Prince William and Prince Harry Learned Very Different Lessons from Their Parents' Failed Marriage

As a result of their parents' divorce, Prince William and Prince Harry grew up to have very different approaches to love and marriage.

london, england april 26 prince william, duke of cambridge and prince harry attend the opening of the greenhouse sports centre on april 26, 2018 in london, united kingdom photo by toby melville wpa poolgetty images
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  • Prince Charles and Princess Diana's dramatic divorce (opens in new tab) shaped how both of their sons would go on to approach marriage.
  • According to royal biographer and historian Robert Lacey (opens in new tab), the brothers took opposite lessons from their parents' ordeal and those different views played a direct role in their current feud.
  • Whereas Prince William took a very cautious approach to love and marriage with Kate Middleton, Prince Harry was determined to follow his heart in marriage and moved very quickly in his relationship with Meghan Markle.

Prince William and Prince Harry (opens in new tab) were both very young when their parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana (opens in new tab), got divorced. Charles and Diana's split (opens in new tab) was very acrimonious and it shaped how William and Harry thought about marriage as adults. It did not, however, shape them in the same way.

In his new book Battle of Brothers: William and Harry: The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult (opens in new tab), royal biographer and historian Robert Lacey explains how Charles and Diana's dramatic divorce impacted William and Harry (opens in new tab) differently—and how those differences led to their current feud.

"We thought the disorder, chaos and tragedy of the ’80s and ’90s involving their parents were over. Now [it’s all] come back to life in the shape of these two boys. They are the legacy of all that heartache," Lacey said recently, according to Page Six (opens in new tab). "They both talk about the importance of mental health and acknowledge they are psychologically fragile. But they coped with it in different ways."

For Will, the lesson of his parents' divorce (opens in new tab) was to make sure that he never had to go through the same situation himself. Since he felt as though his mother was thrown into the world of the royal family too quickly, dooming the union from the start, he made sure not to make the same mistake in his marriage.

"When he meets Kate Middleton at university, he actually makes the poor young woman wait nine years to effectively audition her for the job as wife to the head of state. He took the lesson of duty," Lacey explained of Will's response to the trauma of his parents' divorce.

Harry, on the other hand, seems to have walked away with a different interpretation of what caused his parents' split—not really being in love to begin with (Charles was famously still hung up on Camilla Parker-Bowles (opens in new tab), with whom he would go on to have an affair and eventually marry).

"His attitude was: 'Well, I’m not going to make the same mistake as my parents,'" Lacey said. ''I’m marrying for love.' And he’s been so happy and proud to proclaim he loved Meghan virtually from the moment he met her in 2016. That impulse has guided him."

These very different approaches to love fueled the brothers' feud, according to Lacey.

"The rift gets more serious with every passing day," he said.


Kayleigh Roberts is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional experience. Her byline has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Allure, Entertainment Weekly, MTV, Bustle, Refinery29, Girls’ Life Magazine, Just Jared, and Tiger Beat, among other publications. She's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.