Harrys public attacks did harm – The Queen was fed up before she died

When his grandmother died last September, Prince Harry’s relationship with the rest of the royal family could be described as fractious at best.

That explosive Oprah Winfrey interview in March 2021, plus fears surrounding what other bombs might be detonated in his and his wife’s Netflix docuseries, Harry & Meghan, had shaken the Firm’s foundations.

Then, less than a month before the Queen’s death, came Meghan’s Spotify podcast, Archetypes, in which she detailed the toll being a working royal took on her mental health.

The Sussexes’ very public attacks on the royal family came at a challenging time for the Queen, whose health had noticeably deteriorated since the loss of her husband, Prince Philip, the previous April.

“So much happened while she was still alive and it must have made her last year more difficult,” says royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams.

“Oprah aired when Prince Philip was ill – that says it all. The attacks over that period, especially Oprah, did harm.”

But Spare was about to take things to another level.

The publication of Harry’s memoir came just four months after the Queen’s death and a month after the Sussexes’ Netflix three-parter, in which Harry claimed Prince William had “screamed” at him in front of the Queen over his and Meghan’s plans to quit the UK.

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He also repeated allegations of racism within the royal family and accused the Windsors of having an “unconscious bias”.

Spare, released at the beginning of January this year, was, if anything, more revealing than anyone could have predicted.

In it, he accused his brother William of physically attacking him and of branding Meghan both “difficult” and “rude”. He also alleged that the Princess of Wales had left the former actress sobbing “on the floor” following a pre-wedding clash over the bridesmaids’ dresses.

Harry listed other spats, too, such as Kate and William allegedly causing offence by rearranging the place names at his and Meghan’s wedding reception, as well as a claim that Kate confronted Meghan after she suggested the Princess had “baby brain” following the birth of Prince Louis.

He even claimed that William and Kate had personally backed his tasteless decision to wear a Nazi outfit to a fancy dress party in 2005 – a choice he has since admitted was “one of the biggest mistakes of my life”.

While his father King Charles got off relatively lightly – Harry says he “wasn’t great at showing emotions” when he was younger – the same could not be said of his stepmother, Queen Camilla.

Accusing her of courting the press, he branded her “dangerous” and a “villain” – details which are likely to have cut his father to the core.

But, to the relief of most, there were no damning revelations about his late grandmother, the Queen, aside from a brief reference to hugging her being “out of the question”.

While Queen Elizabeth emerged unscathed, royal experts claim she would have been deeply upset by the memoir and by the interviews Harry gave to promote it.

“I would surmise that she would have been very disappointed,” says Richard Fitzwilliams. “There was no doubt that she would have perceived it as damaging to the institution of monarchy, especially among the young, so I think it would have aggrieved her.”

Royal author Hugo Vickers agrees that the late monarch would have disapproved of Spare, pointing out that she had already tired of Harry and Meghan’s stream of revelations in the months that led to her death last September.

“I think the Queen was just fed up with the whole thing,” he says. “By that stage, her line was, ‘Well, I’ve done my bit and if you’re going to muck it all up later, that’s up to you.’

“She was good at compartmentalising and good at getting on with the main job, ignoring things which were painful and difficult, but it must have been awful.”

Despite taking aim at his brother and Queen Camilla in his memoir, Harry hinted at hopes of a reconciliation when he spoke to ITV’s Tom Bradby in the run-up to the book’s release.

“I would like to get my father back, I would like to have my brother back,” he said. “The ball is in their court. There’s a lot to be discussed and I really hope that they’re willing to sit down and talk about it.”

Hugo claims King Charles is equally open to reconciliation, despite the slights heaped against his family.

“I think the King has been remarkably self-controlled in not making any public statements at all,” he says. “My theory is that he’s keeping the door open for his son to return when the time is needed.”

Other claims in Spare were less inflammatory, but no less embarrassing – segments where Harry discussed losing his virginity in a field behind a pub and taking cocaine and magic mushrooms in his teens.

He even claimed that he smoked cannabis in the gardens at Kensington Palace and while at school at Eton.

But royal author Robert Jobson says it is the personal attacks on other members of his family, such as the alleged fight with William, plus the relaying of alleged private clashes between Meghan and the Princess of Wales, that would have distressed the late Queen the most.

“I think really it would be the extent of the detail that was given in the disagreements between Meghan and Catherine as well as the disagreements between Harry and William,” says Robert. “She would have seen that as damaging to what is the long-term future of the modern monarchy.

“She’d have been disappointed, there’s no doubt. She would have invariably wanted to keep things within the family and this was going public, ostensibly to make money.”

But while it is likely that many of Harry’s family members will have been stung by his claims, Robert claims the Queen’s logical approach to tackling problems would have helped her take much of Spare in her stride.

“The Queen dealt with many crises throughout her life that a lot of people would have found very difficult,” says Robert, author of Our King: Charles III: The Man And The Monarch Revealed.

“But she was a pragmatic person and she dealt with things by getting all the facts and just dealing with what was in front of her. So she wouldn’t have baulked at it. I just think she found it difficult towards the end to understand what Harry’s complaints were.”

What’s more, Robert also claims Harry could have done King Charles and Queen Camilla a favour – albeit without meaning to.

“Spare could potentially have been very damaging, but what was noticeable was that people actually warmed to the King and Queen Camilla, who they felt were being unfairly treated,” says Robert. "There was no compassion and in fact I think it backfired on Harry.

“The King had just lost his mum and it was a difficult time, but Charles showed his human side and what it is like having to deal with that kind of situation.”

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