How Prince William Is Putting His Own Royal Future Ahead of His Relationship With Prince Harry

As the future king, Prince William is expected to serve the crown. But he's reached a point where "everything is about his image at any cost," Endgame author Omid Scobie tells E! News.

By Natalie Finn Dec 02, 2023 12:00 PMTags
Watch: Prince William Believes Prince Harry is BRAINWASHED?

It may feel like forever ago, but there was a time when Prince William and Prince Harry had plenty to bond over.

"William hated the press more than Harry did at one point," author Omid Scobie told E! News in an exclusive interview discussing his new book Endgame, which unpacks the brothers' ongoing estrangement and a variety of other issues threatening the future of the monarchy. "So for things to be at this point is not only sad, but it speaks to William as a leader, as an heir to the throne."

And not in a particularly good way. 

Since the January release of Harry's memoir Spare, a continuation of the tea-spilling that began with his and Meghan Markle's explosive sit-down with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021 (that continues to haunt the royal family today), Scobie said, "there still hasn't been a conversation of any worth or substance with his own brother."

Prince Harry and Prince William's Feud: A Timeline

E! News reached out to Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Harry's reps for comment on Scobie's reporting in the book but did not hear back.

William and Kate Middleton ignored reporters' Endgame-related questions on the red carpet at the Royal Variety Performance on Nov. 30. And while in Dubai to attend COP28, when asked how he was doing, King Charles III reportedly answered, "I'm all right very much, just about," quipping that he was "recovering from the shock" of turning 75.

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

In Spare and multiple interviews, Harry maintained that he basically wrote the book not to expose the inner workings of the royal family, but to explain to his own father and brother—who consistently rebuffed his attempts to have those talks—what he'd been dealing with personally for years before he and Meghan moved away in 2020.

"He wanted accountability from his family," Scobie said. "The ball has been in William's court for 11 months now. And how ridiculous, because this isn't just the brother of a random man. This is the future king, the future head of the Church of England, who almost a year later is still unable to at least sit down and have a conversation with his own blood."

The Most Shocking Parts of Prince Harry's Spare

But taken in context, that response—or lack thereof—from William isn't so surprising. (There was no official comment from any member of the royal family in response to Harry's recollections in Spare, though plenty of reporting ensued that they weren't happy about it.)

There's a "duality" to William's character, Scobie said. "This is a man who, as I said, once hated the press more than his brother and was always—and still is—extremely professional on engagements, enjoyable to be around. He would be the one that would acknowledge you [as a member of the press] and make you feel like a person rather than just an irritant at these events."

William "also loved his normal life as an air ambulance pilot," the longtime royal correspondent added, "which he held onto for so long, much to the annoyance of the institution."

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Then the Duke of Cambridge, William announced he was leaving the East Anglian Air Ambulance in 2017 after two years. Kensington Palace said at the time that the heir was making the move because he and Kate were "keen to increase their official work on behalf of the Queen and for the charities and causes they support."

The couple, now the Prince and Princess of Wales, have been full-time working royals ever since, though Kate has made it clear (through actions, if not in so many words) that she's mom to Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 8, and Prince Louis, 5, first and future queen second.

Though there was grumbling behind the scenes that William wasn't doing enough for the crown, his time as a pilot "was the making of him," Scobie said. "It made him a man to be admired because he didn't have to do that. So to see him reach this point now where family isn't the priority for him—everything is about his image, his reputation, at any cost—shows me that perhaps he's either become a little lost in the role or allowed the role to engulf him in the way that these roles do."

Family in this case meaning Harry, not William's wife and children. But Scobie also writes in Endgame that, in recent years, William has been protective of the monarchy in a way that's been surprising even to seasoned royal-watchers.

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"It's almost mirroring some of the decisions made by his own father," Scobie said, "the things that him and Harry said they'd never do are now happening."

For instance, when an internal investigation into the circumstances of Princess Diana's 1995 interview with the BBC's Panorama found that deceitful tactics were used to secure the sit-down, both William and Harry had blistering responses regarding the BBC's conduct.

In his statement, Harry called their mother "resilient, brave, and unquestionably honest." William, meanwhile, stated that "the BBC's failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation" during the final years of her life.

Scobie observed that William was veering close to the palace party line from the 1990s, when the word was that Diana was troubled and therefore her account of royal life was merely her version of events.

7 Ways Princess Diana Forever Changed What it Means to Be a Royal

"It stood out to me because William was so protective of his mother and her legacy," Scobie explained. "And it was a statement that did not protect her legacy or her words, and in fact brushed them with very much the same opinion that we knew the institution had. It felt like he had become the spokesperson for the Firm, rather than writing that statement as the son of the mother."

In the 1995 interview in question, Diana told journalist Martin Bashir, "Maybe I was the first person ever to be in this family who ever had a depression or was ever openly tearful...It gave everybody a wonderful new label: 'Diana's unstable' and 'Diana's mentally unbalanced.' And unfortunately that seems to have stuck on and off over the years."

Yet even though William has seemed to prioritize the monarchy's interests above most everything, including his relationship with his brother, that doesn't mean he and his father are seeing eye to eye on everything, either.

Kin Cheung - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Rather, Scobie details in Endgame a number of instances in which William and Charles have not been in "lockstep" when it comes to the monarchy's plans for the future or major decisions that have been made in recent years, even before Queen Elizabeth II's death in September 2022.

And since Charles became king, "there has been a real lack of engagements with William and Charles together," Scobie told E!. "It's all been very separate—and you start to see, when you look into the inner workings of the institution, everyone's operating in silos. With the queen, she had this very broad focus on the entire big picture. It was never about her, it was about what she stood for and represented."

With William and Charles, he added, "it's very much personal agendas."

The Prince of Wales' team has put out briefings "to say how he'll do things differently to his father," Scobie said. "It was only a week after the coronation that we had a palace briefing saying, 'When William has his coronation it won't be quite so grand and expensive.' Which is great, we want to see royals being leaner. But a week after the coronation?"

Jordan Pettitt - Pool/Getty Images

Last month, William said at a press briefing while in Singapore for the Earthshot Prize ceremony that, while there are causes that his family had been "very much spotlighting brilliantly," he wanted to go "a step further" to get results.

"This is everything but lockstep," Scobie said, his reasoning being that, as well-intentioned as William sounded, his job isn't to set himself apart from his father while Charles is on the throne.

"Not everybody is on the same page and working toward the same goal," Scobie said, which creates "a very messy situation. This is a company that's not working in unison. If the CFO and the VP and the CEO aren't all working towards the same thing, then it's going to fall apart."

Keep reading to see just where William has gone his own way and more bombshells from Omid Scobie's Endgame:

Charles and William Are Hardly in "Lockstep"

While most of the focus has been on the rift between Prince William and brother Prince Harry, William and dad King Charles III's relationship has been plagued by "tension and one-upmanship," royal correspondent Omid Scobie writes in Endgame. He describes the king's Buckingham Palace (often referred to as just "the palace") and the Prince of Wales' Kensington Palace as "hives of competing agendas."

Since 75-year-old Charles' reign is going to be exponentially shorter than his mother's, Queen Elizabeth II's death at 96 putting an end to a 70-year era, William is said to already be burnishing his own kingly credentials apart from his father—and not least because he doesn't want to be tarnished by any perceived mistakes made by his predecessors.

For instance, Scobie notes, a source close to William said it was the heir who took the lead on stripping scandal-cloaked Prince Andrew of his royal patronages and military titles in January 2022. However, the source said, journalists were briefed by those close to the queen that it was a "joined father-son move."

E! News reached out to Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace for comment on the book's characterization of William and Charles' relationship and various reported details but has yet to hear back.

William Is Already Doing It His Way

Charles' camp was allegedly incensed when the damage control following William and Kate Middleton's rocky tour of the Caribbean in March 2022 included reports of the prince's plans for modernizing the monarchy once he's on the throne. One aide called it "disrespectful," Scobie wrote, while another source said William was "out of order."

William also took it upon himself to condemn the behavior of his godmother Lady Susan Hussey—a former lady-in-waiting to the late queen—at a Buckingham Palace reception in November 2022. (Lady Susan, who resigned from her role as an unpaid lady of the household after the incident, persisted in quizzing British-born Ngozi Fulani, the CEO of domestic abuse charity Sistah Space, about where she was "really" from and touched her dreadlocks without asking.)

"Racism has no space in our society," a spokesperson for William said at the time, adding that it was "right that the individual has stepped aside with immediate effect."

While Charles' office had reacted quickly in calling Lady Susan's comments "unacceptable and deeply regrettable" after Fulani detailed the encounter on social media, a palace source told Scobie that they interpreted William's "rash...knee-jerk response" as an attempt to "disassociate, instead of thinking as a team."

How the Palace Courts the Media

Charles hosted "a handful of trusted royal reporters" for a lavish dinner and overnight stay at Dumfries House, one of his estates in Scotland, in February 2020, according to Endgame. Scobie writes that the then-future king made the gesture in hopes of keeping Britain's most influential papers "onside" in the wake of Harry and Meghan Markle's announcement that they'd be stepping down as senior royals.

Scobie notes in the book that he was not invited to this gathering.

And before the so-called "Sandringham Summit" in January where Harry discussed the terms of his and Meghan's exit with his brother, father and grandmother, William took matters into his own hands to get ahead of the story, according to Scobie.

He writes that, when the Sunday Times reported that William had told a friend, "I've put my arm around my brothers all our lives. I can't do it anymore," the quotes echoed what he'd told the paper's editor at a pub the previous fall, after Harry and Meghan had filed lawsuits against multiple newspapers.

Neither Buckingham nor Kensington Palace has ever officially commented on their media policy or specific interactions with media outlets. But "palace sources," Scobie notes, told the Daily Mail in 2022 that it was "absolutely wrong" to suggest that anyone working at the palace had supplied damaging or confidential information about Harry and Meghan to members of the press when they were senior royals.

Princess Diana "Cosplay"

Kate's sartorial nods to Princess Diana are not only deliberate, they're a team effort, according to Endgame.

Whatever the look, it's "always discussed" with William (and the same went for Meghan and Harry when they were senior royals), a source who worked with both wives told Scobie.

And in some instances, the source said, someone would be tasked "to go back and pull images of Diana at a certain place or time for ideas."

How Charles Responded to Meghan and Harry's Oprah Interview

Meghan told Oprah Winfrey in their 2021 interview that Harry was privy to "concerns and conversations" about how dark their first child's skin might be. (The queen and Prince Philip were not part of these conversations, Oprah stressed afterward.)

After the interview, Charles wrote to Meghan to express his sadness over the division in the family and his disappointment that she and Harry had aired so much publicly, according to the Telegraph, which reported on their supposedly private written correspondence in April 2021.

Sources said that Charles especially wanted to make it clear to his daughter-in-law that he didn't believe the remarks in question were made with, as Scobie puts it, "ill will" or "casual prejudice." Meghan tried to explain, per a royal insider, that it was an example of "lingering unconscious bias and ignorance" that needed addressing.

After a "respectful back-and-forth," Charles and Meghan probably still didn't see the incident the same way, a second source told Scobie, but "there was at least a feeling that both had been heard."

The palace said in a statement after the interview was broadcast in the U.K. that the issues the couple raised, "particularly that of race," were "concerning," and while "some recollections may vary" the family would address them privately.

William and Kate Just Never Mentioned It

While William told reporters, "We are very much not a racist family," in response to questions raised by his brother's Oprah sit-down, he and Kate have allegedly never spoken to Harry and Meghan about the issues they raised in their interview. 

"The silence has caused a lot of confusion and upset," a family source told Scobie.

E! News has reached out to a rep for Harry and Meghan but has not yet heard back.

Why Harry Found Out About the Queen's Death From the BBC

Harry wrote in Spare that he got no reply from William when he texted to see how his brother planned to get to Scotland from England to be with their ailing grandmother at Balmoral on Sept. 8, 2022, so he booked his own British Airways flight and went by himself. As they were landing, Harry checked his phone: He saw a text from Meghan asking him to call ASAP and the BBC News alert that the queen had died.

While he was in the air, according to Endgame, his team tried to get the palace to hold off on releasing the death announcement until Harry had been informed personally by family.

They "literally had to beg for them to wait for his plane to land," a close family source told Scobie, "and they reluctantly agreed to hold the statement back for a little bit." But Harry's plane had to circle for awhile due to stormy weather, and during that time the palace sent the release. 

According to Scobie, any later reports attributed to palace sources saying that Charles had broken the news to Harry before the world found out, or had at least tried to call him, were just the royals trying to save face. (Harry also mentioned no such attempts in Spare.)

"They could have waited just a little longer," a friend of Harry's told Scobie, "it would have been nothing in the grand scheme of things, but no one respected that at all."

William Made a Surprise Show of Support for Harry as They Mourned the Queen

Though his diminished stature within the family meant Harry didn't wear his military uniform to official royal events (such as Charles' coronation) anymore, he was allowed to wear his Blues and Royals, Number 1 dress attire to stand vigil by the queen's casket as she lay in state at Westminster Hall.

As previously reported, the queen's "ER" initials had been removed from the uniform's epaulettes, as the insignia was an honor reserved only for official aides-de-camp, a title he no longer had. But according to Endgame, Harry also found that someone had removed the ornamental braided cord known as an aiguillette from his outfit.

A family source told Scobie that there were still certain people "determined to make [Harry] feel like s--t, determined to continue punishing him for leaving."

Harry considered just wearing a suit to the vigil, Scobie writes, but then he found out that William planned to remove the aiguillette from his uniform as well, "a rare show of support from his brother and one a source said he appreciated."

Where Charles and Camilla Stand With Harry and Meghan

After Spare came out in January, Harry did call his father in an attempt to start unpacking the many issues and perceived slights he detailed in his book. A friend of Harry's told Scobie that it was ultimately an "awkward conversation" and, while no one raised his voice, Charles was "cold and brief rather than open to any proper dialogue."

When Harry put in a request to see his dad while he was in the U.K. in April, according to Scobie, Charles had an aide let his son know he was "too busy" to meet. (The following month, the world was privy to the lack of interaction between father and son when Harry flew in solo for Charles' coronation, sat in the third row at Westminster Abbey, and then flew right home to be with son Archie on his fourth birthday.)

While Scobie describes Harry and Charles' communication nowadays as "infrequent," the Sussexes do keep the king in the loop with updates on their young family and send him pictures of grandkids Archie and Lili, 2.

As for Queen Camilla, Charles' mistress-turned-wife of 18 years has said to other people that she feels "great sympathy" for what Meghan went through but, a royal source told Scobie, she "has no respect" for how Harry and Meghan "handled themselves."

William Believes Harry Has Been Brainwashed by Therapy

After all the airing of the grievances on Harry's end, William believes his brother has been "brainwashed by an 'army of therapists,'" a source told Scobie. 

(Harry wrote in Spare that William once told him he'd like to attend one of his therapy sessions "because he suspected I was being 'brainwashed.'" His brother never actually went to one, Harry added.)

In response to Harry telling Oprah that William and Charles were "trapped" by the royal system, and therefore he felt "huge compassion" for them, a source close to William told Scobie that the future king felt "far from [trapped] in any system."

After the coronation, Harry told a friend that he'd come to accept that his family issues, particularly with his brother, may never be resolved. According to Scobie, he told the friend, "Whether we get an apology or accountability, who knows? Who really cares at this point?"

What Kate Really Thinks of Harry and Meghan

Kate was never really a fan of Meghan's, a source who used to work with Kate told Scobie. And the current Princess of Wales is pretty much done with Meghan and her husband.

She and Harry were close and Kate "will always look back fondly" on the good times, another source who knows the family told Scobie, but she just doesn't trust Harry anymore "after all their interviews."

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Endgame: Inside the Royal Family and the Monarchy's Fight for Survival by Omid Scobie

For more royal revelations, check out Endgame for yourself.