Britain Prepares for Another Installment in the Royal Family Drama
LONDON — With soaring fuel prices, a sagging economy, disruptive strikes, and lengthy waits in hospital emergency rooms, Britons could use a vivid distraction from what is shaping up as an otherwise dreary new year. And it has come from a reliable source: Harry and Meghan.
This time, it was Prince Harry airing yet more grievances about his brother, Prince William, and the rest of the royal family in teasers for a pair of television interviews to promote the publication of his memoir next week.
In one, with the ITV network, he said, “I would like to get my father back; I would like to have my brother back.” He added, apparently referring to William and King Charles III, “they’ve shown absolutely no willingness to reconcile.”
In the other, with Anderson Cooper on the CBS program “60 Minutes,” Harry accused Buckingham Palace of planting negative stories about him and his wife, Meghan, and then refusing to defend them in the face of scurrilous attacks by London’s tabloids. “There becomes a point when silence is betrayal,” he said.
The interviews will air Sunday evening, two days before Penguin Random House rolls out Harry’s memoir, “Spare,” which royal watchers expect to cast the harshest spotlight yet on the royal rift. Whether the book ends up being the last act in this long-running family drama, however, is far from clear.
There are murmurings that Meghan might write her own tell-all book about her marriage to Harry and her treatment at the hands of his family. The couple has a multimillion-dollar programming deal with Netflix, which last month aired a highly rated, six-part documentary, “Harry & Meghan,” about their acrimonious split from the royal family in 2020 and new life in Southern California.
On the website of their company, Archewell Productions, Harry and Meghan said their goal was “to produce programming that informs, elevates, and inspires.” Among other projects, they are producing a documentary that chronicles athletes who took part in the Invictus Games, a sports competition for former military service people that was started by Harry, who himself served in Afghanistan.
Yet the couple’s commercial and pop-cultural currency remains firmly tied to their vexed relationship with the House of Windsor. The television interviews, and the claims in Harry’s book, guarantee that their story will stay on television screens and front pages for at least a while longer.
On Tuesday, the clips from Harry’s interviews were splashed across virtually every London tabloid, with nearly identical headlines.
More on the British Royal Family
- Aide Resigns: Two weeks after she was pressed repeatedly by a royal household member about which country she came from, a British-born Black woman returned to Buckingham Palace to receive a face-to-face apology from her interrogator.
- Harry vs. William: In the latest installment of the Netflix documentary “Harry & Meghan,” the younger prince made several incendiary allegations about his brother.
- Boston Visit: Prince William and Princess Catherine of Wales recently made a whirlwind visit to Boston. Swaths of the city were unimpressed.
- ‘The Crown’: Months ago, the new season of the Netflix drama was shaping up as another public-relations headache for Prince Charles. But then he became king.
“Harry: I want my father and brother back,” said the Daily Express. “I want Dad and brother back,” blared the Sun. “Harry: I’d like my father and brother back,” echoed The Daily Mail. Even the more upmarket Times of London and the Daily Telegraph ran front-page headlines featuring his lament about William and Charles.
Only the Financial Times went in another direction, declaring “U.K. recession will be deepest and longest,” while a couple of papers kept the focus on the crisis in the National Health Service and transportation strikes that are crippling much of the country.
This is the kind of distraction that royal family gossip has long supplied to a beleaguered British public. To that extent, the couple is playing into the same bread-and-circuses spectacle that Harry has so often denounced.
In his interview with Mr. Cooper, Harry reprised his complaints about what he has said was a transactional, deeply cynical relationship between Buckingham Palace and the tabloid press. Public-relations aides to the royals, he said, compete to present their bosses in the best light. That can involve “leaking” unflattering information about other royals to select, “spoon-fed” reporters, he said, who then append an obligatory no comment from the palace to suggest the information came from elsewhere.
“The family motto is ‘never complain, never explain,’ but it’s just a motto,” Harry said. There was “endless” complaining and explaining behind the scenes, he said, much of it damaging to him and Meghan.
For Mr. Cooper, who is a member of the dynastic Vanderbilt family, landing the interview was a coup, if not on the level of Oprah Winfrey’s sensational sit-down with the couple in March 2021. That session raised allegations of racism in the royal family and drew a confession from Meghan that she was so isolated and emotionally desolate inside the palace that she once considered suicide.
For Harry’s British interview, he chose Tom Bradby, an ITV correspondent who has nurtured a close relationship with the prince and his wife. He conducted the first interview with Meghan, during a tour of southern Africa in 2019, in which she disclosed the depth of her unhappiness with royal life. “Thank you for asking, because not many people have asked if I’m OK,” Meghan said to him.
Mr. Bradby appears to have succeeded again in drawing out his subject. Harry claimed he had sought a rapprochement but been rebuffed by his brother and father, an assertion that is disputed by one person with ties to the palace. “They feel it’s better to keep us somehow as the villains,” Harry said.
Buckingham Palace has not commented on the excerpts, in keeping with its lack of response to the Netflix documentary. King Charles recently put out word that Harry would be invited to his coronation in May, suggesting that he would like to rise above the rancor and play a healing role in the family.
“He has rightly avoided getting into a slanging match against Harry and Meghan,” said Vernon Bogdanor, a professor of government at King’s College London, who has written about the constitutional role of the monarchy.
William has also been silent, though royal watchers said that was less a sign of any impending reconciliation than of the chasm between the brothers. London papers have reported that the family expects Harry’s book to be especially hard on William, though the palace is also prepared for the possibility that his estrangement with Charles will feature more prominently than it did in the Netflix series.
As a ghost writer, Harry hired J.R. Moehringer, a novelist and former journalist who wrote memoirs of the tennis champion, Andre Agassi, and the Nike shoe founder, Philip Knight. Those books suggest Harry will delve deeply into his emotional life, including his grief over the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.
Still, as the latest television clips suggest, it is Harry’s continuing clash with his family that will grab the headlines.
“Every single time I’ve tried to do it privately,” Harry said to Mr. Cooper of his attempts to mend fences, “there have been briefings and leakings and planting of stories against me and my wife.”