World·Royal Fascinator

Going their separate ways: Scrutiny grows on bond between William and Harry

As brothers sharing common experiences growing up, Prince William and Prince Harry enjoyed a close bond, but that relationship has come under increased scrutiny as their lives diverge and William's future in direct line to the throne comes into greater focus.

Brothers' shared experience with loss of their mother and living in spotlight meant they were close growing up

Prince Harry, left, and Prince William were very close as brothers growing up, but their lives have been diverging in recent years, particularly as William's role in the direct line of succession to the throne comes into greater focus. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press)

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In many ways, they were just like any other family photos that might get shared around — a happy dad relaxing with his equally happy kids.

But the pictures that marked Prince William's 38th birthday — which, coincidentally, fell on Father's Day this year — carried a wider symbolism.

"These photos put William's role as a father of the next generation of the Royal Family front and centre," said Toronto-based royal author and historian Carolyn Harris.

It was a further cementing of the image emerging around him as No. 2 in the line of succession, after his father, Prince Charles. And in that, there is also another reminder of the way William's life is diverging from that of his younger brother, Prince Harry, with whom he was so close as they were growing up.

Prince William relaxes with his children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis in Norfolk, England. The photo was released to mark his 38th birthday on June 21. (Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge via AP)

That sibling relationship has been the focus of widespread speculation, particularly after Harry married in 2018. It's speculation that is only likely to ramp up as a new book lands this fall.

Battle of Brothers by Robert Lacey, a royal biographer who serves as historical consultant for the Netflix series The Crown, is due in October. On his website, Lacey said he's been "astonished" by the new details and insight he found researching "this story of family conflict."

According to the book's synopsis, the past 18 months have seen a "devastating breakdown" of the "once unbreakable bond" between William and Harry, and the "seeds of damage were sown as their parents' marriage unravelled." 

Certainly, William and Harry started out close.

"There was no one else who could really understand what they had been through ... having lost their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, at a young age and ... also growing up in the spotlight," said Harris.

Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, and their sons, Prince William, right, and Prince Harry begin a cycle ride around the island of Tresco, one of the Scilly Isles, located off the southwest tip of Britain, in 1989. (The Associated Press)

Sure, there were signs their lives would ultimately diverge. Harry, for instance, served with the British Army in Afghanistan and had a more active military career, while William had a less hot-button experience as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot.

Later, when Harry and his wife, Meghan, went their separate way from charitable endeavours they shared with William and his wife, Kate, it seemed as if they could be drifting further apart.

Media speculation has suggested there may also have been friction over William cautioning Harry about the pace at which his relationship developed with Meghan. 

Whatever may have happened between the brothers, it would hardly be the first time a relationship between royal siblings took a turn.

"Often the experience of heirs to the throne tends to diverge from that of younger royal children," said Harris.

Go back three generations, and there's the relationship between the future Edward the Eighth and his younger brother, the future George the Sixth. They were close while young, but ended up more distant, particularly after Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 and his younger brother ended up with the crown.

William and Harry were last seen in public together on March 9, 2020, during the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London. (Phil Harris/The Associated Press)

"There's a great deal of strain between the two brothers in that particular case, that was exacerbated by the abdication crisis," said Harris.

Jump back to present day, and other forces may also be at work in the scrutiny on the relationship between William and Harry. 

"There's a sense of the Royal Family going through a time of transition due to the fact that there has been a very long reign [of the Queen] and at some point there will be a change," said Harris.

A photo of Prince Charles and Prince William taken in December 2019 was issued by Kensington Palace on June 21 to mark both William's birthday and Father's Day. (Kensington Palace via AP)

And with transition comes added outside interest, she suggests.

"There's some scrutiny of the Royal Family in terms of what will happen going forward," she said, "and certainly there is interest in Charles and William and what they are like, not just in terms of their public duties, but in terms of fatherhood and how they relate to other members of their family."

A Royal return 

Prince Charles meets workers who have responded to the coronavirus disease outbreak during a visit to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital in Gloucester, England, on June 16, 2020. (Ben Birchall/Pool via Reuters)

Our CBC colleague Renée Filippone reported recently from London about what's in store for the royals after months in isolation:

It was back to work for some members of the Royal Family after spending the past three months trying to stay relevant online. 

Prince Charles was first out the gate with a physically distanced visit to a hospital in Gloucestershire. There, he revealed to health workers his sense of smell and taste are still not back, after he fought the coronavirus in the spring.

Other senior royals, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, made public appearances — Prince William at a bakery joking about how many sweets he has been eating, and Kate visiting a garden centre. 

For months, the Royal Family have traded handshakes for hashtags to connect with their public during the pandemic. One social media expert says the pandemic strategy has been a success.

"The Royal Family are always trying to reinvent themselves," said Diana Young, a London-based marketing consultant.

Diana Young, founder of WeSocialis digital marketing agency, said the Royal Family successfully embraced social media during the lockdown. 'For me, the real takeaway is that the Royal Family are now able to manage their reputation online,' she said. (Pascal Leblond/CBC)

By posting videos and taking part in video calls, the royals let people into their homes and it's just what the public needed, said Young, founder of WeSocialis digital marketing agency.

"They want to see real people and realize they are going through the same thing we are going through."

The younger royals have been using social media successfully for years, but Prince Charles has only embraced it in recent months. The "likes" on his Instagram posts have gone from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. One British paper branded him the "Instagram King."

"For me, the real takeaway is that the Royal Family are now able to manage their reputation online," said Young.

The royals may choose to keep some things virtual because it's easier to control than traditional media, she said.

And that's just a small post-COVID change compared to what royal biographer Andrew Morton predicts — especially for the 94-year-old Queen. 

"The brutal truth is that her reign is effectively over," he said in a recent interview with The Telegraph. 

Prince William, left, wears a mask as he meets scientist Christina Dold, right, during a visit to the manufacturing laboratory where a vaccine against COVID-19 is being developed at the Oxford Vaccine Group's facility at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, England, on June 24, 2020. (Steve Parsons/The Associated Press)

Morton believes it could be months or years before she will be able to carry out royal engagements in person. 

"COVID-19 has done more damage to the monarchy than Oliver Cromwell. Corona has practically put Charles on the throne," he told the Telegraph.

But not everyone agrees that the Queen's reign is over.

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony to mark her official birthday at Windsor Castle on June 13, 2020, in Windsor, England. (Toby Melville/WPA pool/Getty Images)

"There's no need necessarily to start bandying around words like Prince Regency and abdication simply because the Queen at the moment is unable to do some of the face-to-face work," said Camilla Tominey, an associate editor with the Telegraph.

She said the Queen has been present during the pandemic. The monarch made a rare televised address in April and appeared on a recent Zoom call in honour of Carers Week.

"I think actually they've managed to turn a crisis into an opportunity, shown that they're up with the times. They've modernized. I think the digital output has been good and welcomed," Tominey said.

$56,000 and counting

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, returned to the U.K. from Vancouver Island and visited Canada House in London in January to offer thanks for the hospitality and support they received during their stay in Canada. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AP Photo)

When Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, were living on Vancouver Island, questions focused on whether — and how much — Canadian taxpayers would spend to cover their security.

While the total bill remains unknown, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation got partial insight through an access to information request. It revealed that $56,384 was spent on overtime, travel, meals, incidentals and accommodation from Nov. 18, 2019, to Jan. 19, 2020, roughly the first half of Harry and Meghan's time in Canada.

"It was troubling that the total is so high considering a) how short their stay was and b) that doesn't include the salaries of RCMP," said Aaron Wudrick, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's federal director, in an interview.

It also validated the group's original concerns, Wudrick said, around the royal stay in Canada, which began in November and ended in mid-March when Harry and Meghan left for California.

"Aside from the money, the concern that we had was that the government refused to even acknowledge this was happening. 

"They clearly knew that taxpayer resources were being spent all along, yet they simply refused to answer the question at the time when they were asked."

Eventually, they did address the issue, and said costs would cease when Harry and Meghan stepped back as senior members of the Royal Family, which occurred at the end of March. But by that point, it was moot — they had left Canada.

In the end, Canadians can reach their own conclusions about having tax dollars spent on the security.

"People are going to have different views on what's good value for money, but we should at least know what the amount is so that people can make that decision and judgment for themselves," said Wudrick.

Royals in Canada

Prince William and Kate talk during the Canada Day celebration on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on July 1, 2011. (Charlie Riedel/The Associated Press)

When Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, landed in Canada on June 30, 2011, they were newlyweds embarking on their first official overseas trip.

Their nine-day cross-country adventure included some friendly spousal rivalry during a dragon boat race on P.E.I., Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill and meeting people who had been devastated by wildfires earlier that year in Slave Lake, Alta.

Along the way, they drew adoring crowds and offered the world the first real view of the couple at the heart of the monarchy's hope for the future.

WATCH | Royal watchers take in William and Kate's last day in Canada:

Last chance to see the royals

12 years ago
Duration 3:05
The CBC's Ian Hanomansing recaps the last day of William and Kate's 2011 visit to Canada.

All in all, it went over well. Even in Quebec, where there was some nervousness at the welcome they would receive, protests were relatively muted. 

Royally quotable

"The diversity of our society is its greatest strength and gives us so much to celebrate."

— Prince Charles, on the anniversary of the arrival of hundreds of people from the Caribbean on board the ship Empire Windrush. They had been invited to help rebuild Britain after the Second World War.

Royal reads

  1. Kate has promised to plant a sunflower in memory of a boy who died in hospice care. [BBC]

  2. A gold 1808 watch made for King George III is expected to draw up to one million pounds as part of a highly lucrative Sotheby's sell-off that also includes a love letter from Horatio Nelson, the British naval commander famous for victories during the Napoleonic Wars. [The Guardian]

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Janet Davison is a CBC senior writer and editor based in Toronto.

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