Prince Harry’s 26-hour trip to the United Kingdom from California has filled the front-pages of British newspapers Thursday, as tabloid columns were quick to paint a portrait of a divided house of Windsor and a modern-day Cain and Abel, in the wake of news of their father’s cancer diagnosis.
Harry was photographed arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport on Tuesday and swiftly taking off again Wednesday back to Los Angeles, where he lives with wife Meghan and their two children. British media reported a meeting of under 45 minutes with his father, King Charles III, at Clarence House, before the king took a helicopter with Queen Camilla to his Sandringham Estate to begin his medical treatment.
King Charles III diagnosed with cancer, postpones public duties
There was no meeting reported with his elder brother, Prince William.
Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and a spokesperson for Harry issued no comment to The Washington Post on Thursday.
One British media pundit called Harry “disloyal” and highlighted that he did not stay overnight at a royal property. “The Duke of Sussex stayed the night in a hotel, like so many other American tourists, because in truth, that is all he is now.”
Another right-leaning show said the estranged royal had been snubbed by his relatives and asked: “Who was the visit for? Was it for Harry? Was it for the King? Or was it for Netflix?” referring to his 2022 fly-on-the-wall documentary.
Harry, 39, remains an emotive figure in Britain. Many feel betrayed by his decision to “step back” from senior royal duties in 2020 and move across the Atlantic, while others cheer his liberation from ancient duties and hail what they see as rare royal transparency.
An IPSOS poll conducted last year after the publication of Harry’s memoir “Spare” found William and his wife Catherine, the Princess of Wales, among the most popular members of the royal household with the British public. About 61 percent said they held a favorable opinion of Prince William, while just under a quarter, 23 percent, said the same for his younger brother.
Angela Goodman, a royal fan who visited Clarence House — one of the official residences of the king in London — Tuesday after learning of his diagnosis told The Post that she was “absolutely heartbroken” at the medical news.
Goodman said that at one point in her life, she loved “Prince Harry to bits” and “would have done anything for him,” but that the recent royal rift had changed her opinion of him for the worse.
Instead, her hopes now lie with the heir to the throne, William, who she predicted would “do his very best” to take on more royal duties amid his father’s ill health. Goodman worried, however, that he “won’t be able to do as much,” while also tending to his wife, Catherine, who recently underwent abdominal surgery and is not expected to return to work before Easter, and their three children.
The British press in particular have lingering hard feelings for Harry, not the least for his role in high-profile lawsuits against them. He has also spoken out widely about his critical feelings toward the press, citing their intrusion and at times racism directed at his wife.
But it is the contrast with his brother which seems to be the current media focus.
Expect to see a lot more of Prince William after father’s cancer diagnosis
Images of William, 41, were splashed across front-pages Thursday showing his return to front-line royal duties. He began his working day in a military uniform handing out medals at a ceremony at Windsor Castle. In the evening, he attended a gala dinner in London as patron of the London Air Ambulance charity, alongside actor Tom Cruise. There, William waved to people outside the venue and said that royal family members “really appreciate everyone’s kind messages” for his dad.
The Sun tabloid newspaper featured an image of the heir alongside the “Top Gun” actor with a headline: “Top Son.”
Publicist and royal commentator Mark Borkowski said the contrast in media treatment showed “just how deep the hatred of Harry is from the British media.” He said it was “unfair” to suggest his visit had been a “PR exercise” and that more likely, like everyone else, he was “shocked” by news of his father’s ill health and wanted to be with him.
Harry’s lightning-fast U.K. visit appears to suggest he has not healed a rift with his brother that he outlined in his book and high-profile media interviews.
In his 2021 interview with Oprah, Harry described his relationship with his brother as one of “space at the moment,” and since then their public interactions have been limited to funerals and coronations, with them largely pictured standing apart.
Harry has claimed their wives have had disagreements and that he had been left out of a royal plane ride as Queen Elizabeth II was dying in Scotland. Passages in his memoir also outlined an alleged physical fight between the brothers during an argument in 2019 in which he said William called Meghan “difficult” and “rude.” William and other royals have not publicly commented on the book.
Borkowski acknowledged that Harry’s “visceral” autobiography had probably “caused deep wounds between the family,” but suggested that the royals could in the future use more hands on deck, possibly including Harry.
It would take a lot to “rehabilitate Harry after all the disruption he has caused at the heart of the royal family,” he said, adding that “Harry could play a significant role but it’s a long way back to that place.”
Karla Adam and Jennifer Hassan contributed to this report.