What's Next for Prince Harry and Prince William in the Wake of Queen Elizabeth II's Death

Prince Harry and Prince William's bond has frayed, but hopes are high that coming together to mourn the death of their beloved grandmother Queen Elizabeth II will lead to reconciliation.

By Natalie Finn Sep 17, 2022 11:00 AMTags
Watch: Prince William & Kate Middleton Reunite With Prince Harry & Meghan Markle

Prince Harry couldn't have predicted the twists and turns his life has taken over the past five years.

From meeting and marrying Meghan Markle, to becoming a father and deciding that a life of scrutiny and protocol wasn't working for his young family and resettling in California, the 38-year-old's day-to-day is drastically different from what it once was as a senior royal.

Now, more than ever.

Because even when what Harry and Meghan said would be a "step back" from the monarchial institution known as The Firm turned into an ocean-crossing leap in 2020, straining Harry's already-fraying bond with his brother, Prince William, Harry remained devoted to his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II.

And in the wake of her death on Sept. 8 at the age of 96, so goes Harry's strongest tie to his old life—at least so long as this fraternal rift remains.

Queen Elizabeth II's Sweet Grandma Moments

"My sense is that both of them want repair and it may not be the right moment for the repair to take place because everybody is focusing on the queen," royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith told E! News ahead of the Platinum Jubilee celebrating the queen's 70-year reign in June, "and this is the kind of thing that's going to require time to mend. When you have a family rupture like that, nobody's going to wave a wand and say, 'We're all going to get together.'"

Ironically, they are now all together, though what comes of this mournful reunion remains to be seen.

James Whatling / MEGA

"They are both at Balmoral tonight, in old bedrooms that they would have slept in as young boys, at the castle where they learned of their mother's death—this week marks 25 years since the funeral of Princess Diana," Vanity Fair royal editor Katie Nicholl said on the Sept. 9 episode of her and Erin Vanderhoof's Dynasty podcast. "They've been forced together, once again united in grief...If this isn't an opportunity to thaw these relations and to make some headway, then I don't know if there ever will be."

To subdued fanfare but hardly unnoticed, Harry and Meghan did join William and Kate Middleton outside Windsor Castle on Sept. 10 to greet the crowd and look at the countless bouquets and mementos left at the gates, the first time the foursome were photographed all together in more than two years.

"It's a lonely place up there now without her," Harry told a few of the mourners on hand. "Every room she was in, we felt her presence throughout."

Harry had actually already been in London with Meghan to attend the WellChild Awards when he got urgent word that the queen wasn't doing well. He immediately flew out to join his family at Balmoral, his grandmother's cherished home in Scotland. 

Royal Family Greets Mourners After Queen Elizabeth's Death

The brothers and their wives were also at Buckingham Palace on Sept. 13 to greet the hearse carrying the queen's coffin after it was flown to RAF Northolt from Edinburgh. The next day, Harry and William walked together in the procession to Westminster Hall, where the queen will lie in state until her funeral on Sept. 19, the scene unavoidably invoking memories of the siblings as 12- and 15-year-old boys trailing their mother's casket in 1997.

Nevertheless, even amid reports of their estrangement, the sight of William and Harry together again sparked a familiar joy—though only time will tell if this marks the beginning of a true reconciliation. 

James Whatling / MEGA

The Palace Papers author Tina Brown predicted back in April that once the queen, whose increasing frailty clouded what was an otherwise picture-perfect celebration of her seven decades on the throne, passed away, Harry could end up being recruited for part-time work.

"I would not be at all surprised if some kind of new charter, as it were, with Harry is drawn up," she said on Kara Swisher's Sway podcast, "because I think they're going to feel they do need Harry in some way. And he might get a bit more of what he wanted...He could be a kind of commuter royal, I guess."

In his first address as King Charles III, the new sovereign announced the transfer of his now-former titles, including Prince of Wales, to William and expressed his confidence that his eldest son and daughter-in-law Kate would do their new positions justice. The 73-year-old then added, "I want also to express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas."

William & Kate Reunite With Harry & Meghan After Queen's Death

Harry and Meghan will be staying in the U.K. until after the state funeral for the queen, to be held Sept. 19 at Westminster Abbey. (She'll then be laid to rest at Windsor Castle's King George VI Memorial Chapel, alongside her husband of more than 73 years, Prince Philip, who died in April 2021, and in close proximity to other family, including her parents and sister Princess Margaret.)

But as Charles noted, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are settled "overseas" now with son Archie, 3, and daughter Lili, 15 months (who now, as grandchildren of the king, have the titles of prince and princess available to them). Though they still count Frogmore Cottage in Windsor as their residence, their primary home is a $14.65 million mansion in Montecito, Calif. 

Meghan recently revealed to The Cut—in what would have been a shocking bit of over-sharing should she and Harry still have been abiding by royal ways—that the house was out of their price range before they signed several lucrative media deals. Then again, if they were still doing the standard royalty thing, they wouldn't have been house-hunting in Southern California in the first place.

"They left the working royal family, they left the country, they now operate in a totally different way than the working royals do," broadcaster and royal expert Jonathan Sacerdoti told E! News ahead of the Platinum Jubilee, which Harry and Meghan did participate in, though not to the extent of other senior royals. "They don't coordinate their statements and activities with the rest of the royal family so as not to pull focus. They speak out when they want to, on what they want to."

Sacerdoti may have had Harry and Meghan's jaw-dropping 2021 sit-down with Oprah Winfrey in mind, but that turned out to only be a prelude to their new era of candor. Harry also teamed with Winfrey on the Apple TV+ series about mental health, The Me You Can't See, went on Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast, and started work on a memoir that, as of now, is due to come out in November.

Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

After inching her way back into public life on her own terms, Meghan's long-promised podcast, Archetypes, officially got underway last month with a series of famous guests (though it's now on hiatus out of respect for the queen). And despite swearing off social media a couple years ago, the prospect of returning to Instagram may be back on the table for the 41-year-old, who shuttered her personal Instagram account and lifestyle website when she and Harry got engaged.

But while Harry has moved pretty seamlessly between social circles, regardless of which country he's in, his years of serving the crown (even as the spare heir) can't help but influence what he's comfortable with and interested in doing. In the same vein as his royal work, his civilian-branded endeavors have also leaned toward the charitable and motivational, as stops at a military base in New Jersey to visit children from Afghanistan, the Netherlands to open the 2022 Invictus Games and New York to speak at the United Nations (and enjoy date night with Meghan) would attest.

All The Fairytale Photos of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's Rare Red Carpet Appearance

Citing a saying she was taught as a kid about salt and pepper always being passed together, Meghan told The Cut, "'You never move one without the other.' That's me and Harry. We're like salt and pepper. We always move together."

Not surprisingly then, Harry was at home when she was being interviewed.

"Most people that I know and many of my family, they aren't able to work and live together," he told the publication, referring to his and Meghan's shared home office. "It's actually really weird because it'd seem like a lot of pressure. But it just feels natural and normal." As for the pair's lengthening to-do list, he added, "I think we always knew the first few years of creating this new life from scratch were going to be the busiest."

Meghan Markle Supports Prince Harry at Polo Game in California

Also adding to Harry's sense of normalcy in the States: Joining a local polo club, the Los Padres, run by Argentinian polo star and model Nacho Figueras

"I know firsthand how much he wanted to have a family," Figueras, noting that he had known Harry for years, told People after a charity match in Aspen, Colo., in August. "He found an amazing teammate, or partner, in Meghan. They love each other very much; their children are lovely."

Archie is now in pre-school, his mom grateful to be able to do drop-offs and pick-ups without a paparazzi escort. 

Prince William, Prince Harry and More Royals Honor Queen Elizabeth II in Procession

"That doesn't make me obsessed with privacy," she told The Cut pointedly. "That makes me a strong and good parent protecting my child."

Meghan and Harry have always been on the same page about that, the prince saying on Armchair Expert last year about his new home, "Here, I can actually lift my head and I feel different. My shoulders have dropped, so has hers. You walk around feeling a little bit more free. I get to take Archie on the back of my bicycle. I never had the chance to do that."

But SoCal-based family idyll aside, even Winfrey—who told Gayle King for CBS This Morning this week that she "didn't set out to do a bombshell interview" with Meghan and Harry—hopes that all royal family rifts close sooner rather than later (or, worse yet, never).

"My father passed recently, this summer, and when all families come together for a common ceremony, the ritual of, you know, burying your dead, there's an opportunity for peacemaking," Winfrey told Extra on Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival. "And hopefully, there will be that."

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