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It's love versus duty: Harry and William rift 'as serious as the abdication'

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·4-min read
(L-R) Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge arrive at Westminster Abbey to attend a service to mark the centenary of the Armistice in central London on November 11, 2018. (Photo by Paul Grover / POOL / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PAUL GROVER/AFP/Getty Images)
William and Harry have been tight lipped on the details of their rift. (Getty Images)

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Prince Harry and Prince William found themselves deciding between love and duty, in the same way as their great-great uncle, the Duke of Windsor, according to a royal author.

Robert Lacey, who is a historical consultant on Netflix’s The Crown, has compared the rift between Prince Harry and his brother Prince William to the abdication of King Edward VIII, who became the Duke of Windsor in 1936, when he gave up the throne to marry Wallis Simpson.

But unlike that situation, Harry and Meghan ending their royal roles will not be the end of the story because she is a “born campaigner”, Lacey told Yahoo UK.

Speaking as his long-awaited book Battle of Brothers is released, Lacey said the two princes have a new deadline to repair their relationship - 1 July 2021, when the statue of their mother will be unveiled at Kensington Palace.

The Prince and Princess of Wales on holiday with their children, Princes William and Harry, at the Spanish royal residence Marivent Palace, August 1987. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Getty Images)
Diana and Charles on holiday with William and Harry at the Spanish royal residence Marivent Palace, August 1987. (Terry Fincher/Getty Images)

Lacey said: “[Their rift] shows many parallels with the abdication of 1936 which was a battle between love and duty. In 1936, love won. In 2020, Harry is embodying love, that was the message he drew from the loveless marriage of his parents, while William is speaking up for duty, that is what has kept him going.

“Even if Harry and Meghan do not stay in the working Royal Family, it is very important they stay inside the human Royal Family.

“Both brothers have committed to be there on 1 July on what would have been Diana’s 60th birthday to unveil a statue to her. The eyes of the world will be on them.

“That represents a deadline, it is no good just pretending to be friends – that would be damaging. Either they will achieve reconciliation or they will discuss or agree some sort of break which will severe Harry and Meghan permanently from the Royal Family.

“But that would not be the end of it. With the Duke of Windsor [former King Edward], he produced his memoirs and then never said anything else, but Meghan is never going to stop talking - she is a born campaigner.

“I suspect what William had in mind when he invited his brother to go slower, I do not think it was personal, and we are speculating, but I expect he saw a feisty woman and thought she was going to find it difficult in the Royal Family.

“Harry took offence at it, that remains a challenge for both sides.”

Watch: Harry and Meghan saw Archie’s first steps in lockdown

Read more: Harry and Meghan have 'shared belief' in 'making the world better for Archie'

Lacey’s book charts the princes’ relationship from boyhood best friends, suggesting the rift between them may have come earlier than when Harry met Meghan.

Asked about whether the two will be able to repair the rift, Lacey said the current global situation has made it much harder.

He said: “Social distancing and COVID has made the whole thing much worse. Even though they [Harry and Meghan] left in March, they were planning to come back over the summer and again in the winter. It has made the situation worse than it would have been otherwise.”

However, he said the pair still have a loyalty to one another, adding: “They have been tight lipped about the nature of their quarrel, William has not uttered a word on the record about it.”

Previously, Lacey has said the rift between Harry and William could be the biggest thing to hit the Royal Family since the abdication, but that despite the drama, the monarchy is in good health in the UK.

Britain's Prince Charles, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London, Britain March 9, 2020. Phil Harris/Pool via REUTERS
Harry and Meghan's last engagement as working royals was in March at the Commonwealth Day service. (Reuters)

Read more: Prince William is 'remarkably humble and approachable' despite life in the 'public eye'

He said: “The death of the monarchy has been predicted so many times, and Tony Blair was said to have saved the monarchy when he told the Queen to come down to London and pay homage to Diana. I doubt that Britons would ever let go of the monarchy because it is human, it is tied to our past, present and future.

“About the only happy stories we get are when William and Kate do something with their kids, even William watching TV with David Attenborough becomes an event because we need some happy news, there’s not any.

“It is a tribute to the monarchy that they have this double system, and it may not make sense but it captures people’s emotions and affections in ways that politicians never can.”

He added: “I think we would like to hear something like William and Harry are trying to build bridges.

“Maybe that is going on behind the scenes.”

Battle of Brothers: William, Harry and the Inside Story of a Family in Tumult is released on 15 October.

Watch: Emma Corrin says playing Diana made her more sensitive to Harry and Meghan