- Palace staff were ‘incredulous’ when media reported Meghan Markle said she was on her way to Balmoral
- Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex prompted an unprecedented flurry behind the scenes at the Palace
- These events were taking place against a backdrop of unimaginable bitterness after years of controversy
- Her Majesty the Queen died at Balmoral on Thursday aged 96, after 70 years of serving her country
King Charles ‘told’ Prince Harry not to bring wife Meghan Markle to Balmoral Castle as he and other senior royals rushed to the beside of the dying Queen, it was reported last night.
Amid the personal family tragedy on Thursday, when the Queen died at the age of 96, a small domestic drama was playing out involving the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
It was a fortunate coincidence of sorts that Harry and Meghan were in the country when the prince’s grandmother passed away, sparing him an emotional and undoubtedly traumatic transatlantic dash as the Queen’s health failed.
Despite the rancour of the past few years, no one would begrudge him the chance to mourn his beloved ‘Granny’, with whom he had always enjoyed a warm and fun-loving relationship.
But as the royal households were consumed in concern for the ailing monarch, the Sussexes prompted an unprecedented flurry behind the scenes by announcing that Harry and Meghan would both be travelling to Balmoral.
According to The Sun, Prince Harry was at Frogmore Cottage when he received a call from his father asking him not to bring Meghan.
‘Charles told Harry that it wasn’t right or appropriate for Meghan to be in Balmoral at such a deeply sad time,’ a source told the newspaper.
‘It was pointed out to him that Kate was not going and that the numbers really should be limited to the very closest family.
‘Charles made it very, very clear Meghan would not be welcome.’
Meanwhile The Telegraph reported that Harry was not initially summoned when senior royals made their way up to Balmoral, like his brother Prince William was, due to constitutional reasons.
A royal insider also said that ‘it’s quite hard to spend too much time with someone you know is about to publish a tell-all book about you.’
Another added: ‘I think the general reaction to Harry and Meghan’s behaviour has been one of incredulity to be honest.’
News of their plans came via the small group of media the Sussexes deem it appropriate to deal with and tweeted out by journalists at 1.53pm. The statement read: ‘From a spokesperson: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be travelling to Scotland.’
This was, of course, news to the Palace and it did not go down well. Many behind royal walls, frankly, were incredulous.
There was half an hour on Thursday following the Sussexes’ initial announcement during which matters quickly came to a head.
It is still unclear how much pressure was brought to bear by the Palace itself – or whether senior royal were involved – but a spokesman for the couple frantically began to ‘clarify’ their position, informing those same journalists that ‘only the duke was travelling at the moment’.
Exactly what happened is open to speculation. Some say that Harry and Meghan hadn’t considered that William’s wife wouldn’t be there, with Kate staying in London instead, and when it was pointed out that she wouldn’t be, they realised how bad it looked.
Others believe Meghan was effectively banned, using the argument that Kate – now the Princess of Wales – was staying at home.
Either way, their hurried announcement that only Harry would be making the trip north from the capital prompted a sigh of relief among aides.
Putting aside the anguish of the past few years, the initial decision in itself, that both Sussexes would travel, was seen as wholly inappropriate, according to palace insiders, for one very simple reason: this was a private, family moment.
Only the two oldest children of the elderly monarch – Charles and Anne – were present when the Queen passed away.
Her other children, Andrew and Edward, arrived as soon as they could afterwards on a plane with Prince William, who is now first in line to the throne.
Edward was accompanied by his wife, Sophie, but she is adored by the Queen, who views her as a second daughter, and is likely to have been there at her request.
Although most have assumed that Kate stayed behind because it was her children’s first day at school, which is in part true, she instinctively knew this was an occasion for the Queen’s blood family.
It is impossible to forget that events are taking place against a backdrop of unimaginable bitterness.
So deep is the rift between the two brothers that even though Harry and William have been temporarily living just a few minutes’ walk from each other at Windsor this week, there has been no attempt at contact from either party.
Relations are little better with any other members of the family either – King Charles, in particular, has been left bewildered and deeply hurt by his younger son’s incessant attacks.
While no one wants an all-out war, few are in a hurry to forgive or forget Meghan’s series of laser-guided and deeply harmful accusations against family members, as well as the institution of the monarchy itself.
It was noticeable that there was no invitation for Harry to join the family party that headed north on Thursday, taking off from RAF Northolt bound for Aberdeen.
He made his own way to Balmoral by private jet and faced a lonely drive to the castle, finally arriving at 7.52pm – an hour and a half after the palace’s historic statement informing the nation of the death of Her Majesty.
He was seen being driven out at 8.28am yesterday, little more than 12 hours later.
During that time he would have had to kiss his father’s hand, curtsey to his step-mother – and break bread with those he has caused so much hurt. The brothers now face seeing a lot of each other as they prepare for the Queen’s funeral.
Harry made his way separately back to Windsor yesterday and there was no word last night as to whether the pair have any plans to meet – although it seems Harry will remain at Frogmore Cottage until after the funeral on September 19.
It is unclear whether Meghan is still in the country, but she has two young children back in the US and may well fly back to them, returning for the funeral.
Grief is often said to bring a family together – whether it does when it comes to Harry and the rest of the Windsor dynasty remains to be seen.
It comes as Charles extended an olive branch to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in his first address to Britain and the world as monarch yesterday.
The new Sovereign, who became King the moment that his mother Queen Elizabeth II passed away on Thursday afternoon at Balmoral Castle aged 96, said he wished to ‘express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas’ – in a move likely to be regarded by royal commentators as a bid to finally draw a line under the tumult of recent years.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex plunged the monarchy into crisis during the twilight years of the Queen’s reign after sensationally quitting frontline royal duties and moving to California two years ago – a saga which precipitated the rift between Harry and his brother William, allegations of racism against the royals and claims the Firm failed to help a suicidal Meghan.
After their bombshell interview with US talk show host Oprah Winfrey, Harry appeared to suggest, in a mental health podcast, that his father and the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had all failed as parents – while the family was still mourning Prince Philip’s death last year.
The Duke of Sussex had grief etched on his face as he was swept into the grounds of Windsor Castle this afternoon after losing a race against time to get to his grandmother’s bedside before she died yesterday.
King Charles III went to Buckingham Palace to meet fellow mourners this afternoon where he shook hands and accepted their condolences to cries of ‘God save the King’ and impromptu renditions of the national anthem. One woman kissed him on the cheek. He also inspected flowers and tributes left for his late mother at the gates before entering the palace.
Harry landed at Heathrow yesterday lunchtime after jumping on an early morning BA flight where he comforted an airport worker with a reassuring hand on her shoulder after she gave him her condolences.
He left Balmoral after 12 hours mourning his grandmother with his father and brother – but despite the brevity of the visit, the Sussexes are not expected to return to California until after the state funeral, currently expected to be ten days from now on Monday, September 19.
The Duke of Sussex was the last royal to arrive at the Aberdeenshire castle on Thursday and the first to leave on Friday morning.
Harry and Meghan’s titles have not changed following the Queen’s death, and, although the duke has moved up from sixth to fifth in line to the throne, he is still too far down the line of succession to ever be expected to be king.
The Sussexes’ children, Archie and Lili, are now, as the grandchildren of a monarch, a prince and a princess. But it is not known whether they will use the titles, which they were not entitled to when they were born.
Following the death of the Queen, Harry and Meghan are left with Charles as King and head of The Firm, and William elevated to the key role of heir apparent.