LONDON — As Queen Elizabeth II and her family say their final farewells to Prince Philip on Saturday, its Prince Harry’s return to the United Kingdom that has captured much of the public’s attention.
Earlier this week Harry, the queen’s grandson, arrived in the U.K. and headed straight to Frogmore Cottage, his home on the grounds of Windsor Castle, where he is quarantining in line with coronavirus regulations. His wife, Meghan, who is pregnant with their second child, is believed to have stayed behind at their home in California on the advice of her physician.
This is the Duke of Sussex’s first time in Britain in more than a year and since he and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, stepped back from their roles as a senior royals and moved across the Atlantic. It also comes just over a month after the couple gave a tell-all interview to media mogul Oprah Winfrey, where Meghan discussed her suicidal thoughts during her time working as a royal.
“There’s going to be intense scrutiny of the brothers on Saturday. Everyone is going to be looking for any clues as to how they’re feeling, how they’re getting on,” Emily Nash, royal editor of Hello!, said on NBC’s “TODAY” show. “I’m certain that members of the royal family will want more than anything to put on a united front and to really show their support for the queen. That has to take priority this weekend.”
Professional royal watchers and family therapists agree that Harry’s relationship with his family, and his brother, William, in particular, have captured the attention of so many, especially given that rifts are common in so many families.
“We forget the royal family is a family and they have the same ups and downs that most of us do,” said Victoria Howard, editor of The Crown Chronicles. “When someone dies, it gives you pause for thought and a chance for reflection.”
London-based behavioral psychologist Jo Hemmings said that as a nation there was a yearning for the royal family to resolve its differences — especially after the death of William and Harry’s mother, Princess Diana.
“As a nation we want them to reconcile. It feels uncomfortable, distressing and sad, whatever the rights or wrongs of it, that these were two boys who were traumatized at such a young age by the tragedy of their mother dying, that you just want them to get through it somehow, whatever it takes,” Hemmings said. “They’re not our family, but we feel we have grown up with them through their troubles and through their joys.”
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Even former prime minsters have weighed in on the brothers’ relationship and hopes for a reconciliation.
“The friction we are told has arisen is a friction better ended as speedily as possible,” said former Prime Minister John Major, who was guardian to William and Harry after Diana’s death.
Philip’s funeral “is an ideal opportunity,” he said on the BBC, adding that he hopes “very much that it is possible to mend any rifts that may exist.”
But recent events, claims and allegations will surely be weighing on the family as it prepares for the most somber day for the royals since the queen mother was buried nearly 20 years ago.
In the interview with Winfrey, Harry said he had been cut off financially and that his father, Prince Charles, had stopped taking his calls at one point. He described the relationship with his brother, William, as “space.”
Meghan, whose mother is Black, also said that an unidentified royal insider spoke with Harry about how dark their children’s skin would be.
The interview followed the announcement in February that Harry and Meghan wouldn’t be returning to their roles as working members of the royal family. The couple departed the U.K. last year, first living in Canada and then moving to California shortly after. Then the pandemic struck, giving them no opportunity to return to the U.K. and see Harry’s family face to face.
William has not commented publicly on the accusations the couple made in the interview, other than a terse one-sentence response to a questioning journalist days after the interview aired.
“We’re very much not a racist family,” said the Duke of Cambridge days after Harry and Meghan’s interview aired.
The last time the brothers were seen together in public was on Harry’s final appearance as a royal at Westminster Abbey in March 2020, where they didn’t seem to interact. Their relationship has long been subject to media speculation, and Harry’s anticipated return captured newspaper headlines almost as soon as Philip’s death was announced.
The brothers released separate statements about their grandfather on Monday. William said his grandfather would want the royal family to “get on with the job” and released a photo of his son, Prince George, who is third in line to the throne, sitting on a carriage with Philip.
Harry remembered Philip as “my grandpa: master of the barbecue, legend of banter, and cheeky right ‘til the end.”