William yesterday became the first senior Windsor to address directly the string of allegations made by Harry and Meghan in their explosive Oprah Winfrey interview.
He also confirmed the depth of the rift between him and his brother.
William admitted he had not even spoken to Harry about the TV show – four days after it aired. His reaction laid bare his clear hurt over the claims made by his brother and sister-in-law.
The prince’s comments were praised by insiders, who said the 38-year-old did ‘very well given the emotion and enormity of it all’.
Last night, royal insiders claimed that although William and Harry have not spoken in months, the elder brother is prepared to stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the Duke of Sussex at the unveiling of a statue of their late mother.
Sources told the Mirror ‘both camps are prepared to come together’ and put on a ‘united front’ when the tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales is installed at Kensington Palace on July 1.
The source added: ‘Tensions are undoubtedly running high but they both realise it is important to put any differences aside for the ceremony at least.
‘There is definitely a feeling that both camps are prepared to come together and put on a united front for such a special occasion.’
Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, the official homes of the Queen and the Prince of Wales, were both said to be supportive of William’s solo intervention on Thursday.
The prince was speaking as he and his wife Kate visited a school in east London to support a youth mental health support service.
Aides had initially insisted the couple would not answer questions about the interview because it would ‘not be appropriate’ in a school setting.
This is not unusual on official engagements because royals like to keep the focus on the issue and the individuals they are supporting. But it is understood the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were also determined not to amend their programme to avoid the subject.
When Sky News reporter Inzamam Rashid shouted out two questions on their departure William did not blink. ‘Sir, have you spoken to your brother since the interview?’ he asked.
The prince replied tersely: ‘I haven’t spoken to him yet, but I will do.’
The Daily Mail understands that the once-inseparable brothers have not spoken for months. As William and Kate walked on, the reporter persisted: ‘Can you just let me know, is the Royal Family a racist family?’
William turned so his voice could be heard and said, clearly and firmly, despite his mask: ‘We’re very much not a racist family.’
The frustration in his voice, and on his face, was clear. Kensington Palace declined to comment, saying the duke had said all he wished to say.
But sources confirmed that the questions were entirely spontaneous and the prince – although expecting a reporter might try to ask him something – had no idea what that might be.
His firm rebuttal came after Buckingham Palace issued a statement on Tuesday on behalf of the Queen expressing the family’s sadness at learning the ‘full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan’.
The statement said the issues they raised, particularly that of race, were very ‘concerning’.
But it made clear that the Queen and other senior royals were keen to stand their ground, adding: ‘While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.’
It is obvious from his comments yesterday that William is one of the family members whose recollections are markedly different to those of the Sussexes.
In their two-hour conversation with US chat show host Miss Winfrey, Harry and Meghan attacked the Royal Family from all sides.
The claimed they had experienced open racism from family members and staff, and alleged a member of Harry’s family even expressed ‘concern’ about ‘how dark’ their unborn son would be.
They also said the family had been uniquely unsupportive of the pressures they were going through, leaving Meghan feeling suicidal and fuelling their decision to quit the UK.
Harry said he felt let down by his father, who, he claimed, refused to take his calls at one point, and admitted there was still a gulf between him and his brother.
Their accusations have left the Royal Family reeling and prompted a huge debate about the racism both within the monarchy and the UK more generally.
The fact that William was asked about the row on an official engagement shows what unprecedented territory the Royal Family has found itself in.
Buckingham Palace has seen its every word and action under scrutiny, with the claims prompting debate about the future of the monarchy in Commonwealth realms such as Australia, where the Queen is still head of state.
While it was clear yesterday that William had not wanted to be put in the position of discussing the falling-out with his brother and sister-in-law, neither had he wanted to be seen dodging the question.
He may even have wanted to get his personal rebuttal off his chest.
William and Kate were yesterday visiting School 21 in Stratford to mark the return to classes and the rollout to secondary schools of a mental health project for pupils that Kate launched in primary schools in 2018.
The course materials have been accessed a million times since the launch three years ago.
During the visit William and Kate talked to teachers about the benefits for pupils. They were welcomed by co-head teachers, Stephanie Shaldas and Edmund Coogan, and were introduced to some of the youngest pupils at a play session.
Kate, in a pink Max & Co coat, knelt down to talk to children in a pop-up cafe, while William helped a girl building a wall in the playground’s construction area.
Later he sat on a raised floor talking to a little boy who was brandishing a clipboard as Kate went to a water play area and then joined children in a sand pit hunting for treasure.
‘Is it fun to be back with all your friends?’ she asked them.
Kate and William then joined teachers and staff involved in the Mentally Healthy Schools project to talk about its aims and impact on children.
They sat in a circle outside the school because of Covid restrictions. After the television reporter’s questions were fired at William, it looked as though he may have apologised to Miss Shaldas for bringing his family’s traumas into the playground.
Andrea Silvain, a deputy head at the 1,200-pupil free school, said the last year of lockdowns had brought teachers and parents closer together and families had appreciated the help that the mental health website had given.
‘We’ve had some very positive feedback from parents,’ she said.
‘People have been through this lockdown together,’ William replied.
Children at School 21, which educates around 1,200 pupils aged from four to 18, will be given access to lessons on issues such as anxiety and depression.
Ironically, the lessons are on a website financed from an initial £800,000 grant from the then royal foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
Kate has championed the idea of early intervention by experts to help children struggling with mental health problems.
Research shows that one in ten youngsters suffers from some kind of mental health issue, often because of problems in the family such as abuse, addiction, neglect or marital breakdown.
On Thursday, Duchess of Sussex’s biographer has published an email in which she demands aides release a statement claiming Kate drove her to tears at a bridesmaid dress fitting.
Omid Scobie wrote yesterday that Harry and Meghan’s exasperation with officials came to a head when Kensington Palace ‘urgently requested’ Harry join forces with them in co-signing a statement critical of a newspaper report.
He said the palace wanted him to deny an ‘offensive’ article in The Times in January 2020 which claimed that Prince William had ‘constantly bullied’ the Sussexes before they decided to quit royal duties.
He writes that a source revealed Meghan emailed an aide: ‘Well, if we’re just throwing any statement out there now, then perhaps KP can finally set the record straight about me [not making Kate cry].’ He then says she asks why her side of the story was never considered important to anyone at the palace.
‘But, as with many requests made by the couple, her suggestion was ignored,’ he writes. ‘The Duchess of Cambridge, she was told, should never be dragged into idle gossip.’
The article was written for the website of US magazine Harper’s Bazaar.
The email was clearly a private one, sent by Meghan to only two or three of her most senior staff at most.
Its quoting in full raises the question of how it came into the author’s possession and was it leaked by the Duchess of Sussex herself?
If not, then surely, critics asked yesterday, she would be complaining that a private email had been published without her knowledge.
The issue is one that has clearly irked Meghan for some time as she raised it in her interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday night.
The original story, published in a British broadsheet newspaper in 2018, claimed that Meghan had made Kate cry during a fitting for Princess Charlotte’s bridesmaid dress, possibly in a row over whether she should wear tights.
In the programme Meghan says: ‘The truth? The reverse happened. A few days before the wedding, she was upset about something – yes, the issue was correct, about the flower girl dresses – and it made me cry and it really hurt my feelings.’
She went on to claim that Kate apologised and brought her flowers and ‘took accountability for it’.
But Meghan said that no one at the palace was willing to help her set the record straight, even when friends asked if they could dispute the story for her through the media.
‘Everyone in the institution knew it wasn’t true,’ Meghan told Miss Winfrey, who asked: ‘So why didn’t somebody just say that?’ Meghan replied: ‘That’s a good question.’
Mr Scobie, who co-authored the Sussexes’ biography Finding Freedom, went on to accuse Buckingham Palace of ‘failing to acknowledge racism’ aimed at a mixed-raced senior royal and questioned the monarchy’s commitment to the ethnically diverse Commonwealth.
And shockingly, Mr Scobie wrote: ‘If it’s not considered appropriate to acknowledge racism or racial ignorance when aimed at a mixed-raced senior royal, then how should the 54 countries of the Commonwealth and its predominantly black, brown, and mixed population feel about the realm’s figurehead belonging to an institution that claims to celebrate ‘diversity’ but in practice appears to uphold white supremacy?’
Since the screening of the interview, a raft of close friends and supporters have been given permission to push their case on social media and over the airwaves.
The actress, who has known Meghan for 17 years, said: ‘Though their recollections may vary, ours don’t.’
She also said the duchess gave her backing before she appeared on TV – despite Meghan reportedly agreeing a period of silence to cool tensions with the Palace.
Gavankar appeared on ITV’s This Morning to insist the Sussexes were confident of their claims.
She said: ‘After reading this short statement that came out from Buckingham Palace today, I felt two things.
‘One side, I thought: I am so thankful that they are finally acknowledging the experience.
‘But on the other side, I am well aware that the family and the staff were well aware of the extent of it, and though their recollections may vary, ours don’t, because we lived through it with them. There are many emails and texts to support that.’
While Gavankar stressed she was not speaking on Meghan’s behalf, she revealed she had talked to the duchess before being interviewed.
Asked by presenter Phillip Schofield if she had spoken to Meghan about coming onto the show, she replied: ‘Oh yes, absolutely, I talk to them of all the time.
‘We watched the special together, actually. We’re all happy that we are in a new era, we get to tell the truth.’
It other updates over the interview fallout today –
- The Queen is planning to reach out to the Sussexes by phoning them in California as she believes now is the time for a more personal approach;
- Sir Keir Starmer says allegations of royal racism made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are a ‘matter now for the family’;
- Jacob Rees-Mogg reads out the national anthem when asked to allow MPs to debate the role of the monarchy, amid concerns over the ‘family dispute’ being aired in public;
- Figures show Good Morning Britain lost 80,000 viewers the day after Piers Morgan sensationally quit as its rival BBC Breakfast gained 200,000 as a result;
- Details emerge of a ‘bizarre warning’ Harry and Meghan’s PR team reportedly sent to the BBC telling them to not only use ‘old white men’ in their coverage of the interview;
- US right-wing commentator Candace Owens backs Piers Morgan after his departure from GMB after a complaint from Meghan;
- Sharon Osbourne fiercely defends her friend Piers on The Talk against a backlash from the entire panel who say he’s been ‘racist and sexist in coverage of Meghan’;
- Palace staff express dismay at Duchess’s claim she was left to sink or swim when she joined the Royal Family
- Questions raised over Meghan’s claim her passport was ‘confiscated’ as it emerged she took 13 foreign holidays.
Oprah was left open-mouthed when Meghan and Harry recounted that a family member – not the Queen or Duke of Edinburgh – had raised concerns about how dark their unborn son Archie’s skin tone might be.
There has been much speculation about which member of the royal family they were accusing of racism.
But during the interview the couple would not be drawn on who had deeply offended them.
ITV royal correspondent Chris Ship called today’s comment ‘unprecedented’.
He said: ‘It’s unprecedented for a senior royal to speak in this way.
‘And shows the fight they now have on their hands to repair their reputation following Meghan and Harry’s explosive claims.
‘Remember the Queen’s statement said ‘recollections may vary’.’
Trevor Phillips says that Oprah should have asked Harry and Meghan about the prince’s own past behaviour that could be considered racially insensitive.
In 2005, a young Harry had caused a stir, at just 20 years old, he dressed up for a party in a Nazi uniform, complete with swastika armband, sparking condemnation from politicians and Jewish human rights organisations.
After pictures of the outfit were published, an apology was issued on behalf of Harry for his ‘poor choice of costume’.
In 2006 Prince Harry was recorded calling an Asian army colleague a ‘P**i’ – and the footage was published three years later.
Harry said he had used the term without malice after the recording, taken in 2006, was released.
He was sent on an Army diversity course after the incident, where he referred to Ahmed Raza Khan as ‘our little P**i’ friend.
The prince apologised for any offence caused by the incident and Captain Khan, who was serving in the Pakistan army, insisted he took no offence, contemporary reports said.
Now Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph, reveals that writer and former politician Mr Phillips contacted him to give an opinion on the incendiary Oprah interview.
Writing for his diary in The Spectator, Mr Moore quotes the email from Mr Phillips, who says: ‘A genuinely interesting question about race would have been to ask the couple whether they had discussed Harry’s own past behaviour and remarks.
‘It would’ve been a big positive for them to talk candidly about how they got past that history, and possibly an injunction for people to be generous.’
Mr Moore then gives his own opinion: ‘Yes, Harry could have helped young white men trying to tiptoe through this minefield.’
Mr Phillips adds: ‘That’s assuming that Meghan actually knows about his past life — she seems remarkably ill-informed about the family she married into, even though it is the most famous and widely reported clan in history.’
Meghan said in the Oprah interview that she was so isolated and miserable as a working member of the royal family that she had suicidal thoughts.
She also said Harry told her that member of the royal family had expressed ‘concerns’ about the color of her baby´s skin before the birth of their son, Archie.
Members of the royal family are known for ignoring the occasional questions shouted to them by the media during royal visits.
Former BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said: ‘Imagine if Prince William had been in charge of the palace statement two days ago.’
It comes as the Queen is set to extend a personal olive branch to Harry and Meghan as she takes charge of the fallout from their bombshell television interview.
With senior royals still ‘reeling’ following a series of explosive allegations by the couple, she has issued a ‘three-line whip’ to prevent staff discussing the situation publicly.
It is understood that she intends to try to pour oil on troubled waters by reaching out to her grandson and his wife in California instead.
The 94-year-old monarch’s determination to seize the initiative is deemed to be a sensible one.
Harry said he felt let down by his father, who, he claimed, refused to take his calls over the whole Megxit saga.
During the interview, the 36-year-old also admitted there was still a huge gulf between him and his brother.
He also accused an unnamed member of his family of racism and said the lack of support he and his wife received from the other royals was behind their decision to quit the UK.
However both Harry and Meghan made a point of trying to ‘ring fence’ his grandparents from criticism, with the duchess saying how ‘wonderful’ and generous the Queen had been.
She also boasted of being able to call her without needing to speak to officials.
Harry also insisted he hadn’t ‘blindsided’ her with their decision to step down from royal duties as he had too much respect for his ‘colonel in chief’.
And he told Oprah to make clear in publicity for the show that the unidentified family member who Meghan claims expressed ‘concern’ about how ‘dark’ their child would be was neither of his grandparents.
Courtiers now hope and believe the Queen’s approach will help to ‘de-toxify’ such a volatile situation.
‘It is difficult to underestimate how shell-shocked everyone is by what has happened,’ a source told the Daily Mail.
‘People are literally reeling from what has happened and some staff would dearly love to publicly rebut some of what has been said about them.
‘But the Queen has taken a very measured, sensible approach. She is leading by example. This is a matter for her and the family to deal with.’
And although they had not been expecting to receive an easy ride, they were stunned at the ferocity of the allegations hurled in their direction.
There was significant internal debate as to whether to rebut many of them, but instead the Queen personally opted for a ‘compassionate but firm’ approach.
A statement on her behalf read: ‘The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan.
‘The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.’
She added: ‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members.’
The 61-word, three paragraph statement was in marked contrast to the three hours of interview Oprah boasted that Harry and Meghan had given her.
A source added: ‘There is a long way to go but hopefully things will start to move in the right direction in order for bridges to be built.’
It is hoped Harry and Meghan will now take the same approach.
Before the interview their PR team insisted it would be the ‘last word’ on the family rift.
Insiders fear even if Harry does manage to patch up relations with his family, irrevocable damage has been done.
Palace staff watched Harry and Meghan’s interview in horror as they claimed she was left completely unsupported when she joined the Royal Family, it emerged last night.
The Daily Mail can reveal there is genuine hurt that the couple have perpetuated the image that Meghan was cut adrift and left to fend for herself.
In fact, sources say, the duchess was given a string of the Queen’s most senior staff as ‘mentors’ after the couple became engaged, as well as being allowed to hand-pick her own 15-strong team of loyal and talented private office staff.
‘It is very disingenuous to make such a sweeping generalisation,’ one insider said.
‘There was a brilliant team of very experienced and loyal aides to help them. Sadly, she and Harry were willing to listen to no one. And that is the honest truth.’
The Queen even personally persuaded her long-standing and extremely popular former deputy private secretary Samantha Cohen, who had just handed in her notice after working for the Royal Household for the best part of two decades, to stay on and work for the couple.
She was their first joint private secretary, running their private and public lives rather like a chief of staff.
One of her main roles was to help navigate Meghan through the wedding and prepare her for royal life. These included regular tutoring sessions on everything from royal etiquette to diplomatic protocol at Kensington Palace.
Australian-born Mrs Cohen, a mother of three, was considered the safest pair of hands possible.
Having begun her career in the press office, rising to press secretary, and then moving to the Queen’s private office in 2010, she was the most senior woman in the household and one of the Queen’s key advisers, seen in the palace corridors as belonging to a more modern breed of royal executive.
‘The Queen gave her Sam, her most trusted, her safest set of hands,’ a source said. Yet Meghan told Oprah that while the Queen had personally been ‘wonderful’, she hadn’t received any guidance on how to behave as a royal – leaving her forced to google the National Anthem.
‘Unlike what you see in the movies, there’s no class on how to… how to speak, how to cross your legs, how to be royal,’ she said.
‘There was none of that training that might exist for other members of the family. That was not something that was offered to me.’
‘Nobody prepares you?’ asked Oprah.
Meghan confirmed this adding: ‘I’m sorry, but even down to, like, the National Anthem. No one thought to say, ‘Oh, you’re American. You’re not gonna know that’.
‘That’s me, late at night, googling… I don’t wanna embarrass them. I need to learn these 30 hymns for church.
‘All of this is televised. We were doing the training behind the scenes ’cause I just wanted to make them proud.’
She also revealed that on the first occasion she met the Queen, at Royal Lodge, Prince Andrew’s Windsor home, his ex-wife the Duchess of York – with whom he still lives – had to teach her how to strike a ‘deep curtsey’ as she had no idea what she would be required to do that in private.
Harry backed up his wife’s claims, saying one of the main reasons for their decision to quit royal duties was a ‘lack of support and lack of understanding’.
But several sources have told the Mail that their account ‘is not one anyone recognises’.
‘No one wants to get into a tit-for-tat but it is important to stress that this idea the duchess wasn’t helped with protocol, that no one taught her to curtsey, she had to google the National Anthem herself, isn’t true,’ said one.
It was alleged last week that Mrs Cohen was one of those members of staff who experienced bullying at Meghan’s hands, which has been denied by the Sussexes’ lawyers.
As well as being given the services of Mrs Cohen, Meghan was also put on speed dial to the Queen’s equerry, Ghanian-born Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah of the Household Cavalry.
Equerries are senior officers who help organise the Queen’s diary and official functions, often appearing at her side.
The Mail also understands that Meghan was able to lean on one of the Queen’s most senior ladies-in-waiting, Lady Susan Hussey, the widow of former BBC chairman Marmaduke Hussey and one Prince William’s godparents.
She has been the loyal friend and companion to the Queen since she joined the court in 1960 following the birth of Prince Andrew.
Like all ladies-in-waiting, Lady Susan accompanies Her Majesty on engagements and organises her diary, as well as dealing with her correspondence.
She is not paid for her services. Like Sam Cohen, there couldn’t have been a safer sounding board for the duchess to use,’ said a source.
‘Lady Susan is very approachable, as are all the ladies-in-waiting, and would have wanted to help in any way they could.
‘In fact it was said that all of the ladies-in-waiting came over to Kensington Palace to have tea with Harry and Meghan’s team… as a getting-to-know-you session.’
The calibre of the team made available to Meghan was, sources say, a sign of how committed Buckingham Palace was to supporting her.
‘The intimation from the interview was that Harry, and particularly Meghan, were on their own,’ one insider explained.
‘Of course no one could ever understand what it must be like being plunged into that world so quickly.
‘But that’s why this team was assembled. Contrary to what has been suggested, Buckingham Palace has learnt from the mistakes of the past and were determined to help them in any way they could. They wanted to make Harry and Meghan a success.
‘Unfortunately they didn’t want to listen. Harry was intrinsically distrustful of the institution and Meghan just really didn’t want to know.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Rebecca English and Rory Tingle