and Meghan have been "angry" when claims made by their trusted friends and other associates are dismissed as "misinformation" or labeled as spin put out by the couple.
"From the very beginning, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have relied on others to get their side of the story out there and support their actions and decisions. In the beginning, Meghan's friends came out in force to deny her 'Duchess Difficult' reputation and will surely be speaking out when findings from the Palace's internal investigation into claims Meghan bullied her staff are made public," said the source. "Now that the Palace is fighting back, there is a sense among their friends and the couple themselves they are being silenced, which could make things even worse between the duke and duchess and the rest of the family."
A source says the Sussexes should prepare for the Palace to start fighting "fire with fire."
The Royal Family dearly needs the support of the British public to ensure the future of the monarchy. Over the course of this year, the Palace's silence regarding Harry and Meghan has not helped the Royal Family with U.K. taxpayers, but now that things are changing behind Palace walls, the royals' new approach could prove troubling for the Sussexes.
"The Palace plays the long game," a source told Best Life. "Whatever momentary gains Harry and Meghan achieved with their awareness for their 'brand' or getting revenge against the family by going public with their claims can be wiped away once the Palace decides to fight fire with fire. Up until now, the duke and duchess have dominated the conversation and likely expected that to continue. That's over. If they want to win their war of words with the Palace, they had better up their game because in the end, the Palace always wins the day."
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Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.