Insiders Say Princess Diana Would be "Desperately Unhappy" Over the Situation With Prince Harry

A source says she would never "sit by" and watch her youngest son "distance himself."

Prince William (right) poses at a photocall with his mother Diana, Princess of Wales and his brother Prince Harry before his first day at Eton College Public School in 1995, surprising prince William fact
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While Princess Diana famously had her own issues with the British royals, friends of hers have revealed she would have been "desperately unhappy" about Prince Harry's "growing separation" from the family and "absolutely heartbroken" over his reported rift with Prince William. The latest news announced on the front page of The Sun and confirmed by the Palace that Harry and Meghan Markle will skip Christmas at Sandringham this year and instead spend the holiday with baby Archie Mountbatten-Windsor at an undisclosed location, has sparked concern among friends of the late princess that Harry is "distancing himself from the family," well beyond his acknowledged differences with his brother.

"It certainly isn't a good sign," one confidante of Diana's told me. "After the furor over the ITV interview, it would have gone a long way in putting an end to all the talk about Harry and Meghan pulling away from the family if they had decided to spend the holiday at Sandringham and made the traditional walk to church on Christmas morning. Instead, they've added fuel to the fire. It's easy to surmise that Harry doesn't want to spend the holiday in the same place as William. Diana would have been deeply upset by her sons' estrangement and Harry assuming the role of outsider within the family, something she knew about all too well."

As reported by The Daily Mail, Dickie Arbiter, the Queen's former spokesman, told Nine News Australia that Harry needs to "sort himself out" amid growing speculation about his deteriorating relationship with William. "This can't go on forever," he said, before making this eyebrow-raising remark: "There is a lot of speculation about him dropping out of the royal family, but he was born a prince and he'll die a price and there's no way he can escape from that."

That being said, the former "Fab Four"—Harry and Meghan along with William and Kate Middleton—now appear to be a fractured foursome. The couples did little to put reports of discord between them to rest when they appeared nowhere near each other at two separate events for Remembrance Sunday. Arbiter said "the body language between the brothers [when they're in public together] is not the best," noting that it was Harry, not Meghan, who "appeared tense" during the appearances.

A friend of Diana's concurred. "It was sad to see Harry looking so miserable. There is no denying something is very wrong. He looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there with the rest of the royal family. It was very reminiscent of those images of Diana at official engagements towards the end of her marriage to Charles. It's quite obvious Harry wants to get away from all of this."

A spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex downplayed Harry and Meghan's decision to extend their already announced six-week break from royal duties to include a private Christmas holiday. "Having spent the last two Christmases at Sandringham, their Royal Highnesses will spend the holidays this year, as a new family, with the Duchess' mother, Doria Ragland."

While Harry and Meghan are not the first senior royal couple to spend Christmas away from the family (William and Kate opted to celebrate with the Middletons in 2012 and 2016), their holiday plans are certainly "ill-timed," said my source. "They already announced they would be seeing Meghan mother for Thanksgiving, so it's only natural that people would wonder about what's really going on."

To add to the blow, Harry reportedly informed Queen Elizabeth about skipping Christmas at Sandringham this year just as the news was breaking.

"Harry is extremely close to his grandparents and, of course, the Duke of Edinburgh is getting on, so it is surprising that the prince would not want his son to spend his first Christmas with them," said my source.

With the sole exception of the 2012 holidays (when he was serving in Afghanistan), the prince has spent every Christmas of his life at Sandringham. The Queen made a notable exception to the formerly unbreakable rule of "family only" for the holiday when she extended an invitation to Meghan after she and Harry became engaged in 2017. (The newlyweds were also there last year.)

And yet, the couple passed on spending part of the summer at Balmoral (a tradition the prince adored growing up) and instead jetted off to Ibiza and the South of France. After a spokesperson for the couple explained they were "busy" preparing for their royal tour to Africa, Meghan flew to New York for the weekend to watch her pal Serena Williams play in the U.S. Open.

"No one understood the power of a single gesture more than Diana. She would have likely told Harry to enjoy your time away with Meghan and Archie, but don't do something like this which will only make it more difficult with the tabloid press," my source said, adding that Diana would also have been upset at the strain Harry and Meghan's actions have likely put on his relationship with Prince Charles. "Diana and Charles had started to develop a different kind of a relationship after the divorce. They both wanted their sons to be happy and she thought he was a good father, particularly as the boys got older. The Prince of Wales has been marvelous in welcoming Meghan into the family and it brought him closer to Harry. It would sadden her to think their relationship has been damaged by all this."

As I reported previously, Charles was reportedly angry about Harry and Meghan's disclosures over their unhappiness with royal life in the ITV documentary. "Diana regretted her Panorama interview because she badly miscalculated what effect it would have in the long run," my source added. "If she would have had any idea about what Harry and Meghan planned to say in their interview, she would have absolutely advised against it and told them to try to sort it out within the family before blindsiding them they way as she did."

The insider concluded: "Diana adored both her sons. She would never sit by and let the closeness William and Harry have shared their entire lives dissolve over whatever their differences are now. Things would be quite different if she were here." And for more on the late princess, check out 23 Facts About Princess Diana Only Her Closest Friends Knew.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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