It’s been a hard few years for the royal family’s image, and Prince William and Kate have been admirably picking up the slack. But Tina Brown, magazine editrix and author of The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor, the Truth and the Turmoil (opens in new tab), says that the pressure isn’t sustainable for the couple, and Prince Harry may need to consider a return.
First, the “Firm” had to do some serious “damage control” when, in 2019, Prince Andrew gave a disastrous interview about sexual assault allegations against him by Virginia Giuffre. That caused a slow meltdown, during which time “Abolish the Monarchy” trended on Twitter and it became clear that Andrew was poison to the royals. By early 2022, he was stripped of his royal titles and responsibilities and was out of sight at royal family functions.
Losing one royal to scandal was probably tricky to square for a family whose motto appears to be “don’t even acknowledge the problem.” But Andrew’s exit also coincided with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle kissing their royal duties goodbye to live a life of relative peace in Montecito, California. Losing the well-loved couple likely caused a major blow to the public’s perception of the monarchy as a stable institution, and turned up the pressure on Prince William and Kate to pick up the slack. (The shocking Oprah interview, in which Harry and Meghan talked about their ill treatment at the hands of the rest of the family, sure didn’t help.)
Brown, in a conversation with the Guardian’s podcast Today in Focus podcast (reported on by The Independent), speculated that the “excessive pressure” on William and Kate was likely unsustainable. “It’s looking a bit skeletal, because they weren’t supposed to be losing Andrew or Harry, so a bit of a problem, that slimmed-down monarchy, at the moment,” she said. “I think there is a great effort to try to make everybody focus on the heir, Charles, and William and Kate. But there is a lot of pressure on that.”
While Prince Charles has said for years that he intends to create a “slimmed-down monarchy” when he eventually takes the throne, the abruptness with which the royal family lost three previously very present members—in ways that cased scandal for the Palace—was likely not what he imagined.
“I do think at a certain point they are going to need Harry back, particularly probably after the Queen dies, because he was an asset,” Brown said.
The unanswered question, of course, remains: Given all the bad blood reportedly bubbling between Prince William and Prince Harry, would Harry’s return even be possible?
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