Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were ‘edged out’ of the royal family because their ‘rock star’ status threatened to ‘overshadow’ the Queen, William, and Kate, a royal expert has claimed.
According to Robert Lacey – author of Battle of Brothers, a new book that examines the rift between Harry, 36, and Prince William, 38 – the younger sibling was the victim of a certain ‘cruelty’ from the royal family as a result of his role as the ‘spare’ heir.
In an interview with GMA, the royal expert claimed that this left the Duke of Sussex with a long-harbored resentment towards the Firm, which was then made all the more severe when he and Meghan, 39, began to be ‘edged out’ by aides who felt that they were taking too much attention away from the more senior members of the family.
Competition? A royal expert and author has claimed that Prince Harry and Meghan were ‘edged out’ by senior royal aides who felt they were ‘overshadowing’ Prince William and Kate
Tension: Robert Lacey, author of new book Battle of Brothers, says that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex became the ‘rock stars’ of the royal family, which did not sit well with senior royals
‘The British royal system can be very cruel, and it’s particularly cruel to the spare,’ Lacey said, adding: ‘”Harry came to realize in his teens that he was typecast as the court jester, the number two.’
The author notes that the royals have a history of ‘problems’ with the ‘heir and the spare’, noting that Princess Margaret – younger sister to the Queen – and Prince Andrew, whose older brother is Prince Charles, who is next in line to the throne.
‘Cruelty’: Lacey told GMA that the royal family has a history of being ‘cruel’ to ‘spare’ heirs like Prince Harry, and said that the Duke of Sussex had been unhappy about this for years
‘They start off in the public eye as playmates, as co-stars with the heir,’ Lacey explained.
‘And what’s their destiny? To be pushed down the line of succession as babies come along, marriages come along.
‘There was trouble with Margaret. There was trouble with Andrew. And now we have the same thing with Harry.’
Lacey suggests that Harry’s unhappiness with his role as the ‘spare’ only continued to grow stronger over the years, particularly as they grew older and it became increasingly obvious that William – and his wife Kate – were being primed to take over the throne, while the younger sibling was given less attention and status.
However when the Duke of Sussex met his wife, Meghan, everything changed.
The royal author describes the former Suits star as a ‘megawatt woman’ who ‘inspired’ and ‘transformed’ Harry, encouraging him to take control of his own life, rather than simply living by the traditional rules and regulations of the royal family.
With Meghan as the driving force, she and Harry quickly became the ‘rock stars’ of the royal family, Lacey explained. But while that may have done great things for the public reputation of the centuries-old monarchy, their increasingly popularity did not sit well with senior aides behind closed doors.
Upset: The author called attention to the fact that most ‘spare heirs’ start out as equals to their older siblings, however over time this changes – as it did with William and Harry (seen in 1995)
Early star: Lacey claims that Prince William became much more ‘serious’ from the age of six or seven, leaving Harry to take up the role of ‘court jester’
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex bucked almost every royal tradition, which caused issues within Buckingham Palace – particularly between Meghan and the senior royal aides, who struggled to accept that the former actress wasn’t willing to simply adapt to customs and practices that had been in place for centuries.
‘I think Meghan’s a force of nature that maybe Buckingham Palace hasn’t worked out how to cope with. She is a woman of great conviction,’ Lacey told GMA, adding that he believes there is a ‘clique’ of aides and royals ‘who’ve got it in for Meghan’ and did all they could to suppress her star power.
This, coupled with concerns about Meghan and Harry overshadowing the most senior members of the firm – the Queen, Prince Charles, William, and Kate – prompted palace aides to work on ways to ‘edge out’ the couple, Lacey claims.
Small steps were taken to suppress the popularity and public status of the couple, with one of the first major signs coming in December 2019, when the Queen made her annual Christmas speech.
Lacey pointed out that the monarch failed to mention Meghan and Harry by name during the address, and while she called attention to the birth of their son, Archie, her eighth great-grandchild, she did not actually say the newborn’s name.
There was also a very clear step taken to reduce their visibility during the speech. In 2018, a picture of the couple on their wedding day was placed in the background of the shot of the Queen, and Meghan and Harry featured in a family portrait that was placed on her desk. However in 2019, the couple were nowhere to be seen.
Instead, the monarch made her speech at her desk, which featured a photo of Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince Philip, her late father George VI, and a portrait of William, Kate, and their three children.
Signs: Royal aides conspired to ‘edge’ out Harry and Meghan, Lacey claims, through small but clear steps, like removing their picture from the Queen’s desk for her 2019 Christmas speech
Message: Buckingham Palace also released a new portrait of Her Majesty and her three heirs, which Lacey says was meant to send a message to Harry and Meghan – ‘remember your place’
Top of the line: The January 2020 portrait came just four years after the four royals were first photographed together, to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday in April 2016
‘The message here is very clear,’ Lacey said. ‘These people are in the second rank. And the people who matter are, look, myself, the queen, Charles, William, and little Prince George.’
This ‘message’ was hammered home again just days later, when Buckingham Palace released a new portrait of the Queen and her heirs, Prince Charles, Prince William, and his eldest son Prince George.
The portrait, which was captured to mark the start of a new decade, came just four years after the first portrait of Her Majesty and the three heirs, which was released in April 2016 to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday.
‘I think the underlying message of that is, “Just remember your place, Harry and Meghan. These are the people that really matter in the royal family. And you are the backup. And you’re trying to play too prominent a role,”‘ Lacey said.
All of this contributed to Harry’s feelings of anger and frustration, which weighed heavily on the whole family when it came time to hammer out arrangements for the couple to step down as senior royals – a move that is widely known as ‘Megxit’.
The royal expert’s latest comments come just days after he suggested that Meghan might ‘pedal back’ on some of her more woke speeches after realizing it puts Harry’s relationship with his family at risk.
The Duchess of Sussex has recently been outspoken on a range of hot-button issues including the addictive nature of social media, Black Lives Matter and voter suppression.
But Lacey said it has dawned on Meghan that her speaking out about ‘more extreme’ subjects could be detrimental to her husband’s position within the royal family .
He also claimed that the Duke of Cambridge has been proved ‘right’ to have concerns about the former actress causing ‘problems’ within the Firm.
Taking a stand: Lacey described Meghan as a ‘force of nature’, and claimed that Buckingham Palace wasn’t sure how to handle someone who wouldn’t bend to royal tradition
New normal: Since leaving the royal family, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been incredibly outspoken about a number of hot-button issues, from racism to voter suppression
Backing off? Lacey has also suggested that Meghan may ‘pedal back’ her woke views after becoming aware of the damage she might be doing to Harry’s relationship with his family
Lacey – who is a historical consultant on Netflix series The Crown – states in his book that William asked his uncle, Princess Diana’s brother Charles Spencer, to advise Harry against rushing into his marriage with Meghan.
Speaking on True Royalty TV’s The Royal Beat, he said: ‘Meghan is a self-made woman; she becomes a star; she becomes a self-made millionairess.
‘I think when William sat down with Harry and said there could be problems, I think events have proved him right.’
He added: ‘Meghan acknowledged that it’s risky for her family to get involved in controversial issues.
‘Maybe she’s simply talking about the physical risk that exists in America for anybody, because of the way politics has become so volatile and violent there… but I think that she has come to realize how [some of her] speeches risk her husband’s relationship with the family and perhaps she may pedal back on some of these more extreme positions.’
In October alone, Meghan has made six digital appearances, from serving as a speaker at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Virtual Summit this week to her first podcast and a pre-recorded conversation with Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai last weekend.
In her most recent virtual discussion, Meghan made a bold comparison between social media users and drug addicts – and was later accused of ‘ripping off’ the ideology from Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, an investigative movie that examines the hidden dangers of social media.
At the end of September, Harry and Meghan sparked furious backlash when they spoke out about the upcoming US election in a video for Time 100 that saw harry urge people to ‘reject hate speech’, while Meghan referred to the presidential race as ‘the most important election of our lifetime’.
Although the couple did not voice their support for one candidate in particular, their words made waves on both sides of the Atlantic and were seen as anti-Donald Trump, including by the President himself.
Their decision to make any statement about the presidential election is also in direct opposition to the royal family’s policy of maintaining political neutrality.
Lacey said he finds the Duke and Duchess of Sussex ‘too preachy’ and claimed William, who recently launched his ambitious Earthshot Prize, does more for some progressive causes than his brother and sister-in-law.
‘People have said the Windsors don’t do “woke,”‘ he explained. ‘They don’t know how to handle progressive causes.
Guide: The royal expert said Meghan was a ‘megawatt woman’ who ‘transformed’ and ‘inspired’ Prince Harry to strive for more in his life than his assigned royal role
Opposing sides: Lacey said he finds Harry and Meghan ‘too preachy’ and claimed William does more for some progressive causes than his brother and sister-in-law
‘However, I think William does it rather well. He does it better than Meghan and Harry. This couple, in a way, are too extreme.’
Lacey also claimed Prince William refused to attend a lunch with the Queen and his brother to clear the air before the Sandringham Summit.
He said Harry’s behavior ‘infuriated William to the extent that when the Queen alright, let’s have a meeting to talk about all this – she said, beforehand [the summit] we will have a family lunch to talk things over – William actually said “No, I do not want to come to the lunch, I will come and negotiate over the table” but he would not sit down at the family lunch with Harry’.
Lacey also suggested that, should Harry’s role of Head of the Royal Marines be given to William, it would signal ‘the end’ of their relationship.
‘I think that will mark the rift,’ he said. ‘I think that they have kept that position open for him [Harry] if he wants to come back into the family and if they are going to give it to William, I think that is the end of it [the relationship between the boys].’
This week it emerged Harry and Meghan will host a special edition of TIME100 Talks on the State of Our Shared Digital Experience on Tuesday.
Themed around the topic of ‘Engineering a Better World,’ the special episode is set to reflect the couple’s focus on building online communities that are more compassionate, safe, and trustworthy.
The Sussexes will also discuss what that means for supporting and accelerating progress on critical issues like gender equity, racial justice, and climate change.