Princess Diana's Friends Say She Wouldn't Want Harry to "Make the Same Mistake She Did"
Insiders say Diana "badly miscalculated" the effects of her Panorama interview, and wouldn't want Harry to have similar regrets.
While Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Prince William, and their courtiers continue high-stakes negotiations with Prince Harry after last week's shocking announcement that he and his wife, Meghan Markle, would be "stepping back" from their senior role royals, friends of Princess Diana can't help but imagine how "devastated" she would be over one of the biggest causalities in this mess: Harry and William's "broken" relationship as a result of the former's stunning decision.
"From the time they were very young, William and Harry were always very close and Diana was very proud of that. She knew with everything they'd been through watching her marriage to Charles implode, they relied on each other and protected each other," said one friend of the late princess. "Seeing her sons square off against each other under such dramatic circumstances would break her heart."
According to The Sunday Times, William is said to be deeply saddened by what appears to have been the final straw in his strained relationship with Harry. The future king of England allegedly told a friend: "I've put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can't do that anymore—we're separate entities. … I'm sad about that. All we can do, and all I can do, is try and support them." The Times also reported that William hopes that "the time comes" when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be "singing from the same page" once again.
Rumors of a rift between William and Harry have been circulating for over a year and Harry didn't deny that the brothers had grown apart when he was asked about their relationship by his friend Tom Bradby in the now infamous ITV documentary that aired in Oct. 2019. At the time, Harry admitted that "as brothers," he and William have "good days" and "bad days," adding that "inevitably, stuff happens" as a result of "this family being under the pressure that it's under."
"Diana would have been proud to see Harry forge his own path and devote himself to the good works he has been involved with for many years, but she was also a monarchist," said an insider. "She would not want one son to have a different kind of life at the expense of her other son. When Catherine married William, they were a happy trio. Then Meghan comes into the picture and the two couples no longer speak. Diana would be troubled by that and by Harry and Meghan's apparent plan to monetize their titles, which could have a devastating effect on the future of the monarchy. She wanted William to be king."
After Harry and Meghan's dramatic announcement on Instagram last week, a report in The Sun claimed that William and Charles were "incandescent with rage" over Harry and Meghan's decision to go public with their news before coming up with a mutually agreed upon plan, as Queen Elizabeth had requested. The Daily Mail has reported that Harry had asked to meet with the Queen, but it was blocked by courtiers, which may have spurred on the Sussexes' decision to leave the family in the dark about what they were planning to do until 10 minutes before posting their explosive announcement on Instagram.
"This is very reminiscent of Diana's infamous Panorama interview, which caused a crisis at the Palace and resulted in Her Majesty insisting that Diana and Charles divorce," said another Diana confidante of the 1995 special. "Years later, the princess realized she had badly miscalculated the effect [the interview] had on her future and she came to regret it. She would never have wanted Harry to make the same mistake she did."
Diana's former private secretary Patrick Jephson—who resigned after Diana's disastrous Panorama interview aired (the princess had not told him about it in advance)—wrote an editorial in The Daily Mail criticizing Harry and Meghan for disrespecting the Queen by blindsiding the family with their new website that outlined their plans before having any talks with royal advisors and members of the family. "Which American law-school genius dreamed up the hilarious wording on the new Sussex Royal website that refers to the couple 'collaborating' with the Queen, as if she were no more than just another co-worker?" he wrote. "In case Harry and Meghan have forgotten, you serve the Sovereign—mainly because she has devoted her whole life to serving us."
As several Palace insiders told The Daily Mail, the royal family is greatly concerned over Harry's emotional state of mind and is believed to be looking for a solution that will allow both Harry and Meghan to reframe their roles and retain their titles while preserving the dignity of the monarchy.
"Diana always said between her two boys, Harry was the one most like her," said a friend of the princess. "He's headstrong like she was and fiercely protective of his son, just as she tried to be. She would understand his motives, but she would surely not want all of this to cause irreparable harm to his relationship with William. Everyone hopes they will reconcile at some point, but right now, there's a lot of hurt feelings all around."
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.