Inside Harry’s fragile relationship with Charles – sweet name, let down, ‘total neglect’

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The growing rift between Prince Harry and his father Prince Charles shows little sign of being over.

Reports today have suggested that f ather and son have “barely spoken” over the last eight months and that relations between them are at an “all-time low”.

It is alleged the pair have had only a few “fraught” conversations on the phone since Harry and wife Meghan Markle quit their roles as senior royals and moved to California in 2020.

And since stepping down as a working royal, Harry has spoken out several times criticising his father and the wider Royal Family.

However, their bond hasn’t always been so strained – and Charles even stepped in to walk daughter-in-law Meghan down the aisle on her wedding day.

Prince Harry together with his father Prince Charles
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Here we look at Harry and Charles’ fragile relationship and what their future might bring…

Childhood days

Harry is the second son of Charles and his late ex-wife Princess Diana. They also have an older son, Harry.

Speaking in 1994, Charles told a documentary, he tried to spend as much time as he could with his young sons.

However, royal biographer Penny Junor once claimed that Charles had been a “remote figure”.

Prince Charles with a one-year-old Prince Harry
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Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

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She told the Daily Beast : “It is a slightly tricky relationship because Charles has always been quite a remote figure, he has always been consumed by work.

“That’s not a product of a lack of love. It’s a product of the fact he is so focused on his work, and the need to make a difference in the world that, like many people who are seeking to make a difference in the world, he has sometimes overlooked friends and loved ones beside him.”

Diana’s death

Princess Diana with a young Prince William and Harry
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As a young boy, Harry saw the breakdown of his parent’s marriage, which played out in the full media spotlight.

In 1997 – a year after Charles and Diana’s divorce was finalised – Diana died following a horrific car crash in Paris, leaving her two sons grief-stricken.

Both William and Harry were staying at Balmoral with Charles at the time, and it was down to their dad to break the terrible news to them.

In 2017, Harry praised Charles for the way he looked after both him and William in the wake of their tragic mother’s death.

In a BBC documentary, Harry said: “One of the hardest things for a parent to have to do is to tell your children that your other parent has died. How you deal with that, I don’t know. But, you know, he was there for us.

“He was the one out of two left and he tried to do his best to make sure that we were protected and looked after. But you know, he was going through the same grieving process as well.”

Closer than William

Also in 2017, Harry guest-edited The Today programme on BBC Radio 4, where he interviewed Charles – affectionately calling him ‘Pa’.

In the interview, Harry revealed how he values his father’s opinion saying: “I do end up picking your brains more now than I ever have done.”

Speaking earlier this year, royal expert and author Robert Jobson even remarked how Harry had been closer to his father than William.

Wedding woes

Charles walked Meghan up the aisle on her wedding day
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In 2016, Harry started dating his now-wife Meghan with the pair tying the knot at St George’s Chapel in Windsor in May 2018.

In the lead-up to the wedding, it was revealed that Meghan’s father Thomas would not be attending – prompting Charles to step in and walk Meghan part-way down the aisle.

Speaking about the moment, Harry told a 2018 BBC documentary: “I asked him to and I think he knew it was coming, and he immediately said ‘yes, of course, I’ll do whatever Meghan needs and I’m here to support you.’

“For him, that’s a fantastic opportunity to step up and be that support, and you know he’s our father so of course he’s going to be there for us.”

The wedding also took place just weeks before a special Buckingham Palace garden party was held to mark Charles’ 70th birthday.

There, Harry made a touching speech and said: “His enthusiasm and energy are truly infectious; it has certainly inspired William and I to get involved in issues we care passionately about and to do whatever we can to make a difference.

“In fact, many of the issues William and I now work on are subjects we were introduced to by our father growing up.”

Sandringham summit

After just over a year as working royals, Harry and Meghan decided they want to quit the Firm and step down from their roles.

A summit was held at Sandringham between the Queen, Harry, Charles and William to thrash out a deal – and Harry and Meghan eventually settled in California with young son Archie.

Earlier this year, the Mirror revealed that Charles had been working hard to keep in touch with his son and his family.

Oprah fallout

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during their interview with Oprah Winfrey
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VIA REUTERS)

In March 2021, both Harry and Meghan sat down for a tell-all chat with Oprah Winfrey, which proved explosive.

During the bombshell interview, Harry accused his dad of cutting him off financially and claimed he had stopped taking his calls.

“My family literally cut me off financially,” Harry said in March.

“I’ve got what my mum left me, and without that, we would not have been able to do this. I think she saw it coming,” Harry said, adding that it was the inspiration behind Harry and Meghan seeking to land a Netflix deal.

Harry also said he felt “really let down” by his father, saying: “He knows what pain feels like.

“Of course I will always love him but there’s a lot of hurt that’s happened and I will continue to make it one of my priorities to try and heal that.”

In addition, Harry has also appeared on the Apple TV series The Me You Can’t See, where he spoke about the royals’ “total neglect” and the Armchair Expert podcast, where he lashed out at Charles’s parenting.

Harry, Charles and William in 2018

He told the podcast : “When it comes to parenting, if I’ve experienced some form of pain or suffering because of the pain or suffering that perhaps my father or my parents had suffered, I’m going to make sure I break that cycle so that I don’t pass it on.

“It’s a lot of genetic pain and suffering that gets passed on anyway, so we as parents should be doing the most we can to try and say ‘you know what, that happened to me, I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen to you’.”

UK visits

Harry, Charles and William in 2014
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Shortly after the Oprah interview, the royals went into mourning after the death of Prince Philip at the age of 99.

It saw Harry return to the UK for the first time since quitting the Firm to attend his grandfather’s funeral.

Many pinned their hopes on the reunion of father and son being the catalyst for them to clear the air.

But following the service, Harry quickly returned to the US, where Meghan had remained as she was heavily pregnant with their daughter Lilibet.

A source told the Mirror at the time: “Harry didn’t expect everything to be completely back to normal but his feeling after seeing his family was there is a lot of ground to make up.

“Whether that is harder or easier to do on the other side of the world remains to be seen

“There is a lot of distrust in the camp and everything is still very, very raw.”

Harry also travelled to the UK several month later in July to unveil a statue of his late mother Princess Diana – but on this trip, didn’t see Charles.

‘Whacking’ Charles

It has recently been reported that Harry met with Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz in 2013 after the Saudi tycoon gave £50,000 to the prince’s charity and hinted he would give millions more.

Mahfouz later donated £1.5million to Charles’ Prince’s Foundation and received an honorary CBE months later. The Charity Commission has launched an investigation.

Mr Mahfouz denies any wrongdoing and Clarence House has previously said Charles had “no knowledge” of the alleged cash for honours scandal.

In a statement at the weekend, Harry said he severed ties with Mahfouz a year before he was presented the CBE and said he had “concerns” over the businessman’s ‘motives’.

And Angela Levin, Harry ’s biographe r, said: “He doesn’t mention Charles by name in his statement but it’s a clear case of one-upmanship.

“Harry looks for any occasion to whack his father and criticise him. It’s sad.”

Future relationship?

Harry and Charles on a skiing holiday with William in 2005
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Now in the wake of that statement, it is reported that Harry and Charles have barely spoken in eight months.

In fact, Charles is still yet to meet his six-month-old granddaughter Lilibet.

Next year, Harry is set to release a tell-all memoir, which he promises will be a “wholly-truthful and accurate” account of his life so far.

And author Andrew Morton, who famously wrote a biography on Princess Diana, says that Charles could be “in the firing line” again when Harry’s book is published.

He told the Royally Us podcast: “If I was Prince Charles, I’d be looking for a pile of coats to hide under.

“Because I think that the book that’s going to come out next year is written by someone who spends a lot of time investigating father-son relationships because he ghost-wrote a book on Andre Agassi, who had a difficult relationship with his father.

“So I think we’re going to see Charles once more in the firing line.

“So if I was Prince Charles, I’d be looking for a hard hat and a flak jacket.”

But according to The Sun, Charles, 73, is “keeping a dignified silence” about his relationship with his son.

And one former aide to The Telegraph : “The prince absolutely adores Harry. He will feel absolutely devastated by this; distraught.

“He’ll be beside himself if this means he also becomes more ostracised from his grandchildren. It’s such a sad state of affairs.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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