Prince Harry and Prince William hold an African rock python during a visit to Botswana in 2010. Photo: Getty
Looking at Prince William and Prince Harry today, it is difficult to remember that just a few years ago they were – or at least appeared to be – as close as two brothers could be. Despite their wildly different destinies, the siblings seemed to draw comfort from each other; they shared holidays, friends, and stood side-by-side at the happiest – and saddest – moments of their lives.
Yet over the last four years, this image of the smiling princes has been replaced by one of warring brothers. There have been bombshell accusations in TV interviews, documentaries and podcasts (all from Harry’s point of view), and the handful of photos taken of the pair since 2020 reflect the emotional distance between them. The latest blow has been delivered by the Duke of Sussex, who, in a shocking extract from his memoir Spare seen exclusively by the Guardian, claims Prince William once attacked him in Nottingham Cottage, his and the Duchess of Sussex’s Kensington Palace home.
The alleged incident occurred during a heated argument over Meghan in 2019, the year after she and Harry wed at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. ‘Describing a confrontation… Harry says William called Meghan “difficult”, “rude” and “abrasive”, which Harry calls a “parrot[ing of] the press narrative” about his American wife,’ writes journalist Martin Pengelly. ‘The confrontation escalated, Harry writes, until William “grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace, and … knocked me to the floor”.’ Kensington Palace has not responded to the claims.
‘The heir and the spare’ is a phrase long used to describe the differing roles of the first and second-born child, particularly sons, within royal aristocratic families: the younger child is there as a back-up in case the eldest cannot fulfil his destiny of inheriting the title, land and wealth. The stakes are highest within the context of the Royal Family, where an ‘heir and a spare’ all but secures the line of succession.
King Charles III reportedly spoke to his sons about the rift following the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh. Photo: Getty
According to the Guardian, ‘Harry’s resentment of being the “spare” is the unifying theme of his book, through chapters on his childhood, his schooling, his career as a royal and in the British army, his relationship with his parents and brother and his life with Meghan through courtship, wedding and marriage to their own experience of parenthood.’
This deep-rooted division has caused heartache to King Charles III, who, according to Prince Harry, turned to his sons at the funeral of his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, and said ‘please boys. Don’t make my final years a misery.’
With so much hurt, it is easy to forget the decades of seemingly happy moments shared by William and Harry. Here, we chart the brothers’ relationship.
1985: King Charles laughing with his sons as he lifts Prince Harry onto Prince William’s shoulders in Kensington Palace. Photo: Getty
1986: Prince Charles and Princess Diana at home in Kensington Palace, with their sons Prince William and Prince Harry. Photo: Getty
1987: Queen Elizabeth II with Prince William and Prince Harry in the royal box at Guards Polo Club. Photo: Getty
1993: Princess Diana, Prince William and Prince Harry visit Thorpe Park. Photo: Getty
1997: Prince William and Prince Harry bow their heads as their mother’s coffin is taken out of Westminster Abbey following her funeral service. Photo: Getty
2007: Prince Harry and Prince William during preparations prior to the Concert for Diana at Wembley Stadium. Photo: Getty
2007: King Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry on a skiing holiday in Klosters, Switzerland. Photo: Getty
2009: Prince William and Prince Harry on a visit to RAF Shawbury. Photo: Getty
2010: Prince William and Prince Harry play football with children during a visit to Lesotho. Photo: Getty
2014: Prince William and Prince Harry compete against one another in the Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club Charity Cup. Photo: Getty
2014: Prince William and Prince Harry look at an iPhone with their father during the Invictus Games. Photo: Getty
2016: Prince Harry and Prince William try out lightsabres during a tour of the Star Wars set. Photo: Getty
2016: The then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry during celebrations for the late Queen’s 90th birthday. Photo: Getty
2017: The then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry take part in a relay race, during a training event to promote the charity Heads Together. Photo: Getty
2017: Prince William and Prince Harry attend the European premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Getty
2018: Prince Harry and his best man Prince William arrive at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, for his wedding to Meghan Markle. Photo: Getty
2018: The Duchess and Duke of Sussex and the then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge watch a flypast to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Photo: Getty
2021: Prince William and Prince Harry with other members of the Royal Family at the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh. Photo: Getty
2021: The princes unveil a new statue of their mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales, on what would have been her 60th birthday. Photo: Getty
2022: The Princess and Prince of Wales and Duke and Duchess of Sussex at Windsor Castle, following the death of the late Queen. Photo: Getty
2022: Prince William and Prince Harry after the funeral service of Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: Getty
Originally published in Tatler.com