A newly released royal book claims that the then Prince Charles wasn’t a “present” father with his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, when the pair were teenagers—with both boys often not being able to get in touch with their dad, author Katie Nicholl claims. Charles became a single parent after the tragic death of the boys’ mother, Princess Diana, in 1997, when William was 15 and Harry just 12.
Because Charles didn’t pay them enough attention, the boys acted out and became rebellious, according to Nicholl’s latest book, The New Royals: Queen Elizabeth’s Legacy and the Future of the Crown, which was released earlier this month. According to the book, the princes were often left to their own devices following Diana’s death, as Charles was “busy” with work and his longtime love, the then Camilla Parker-Bowles.
“With a busy work schedule and Camilla now very much a priority in his private diary, Charles placed too much trust in William and Harry to look after themselves,” Nicholl writes, per Insider.
As teenagers, William and Harry attended the elite boarding school Eton College, but also spent time at their father’s home, Highgrove House—and Charles was rarely there, one of the now king’s former aides tells Nicholl.
“The boys wanted their independence, and they probably had too much of it,” the unnamed aide says. “Often when they wanted to speak to their father, he wasn’t around, and because he didn’t carry a cell phone with him, they would get frustrated that they couldn’t get a hold of him. If they needed him, they’d end up calling his protection officers so they could talk to him, which wasn’t ideal. They wanted to speak to their dad, but Charles doesn’t do calls on the hoof or texting; he likes to make time for considered conversations.”
Nicholl also writes that Charles relied on close family friends to help raise his sons, and that William and Harry spent ample time at the homes of their former nanny, Tiggy Legge-Bourke, and their friends, the Van Cutsems. When they weren’t supervised by these surrogate families, the princes got into trouble, according to Her late Majesty’s cousin, Lady Elizabeth Anson, who spoke to Nicholl before her death in November 2020.
“At Highgrove on weekends, the boys could be at a loose end because Charles wasn’t always around,” she told Nicholl.
The parties were so frequent that Highgrove began to be known as “Club H,” and by 2001—when Harry was just 17—he was drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes at an inn near the home, according to Nicholl.
“Those who knew turned a blind eye, but when an aide recognized the unmistakable smell of marijuana emanating from Club H, the young prince was busted,” Nicholl writes.
The fallout from that incident led to William and Harry’s first rift, as only Harry got in trouble, though William was there at the time, too, Nicholl writes.
Rachel Burchfield is a writer whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family. In addition to serving as the royal editor at Marie Claire, she has worked with publications like Vogue, Vanity Fair, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. She cohosts Podcast Royal, a show that provides candid commentary on the biggest royal family headlines and offers segments on fashion, beauty, health and wellness, and lifestyle.
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