In 2022, to call Prince William and Prince Harry’s relationship strained would be an understatement. But longtime royal followers remember the once seemingly rock-solid camaraderie between brothers, which expanded to include William’s wife Kate Middleton after she married into the family in 2011. Today kicks off the 2022 Commonwealth Games—the first time they have been held in the U.K. since 2014. Eight years ago, the trio of William, Harry, and Kate attended events together, and looking back on photos of them lays bare even more starkly how much has changed in the family dynamic.
According to body language expert Judi James, per The Mirror, as the threesome took in the likes of hockey and gymnastics, the brothers performed one telling gesture that gave away their once close bond.
“When there are people sitting in between them, the acute, mirrored angle of lean that Harry and William perform to allow themselves to have closeness and a more intimate conversation suggests they’d be happier sitting together, having playful fun,” James says.
In many photos captured from the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Kate sits in between her husband and her brother-in-law.
“Kate is never seen to be left out, though,” she says. “This was very much a team of three, and Harry often appeared to offer Kate more moments of shared, relaxed fun and laughter than William did. He is very much the animated comic here who goes out of his way to make his brother and sister-in-law laugh.”
James also specifically noted Harry’s “bright demeanor,” The Mirror reports, “a stark contrast to later images of him with his brother and sister-in-law.” She also pointed out that William and Kate were happy to indulge the now Duke of Sussex as he became the center of attention.
“Harry was the guy who sparkled the brightest and who made his brother less stuffy in the process,” James says. “He made a cautiously self-aware Kate giggle and grin on a regular basis, and he must have made royal duties a load more fun.”
Much has changed since, she says.
“Comparing Harry’s demeanor here to his recent, often dour facial expressions or the haunted eyes we saw as he quit the U.K. after tumbling headlong out of this sibling closeness, we can also see that the benefits of the original relationship were emphatically two- or three-way,” James says. “Looking at the fun, funny, naughty, and animated Harry here is like a real glimpse of recent but forgotten history.”
This isn’t to say that tensions might not have already existed in 2014, James says—certainly knowing that eager trolls will gladly say that Harry had not yet met future wife Meghan Markle, and that’s why he looks so happy.
“It would be naïve to suggest there weren’t some kind of resentments or competitive behaviors already in place by now, but it looks very much as though the benefits of the relationships clearly outweighed them,” she says. “While Harry stands grinning happily and with his arms folded in a relaxed, high-status gestures, William is self-diminishing, standing with his hands in the self-protective fig leaf position that allows Harry to look like the star of the show.”
Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.
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