In his first speech as sovereign, King Charles III voiced his “love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas,” signalling that tensions between the Royal Family, and Duke and Duchess of Sussex may be starting to cool. Reducing the hostility between Prince Harry, his wife, Meghan Markle and the Royal Family will be key to paving a path forward for the monarchy, said CTV News royal commentator Richard Berthelsen.
“The rancour going across the Atlantic … creates interest in what [the Sussexes] do, it sells books, it sells magazines,” Berthelsen told CTVNews.ca in an interview on Oct. 3. “But it’s coming at a cost to the Royal Family, who cannot answer to it all the time.”
Prince Harry and Meghan both decided to step down as senior members of the Royal Family in 2020. Since then, they have spoken about life as working royals in various interviews, expressing a lack of support from the Firm.
Still, Prince Harry reunited with his father and brother to take part in ceremonies leading up to and including the queen’s funeral on Sept. 19. According to Berthelsen, it also appeared as though some effort was made to have Harry and his brother, Prince William, appear as equals while commemorating their grandmother’s death.
Prince Harry is not an active member of the military, which explains why he was not in uniform during his grandmother’s funeral service, said Berthelsen. Additionally, any honorary military appointments and patronages were relinquished after he stepped back from royal duties.
However, King Charles III made an exception to allow Prince Harry to wear his military uniform for a vigil at the late queen’s coffin on Sept. 17, alongside her seven other grandchildren. Prince William decided to wear an identical uniform, worn by the Blues and Royals regiment, despite having other uniforms attached to higher-ranking positions, Berthelsen said.
“William took a demotion [from colonel] to wear a major’s uniform at that event,” he said. “They’re both grandchildren and at the grandchildren’s vigil, I think they wanted to look like equals, to a degree.”
While these efforts may indicate a more amicable relationship between Prince Harry and his immediate family members, this civility must also be reflected in the comments made publicly by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Berthelsen said.
“They’re going to have to find a way to do what they’re doing without levelling criticism back to London … if they’re going to maintain a relationship with members of the Royal Family,” Berthelsen said. “There has got to be a priority to reduce the rancour in public between these parts of the family.”
According to Berthelsen, family tensions are distracting from their work.
“They’re not meant to be a soap opera,” he said. “The story is not supposed to be about them, it’s supposed to be about the issues [they advocate for], the places that they’re visiting and the unity of the kingdom.”
It remains to be seen how the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will respond going forward, but a push for unity among members of the Royal Family may very well be an important theme throughout the King’s reign, Berthelsen said.
THE ROYAL FAMILY’S NEW ‘CORE’
Along with King Charles III, other members of the Royal Family also assumed new titles, ranks and roles following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Camilla, the former Duchess of Cornwall, is now Queen Consort, supporting her husband in carrying out his duties.
Meanwhile, Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales, also assume the titles of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Cornwall.
While the monarchy is made up of 11 working members, these four form the “core” of the Royal Family, Berthelsen said. This is made clear in a recently shared royal photo of the foursome taken at Buckingham Palace on Sept. 18.
By featuring the new King alongside the Queen Consort and the Prince and Princess of Wales, this photo points to the future of the monarchy, said Berthelsen.
“It’s just a simple reiteration to the public that these are the two key couples in the monarchy going forward,” he said. “This is now the King and his direct heir.”
Despite stepping back as “senior” members of the Royal Family, Prince Harry and Meghan remain the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. According to Berthelsen, it’s unlikely they will receive any additional titles in the future.
Following the queen’s death, however, their children are now considered prince and princess. According to royal rules, the monarch’s grandchildren automatically hold the title and rank of prince or princess of the realm. Additionally, with Charles now King, Archie and Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor become sixth and seventh in line to the throne, respectively.
It may be possible for Prince Harry and Meghan to return as working members of the Royal Family in the future, Berthelsen said. But this would require a significant change in tone towards the Firm, considering comments recently made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in interviews, podcasts and other media.