Prince Harry’s relationship with Prince William reached a pivotal moment after Harry broke down in tears during a public speech.
The Duke of Sussex revealed in a less widely discussed section of his book, Spare that William believed therapy had brainwashed him and that he was “unwell” as late in their relationship as October 2019.
The exchange has echoes of their mother, Princess Diana’s experiences of royal life, including telling the BBC in 1995 that her depression “gave everybody a wonderful new label—Diana’s unstable and Diana’s mentally unbalanced.”
However, perhaps the most striking thing about the exchange is the way Harry says he goes back to their messages and re-reads them: “I saved the texts. I have them still. I read them sometimes, with sadness, with confusion, thinking: How did we ever get there?”
And he seemingly viewed the argument, a month before he left Britain for Canada, as the moment he realized: “I was a stranger to my older brother.”
The prince does not give the full details of the exchange, and it is possible that his wife, Meghan Markle was among the subjects they argued about. However, Harry appears to view his own emotional growth through therapy as a central catalyst for the fact they did not see eye-to-eye.
Harry describes breaking down in front of cameras as he gave a speech at the WellChild Awards in October 2019 while discussing the earliest days of Meghan’s pregnancy a year earlier.
“Soon after, I got a text from Willy,” Harry wrote. “He was in Pakistan on tour. He said I was clearly struggling, and he was worried about me. I thanked him for his concern, assured him I was fine. I’d become emotional in front of a roomful of sick kids and their folks just after becoming a father myself—nothing abnormal in that.
“He said I wasn’t well. He said again that I needed help. I reminded him that I was doing therapy. In fact, he’d recently told me he wanted to accompany me to a session because he suspected I was being ‘brainwashed,’” Harry continued.
“‘Then come,’ I said. ‘It will be good for you. Good for us.’ He never came.”
Harry said they had an argument over text messages that spanned 72 hours while William was on an international tour of Pakistan.
While the prince does not say so in his book, they were also days away from the broadcast of an ITV documentary in which Meghan famously said she was not okay and Harry acknowledged he and William were on separate paths, which had been recorded weeks early while the Sussexes were in South Africa.
“His strategy was patently obvious,” Harry wrote. “I was unwell, which meant I was unwise. As if all my behavior needed to be called into question.”
“Back and forth we went,” he continued, “all day, late into the night—we’d never had a fight like that over text before. Angry, but also miles apart, as if we were speaking different languages.
“Now and then I realized that my worst fear was coming true: after months of therapy, after working hard to become more aware, more independent, I was a stranger to my older brother. He could no longer relate to me—tolerate me.
“Or maybe it was just the stress of the last few years, the last few decades, finally pouring out. I saved the texts. I have them still. I read them sometimes, with sadness, with confusion, thinking: How did we ever get there?
“In his final texts, Willy wrote that he loved me. That he cared for me deeply. That he would do whatever is needed to help me. He told me to never feel any other way,” Harry wrote.
A month later, in November, Harry and Meghan left Britain for Canada and by January 2020 announced they were stepping back from royal duties.
Harry and William had already been through much by the time these exchanges took place. Arguments between Harry and Meghan on the one side and William and Kate Middleton on the other appear to have their origins in events that took place before the Sussex wedding in May 2018.
Back then, Spare describes how Meghan offended Kate by suggesting she had “baby brain,” and by June tensions had become heated enough for William to accuse Meghan of rudeness.
That summer, Harry described how the shared private office had a “poisoned” atmosphere, and staff were seen hunched over desks weeping. William blamed the friction on Meghan.
By October 2018, Kensington Palace press secretary Jason Knauf accused Meghan in an internal email of bullying two PAs out, and by January 2019 Meghan was experiencing suicidal thoughts against the backdrop of a wave of media hostility towards her.
Then Harry and Meghan formally split from William and Kate creating a new private office under the umbrella of Buckingham Palace, also earlier in 2019.
In other words, much of the split between Harry and William had already happened by the time of their 72-hour argument.
Harry had also already gone on the record about the rift in the ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey.
In footage shot on October 2, the prince told interviewer Tom Bradby, a family friend: “We’re certainly on different paths at the moment.”
The documentary was filmed during their tour of Southern Africa over September and early October during which they also announced they were suing three newspaper groups in the United Kingdom.
It was on returning home that Harry gave the WellChild speech where he teared up as he said: “Last year when my wife and I attended we knew we were expecting our first child. No one else did at the time, but we did.
“And I remember squeezing Meghan’s hand so tight during the awards, both of us thinking what it would be like to be parents one day, and more so, what it would be like to do everything we could to protect and help our child should they be born with immediate challenges or become unwell over time.
“And now, as parents, being here and speaking to all of you pulls at my heartstrings in a way I could have never understood until I had a child of my own.”
Days after that speech, the African Journey documentary was broadcast. Harry’s first acknowledgment of the rift with William was the first public statement by any royal on the subject.
Afterward, Kensington Palace sources briefed the media that William was concerned about his brother, who he believed was in a “fragile” place, echoing William’s private comments to Harry.
Omid Scobie, who went on to write the bestselling Harry and Meghan biography Finding Freedom, told ABC at the time: “Kensington Palace sources say that William actually watched the documentary with the rest of the nation and they say that he was worried about what he saw on the screen. He said that he has concerns for Harry, that he thinks he is fragile.”
William Brown is Regalrumination.com‘s chief royal correspondent based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @TheCrownUp and read his stories on Regalrumination.com’s The Royals Facebook page.
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