Home Lifestyle Will Prince Harry’s return to UK heal rift with royal family?

Will Prince Harry’s return to UK heal rift with royal family?

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This is Harry’s first time in Britain in more than a year – and the first time he’ll be face-to-face with his family since he aired grievances in an interview with Oprah Winfrey last month.

Prince Harry. Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

LONDON – Prince Harry is back. The grandson of Queen Elizabeth is “home,” as some put it, to attend the funeral of Prince Philip, the longest serving consort in British history, who died “peacefully” on Friday, at home in Windsor Castle, two month’s shy of his 100th birthday.

This is Harry’s first time in Britain in more than a year – and the first time he’ll be face-to-face with his family since he aired grievances in an interview with Oprah Winfrey last month.

There had been much speculation about whether he’d come at all. But on Monday, he was in quarantine at Frogmore Cottage, the residence on the grounds of Windsor Castle where he and Meghan lived – and undertook a massive and controversial renovation – before departing for Canada and then California.

The Sun tabloid reported that Harry was spotted emerging from the British Airways flight at London’s Heathrow airport on Sunday afternoon, and was then whisked away in a black Range Rover.

Harry’s wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, who is pregnant and due to give birth this summer, will remain at their coastal estate in southern California on the advice of doctors, Buckingham Palace said.

Britain is in the middle of eight days of national mourning, which is awkward, as after 100 days of national lockdown, the pubs began outdoor service on Monday.

The media showed split screens: one with hordes queuing in the April snow flurries to get their first pints and the other from Parliament, which was recalled a day early for a marathon session of tributes to Philip. There were also special sittings of lawmakers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

On Monday, Prince William, 38, and second in line to the throne, released a statement honouring his grandfather’s life “defined by service – to his country and Commonwealth, to his wife and Queen, and to our family.”

“I feel lucky to have not just had his example to guide me, but his enduring presence well into my own adult life – both through good times and the hardest days,” said William, in a nod to the death of his mother, Princess Diana, who was killed in a car crash in 1997.

Prince Harry, 36, released a separate statement on Monday, remembering a grandfather who “was authentically himself, with a seriously sharp wit, and could hold the attention of any room due to his charm – and also because you never knew what he might say next.”

“He will be remembered as the longest reigning consort to the monarch, a decorated serviceman, a prince and a duke,” Harry said. “But to me, like many of you who have lost a loved one or grandparent over the pain of this past year, he was my grandpa: master of the barbecue, legend of banter, and cheeky right ’til the end.”

Britain’s travel rules allow people flying from the United States to end their quarantine after five days if they test negative for the coronavirus. Regardless, Harry would be allowed to attend a funeral for a family member “on compassionate grounds.” The royal family has said that only 30 people will attend the Saturday ceremony and that strict guidelines will be followed.

While Harry will be keeping to himself before attending the funeral, the prodigal son returns to another gusher of coverage, where the emergent narrative now appears to be: Will the royal family and Harry patch things up?

None other than former prime minister John Major thinks they should.

Major, who was appointed a special guardian to the princes Harry and William after the death of their mother, told the BBC on Sunday, “The friction that we are told has arisen is a friction better ended as speedily as possible.”

He continued, “They shared emotion. They share grief at the present time because of the death of their grandfather. I think this is an ideal opportunity. . .. I hope very much that it is possible to mend any rifts that may exist.”

The lead editorial in the Telegraph urged the brothers to hurry up: “Now is the moment for William and Harry to find common ground.”

What rifts?

In the interview with Winfrey, which attracted global interest, Harry revealed:

  • His father, Prince Charles, “stopped taking my calls” when the couple flew away to Canada.
  • Harry had to spend his own money, left to him by his mother. “My family literally cut me off financially.”
  • The palace stopped paying for their security.
  • Harry suggested his family is as unhappy as he was. “My father and my brother, they are trapped,” he said. “They don’t get to leave. And I have huge compassion for that.”
  • He isn’t really speaking to his brother. “We . . . you know, we’re on . . . we’re on different paths.”
  • He loves Prince William “to bits,” but “the relationship is ‘space’ at the moment.”

Winfrey asked: “So, in conclusion, if you’d had the support, you’d still be there?”

Harry: “Without question.”

For many, the most jaw-dropping moment of the interview was when Meghan said there were “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born,” referring to their son Archie. She said the conversations were with Harry, not herself. She declined to name names, but conceded she thought the revelation”damaging.”

Harry appeared to suggest that these conservations were held before they were wed and before Meghan was pregnant. He mentions conversations about what “the kids” – not Archie, specifically – would look like.

Prince Philip was notorious for his quips and gaffes, some funny and surprising, others derogatory, even bigoted – which has been part of the discussion in Britain about how he should be remembered.

But Harry made a point to tell Winfrey the comments about Archie didn’t come from his grandparents.

Leaving whom?

Enough eyebrows were raised that Prince William felt it necessary to say that the royal family was “very much not racist.”

Robert Lacey, a royal historian and author of “Battle of Brothers,” a book about the relationship between Prince William and Prince Harry, said that there is a “serious rift” between Harry and his family, and “the Oprah interview certainly made it worse.”

Asked if and when the healing can be healed, the biographer shrugged, “It’s pure speculation on everybody’s part. But as John Major said, maybe in grief and the family coming together, there’ll be the beginning of some sort of reconciliation. The funeral, as we know, will be the first time that William and Harry will come face to face” in over a year.

Prince Harry has long been close to his grandparents, he said, noting that they helped to fill a void after his mother’s death. Both Harry and William went to Eton College, an elite boarding school, and they would frequently visit their grandparents on the weekends at nearby Windsor Castle.

Lacey said that the family coming together, in person, for the funeral may “contain ingredients for some kind of family reconciliation.”

Who knows?

As Harry told Winfrey: “Time heals all things, hopefully.”

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