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It’s hard to think of grimmer circumstances for the reunion of Prince Harry and the family he and wife Meghan Markle appear to have declared war on.
But, Thursday afternoon, Harry was, like other family members, racing to get to Queen Elizabeth II’s bedside in Balmoral to say a final farewell to his grandmother. Unlike them, he was not at Balmoral when Queen Elizabeth’s death was announced—he was on a plane in mid-air.
Although it was reported that his team had initially said Harry would be accompanied by his wife Meghan Markle, it subsequently emerged that he was traveling solo. Photographs of him as he entered Balmoral by car, published by the Daily Mail, show a grim-faced Harry grieving for his grandmother no doubt, but perhaps also understandably angry at being so visibly detached from the rest of the royal family at the key moment of the announcement of her death.
In what looked like a clear statement that bygones are not yet bygones, it was notable that while Prince William, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and his wife Sophie flew to Scotland together in an RAF jet from London, Harry was not on board.
Another dramatic set of images from the day showed William driving Andrew, Edward and Sophie into Balmoral.
Where was Harry? The Sussexes are understood to have been at their house, Frogmore Cottage, which is just a few hundred yards from William’s house, Adelaide Cottage, and just a few miles from Andrew’s Windsor home. They have been in Britain as part of a quasi-royal tour the last few days, and notably not spending any time with other royals, despite such glaring geographical proximity.
It was initially reported that Meghan would be traveling north with Harry on Thursday. Then it was made known she would not be. No one yet knows why this change of plan took place—whether it was the choice of Harry and Meghan, or a palace diktat. Whatever the reason, Harry flew to Scotland alone. It should be noted Kate Middleton was also not in Scotland—she stayed at home with her and William’s three children, likely because this was their first day at a new school.
While there has been some wishful thinking amongst commentators that the death of their beloved grandmother might knock some sense into the feuding brothers, the fact that they couldn’t even get it together to take the same plane suggests that insiders who doubt a reconciliation will happen any time soon are unfortunately correct.
“I’m sure they will all put on a good show for the funeral, just as they did for Philip’s. But that occasion very much failed to bring the brothers together in any meaningful way. This won’t be any different.”
— Former royal staffer
As one former royal staffer who used to work with the brothers told The Royalist: “I’m sure they will all put on a good show for the funeral, just as they did for Philip’s. But that occasion very much failed to bring the brothers together in any meaningful way. This won’t be any different.”
On Wednesday, Harry and Meghan’s biographer Omid Scobie, who is widely understood to have excellent access to pro-Sussex sources, reported that Harry and Meghan made no effort to reach out to William ahead of their U.K. trip, and are refusing to do so until he shows “accountability” for his involvement in the “dark times” Harry and his wife endured before leaving the royal family.
Scobie quoted a “family friend” as saying, “People are desperate for steps to be made but behind the scenes there hasn’t been movement… What [Harry] is waiting for is accountability… Many lines were crossed by William. He was at the center of a number of painful moments, be it the actions of his own staff or turning his back when support was needed. It was a dark time and one that, so far, William has been unprepared to unpack.”
Scobie said that the same friend told him William is “still waiting” for Harry to apologize for publicizing family secrets.
On top of that, the royals are nervously awaiting the publication of Harry’s memoirs.
Sources have previously told The Daily Beast that William and Kate “will not risk” meeting Harry and Meghan for fear of giving them more “ammunition” to use against the family. Prince Charles was last said to be “bewildered” by Harry’s targeting of him.
While grief often brings families together, it remains to be seen whether any of the time Harry is now unexpectedly spending with his relations at Balmoral, and in future days perhaps back in London, will change anything. The queen herself would have dearly hoped it would.