But, today, I can reveal it was the Queen alone who was behind the
refusal — and that it took her 'all of two seconds' to make up her mind.
Sunday is sacrosanct when it comes to Her Majesty's diary,' explains my
source. 'It's one of the most important dates in her calendar and
nothing is done without her knowledge.
'People were suggesting
the Palace's reaction to what Harry asked was petty. But it was the
Queen's decision. And what's more, she actually had very strong views on
Another source tells me: 'While she has enormous
admiration for Harry's achievements both in and out of the military,
this was seen as an example of his lack of understanding at what it
means for him to be a non-working royal.
'The Queen is very
firmly of the opinion that you can't pick and choose what you do when it
comes to the institution. Either you are in — or you are out.'
week saw Harry and Meghan's latest venture — the launch of their
updated new website in which they declare their mission 'to build a
While it bears a picture of Diana, and Harry
describes himself as 'his mother's son' on the site, there is no
photograph or mention of his father Charles.
Many see this as an
indication of just how far apart Harry and his family have become,
although the Prince of Wales has worked hard to maintain a good
relationship with his younger son.
It is hard to believe that it
was just a year ago today that the royals, full of festive spirit, were
happily preparing for their annual New Year's Day pheasant shoot at
In what was seen as a flagrant publicity stunt,
the couple had chosen to release the pictures after Harry had been
refused permission for the Cenotaph wreath to be laid on his behalf
Prince Charles has attempted to keep family
relations civil, refusing even to discuss the issue. Pictured: Prince
Charles and Prince William at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday
Charles regrets Harry's departure — he dearly
loves his son — but his approach is 'what's done is done, it's time to
move forwards', says one who knows him well
No ominous signs of the extent of the coming
fracture were on the horizon. Courtiers were quietly gearing up for a
busy year ahead — including at least two major foreign tours for the
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
'Megxit' hadn't even entered our lexicon, let alone been named one of the Collins English Dictionary's 'words of the year'.
a week later, however, the peace of the Queen's Norfolk bolthole was
shattered by Harry and Meghan's bombshell announcement that they
intended to step back as senior members of the Royal Family to pursue
lucrative commercial careers abroad.
By the time the M-word came
about three months later, the country was in lockdown and the Queen, in
isolation with the Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor, was preparing her first
public address of the pandemic.
It's an understatement to say that 2020 was a tumultuous year for the House of Windsor.
it was shaped by the coronavirus
crisis, which required admirably deft
footwork on behalf of the Royal Households to ensure that the monarchy,
so dependent on face-to-face dealings with the public, remained
This week saw Harry and Meghan's latest venture —
the launch of their updated new website in which they declare their
mission 'to build a better world'
While it bears the above picture of Diana, and
Harry describes himself as 'his mother's son' on the site, there is no
photograph or mention of his father Charles
Many see this as an indication of just how far
apart Harry and his family have become, although the Prince of Wales has
worked hard to maintain a good relationship with his younger son.
Pictured: Harry and Meghan with Prince Charles, Prince William and Kate,
the Duchess of Cambridge, on their way to St Mary Magdalene Church at
Sandringham in 2018
Privately, however, the acrimonious departure of the
Sussexes has left painfully deep scars, particularly for Prince William
scars that, say those in know, may never be healed.
beginning of the year, the 94-year-old Queen — who has spent the vast
majority of the past eight months in isolation at Windsor — has shown a
quiet but steely determination with regard to Harry and Meghan.
As head of The Firm, she put aside her genuine fondness for her grandson and the deep personal hurt she felt at his actions.
she moved quickly to put Harry straight on his notion that he and
Meghan could enjoy the best of both worlds, making their fortunes in LA
while 'supporting' her as part-time royals from 6,000 miles away.
was told very clearly in January by his grandmother that 'you work for
the monarchy, the monarchy doesn't work for you',' one source told me.
'And if you can't accept that, then you need to walk away. Her Majesty
was remarkably clear and decisive on that point and has never deviated
from it, not once.
'I think what has evolved this year across the Atlantic has only served to prove her point.'
suggestions that the Palace has been 'furious' at the Sussexes'
decision to snap up multi-million offers from Netflix and Spotify are
wide of the mark, these deals have served to emphasise why Her Majesty
acted the way she did.
'The deals they have done since moving to
California clearly show the truth of it: they simply had ambitions that
were completely incompatible with being members of the Royal Family,' an
insider told me.
'It was their choice to leave and seek their
fortunes elsewhere. No one exiled them. Indeed, the Queen made clear she
didn't want Harry and Meghan to go and that they are still very
much-loved members of her family and have her support.
'Harry and Meghan are clearly where they want to be, and good luck to them.
'But their subsequent career choices have scuppered any chance of retaining even a quasi-official royal role.'
recent link up with her friend Oprah Winfrey to publicise her new range
of vegan lattes — which led to the entertainment legend shamelessly
plugging them on Instagram with a crown emoji — was seen in the opinion
of many in the Royal Household as not just clumsy, but arguably a direct
contravention of her and Harry's promise not to bring the monarchy into
'It just goes to underline the Queen's judgment,'
emphasised another source. 'You simply can't do both roles without
conflict. And contrary to speculation, it was actually a pretty
straightforward decision on Her Majesty's behalf.
knows you can't have a working member of the Royal Family also being
paid millions of pounds by Spotify to tell people to 'swipe and follow'
their podcast, or encouraging consumers to buy a certain brand of
coffee. The two are simply incompatible.'
Last March, it was
agreed with the Palace that Harry and Meghan should enter a 12-month
probationary period before a review of what future part in the Royal
Family they might play.
Despite rumours that the couple are
angling for another 12-month extension to their probation, the fact is
any chance of future royal roles is now 'dead in the water', according
'It's solely down to the choices they have made.
There is no anger or animosity [on behalf of the Royal Family]. But
every commercial deal that has been done by the Sussexes has been a nail
in the coffin of any kind of return to royal life.'
source explained: 'To come back would mean they would have to undo all
the commercial tie-ups they have already done, and clearly Harry and
Meghan don't want to do that. That is absolutely their choice and the
Queen has agreed they can pursue these new carers.
There are categorically no plans to strip Harry
and Meghan of their titles, despite much public conjecture. After Edward
VIII's abdication, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor retained theirs
until the day they died
'But to cap it all, they have bought a house 6,000 miles away, which is an unmistakable statement of intent on their behalf.'
also emphasise it is unlikely Harry will be able to get back any
military roles that might have been left open for him. For a proud
serviceman, it is likely to be one of his most bitter regrets.
there are categorically no plans to strip them of their titles, despite
much public conjecture. After Edward VIII's abdication, the Duke and
Duchess of Windsor retained theirs until the day they died.
strip Harry and Meghan of their titles would just be punitive and,
whatever else the Royal Family are, say insiders, they are not petty.
I understand that Meghan — possibly flippantly — told friends at one
point that she would 'happily' hand back her title, which was a wedding
gift from the Queen.
There is no suggestion she wishes to do so,
however. It seems that being a duchess (or a duke, for that matter)
carries a useful cachet in the U.S., for the time being.
William was also deeply hurt by suggestions from the Sussex camp that he, and particularly his wife, had cold-shouldered Meghan
The flip side of William's deep disenchantment,
however, is that at 38 he has built bridges with his 72-year-old father,
with whom he has not always had the easiest relationship
William and Kate are also said to have become
stronger as a couple than ever. They have become a lot less risk adverse
— William taking part in a well-received Comic Relief sketch and
allowing their children to be filmed on their doorstep during the weekly
'clap for carers'
'He's loosened up a lot,' says a friend, 'they
both have, in fact. As a couple William and Kate are quite cautious.
People expect them to be very confident, but they aren't, not naturally
The hole left by Harry and Meghan's departure is something that each member of the family has coped with in their own way.
Charles has attempted to keep family relations civil, refusing even to
discuss the issue. He regrets Harry's departure — he dearly loves his
son — but his approach is 'what's done is done, it's time to move
forwards', says one who knows him well.
It is William, however, who has felt Harry's decision to leave the family most keenly.
has forfeited not just a beloved brother, but someone he expected would
stand shoulder to shoulder with him and share the burden of
responsibility when he becomes king.
William was also deeply hurt by suggestions from the Sussex camp that he, and particularly his wife, had cold-shouldered Meghan.
fact, I have been told that Kate — and the Countess of Wessex — both
repeatedly 'reached out' to the Duchess, particularly after she voiced
her unhappiness on a television documentary. But they were rebuffed.
flip side of William's deep disenchantment, however, is that at 38 he
has built bridges with his 72-year-old father, with whom he has not
always had the easiest relationship.
'William has realised that
if he is going to make it work, he needs to be more aligned with his
father and they need to work as a team,' my source says.
He and Kate are also said to have become stronger as a couple than ever.
have become a lot less risk adverse — William taking part in a
well-received Comic Relief sketch and allowing their children to be
filmed on their doorstep during the weekly 'clap for carers'.
loosened up a lot,' says a friend, 'they both have, in fact. As a
couple William and Kate are quite cautious. People expect them to be
very confident, but they aren't, not naturally anyway.
'Everything that's happened this year has changed that. They have done a really sterling job.'
members of the family, notably Charles and Camilla — as well as the
Queen, Princess Anne and the Wessexes — have also enthusiastically
embraced the video call culture, and conducted smaller, more intimate
public engagements where possible.
Will the family be reconciled? The litmus test
will be the Duke of Edinburgh's 100th birthday in June, which is
followed by the planned unveiling at Kensington Palace of the
long-awaited memorial statue to William and Harry's late mother,
Princess Diana, Covid permitting
In fact, despite battling
himself and being classed as vulnerable because of his age, the
Prince of Wales was the first family member to issue a video message
from home and conduct a lockdown engagement, meeting President Macron of
As for the Queen, she still hopes to resume duties at
Buckingham Palace one day in the not too distant future, despite claims
she may never return to public life.
One thing is for certain,
however. 2021 is a year that her expat grandson and his wife are likely
to be fully free from the supposed shackles of royal life.
A source tells me: 'Everything was turned on its head by the pandemic and people looked to the family for leadership.
'Megxit and everything associated with it was, to a certain extent, put into perspective.
'Feelings are still raw, but the family are now intent on focusing on what they can to do for the country instead.'
the family be reconciled? The litmus test will be the Duke of
Edinburgh's 100th birthday in June, which is followed by the planned
unveiling at Kensington Palace of the long-awaited memorial statue to
William and Harry's late mother, Princess Diana, Covid
Harry will surely attend both events. 'And if the two brothers can make that work,' says my source, 'then we have hope.'