On historian and royal biographer Robert Lacey’s desk is a large envelope, still sealed. It contains draft chapters from his latest book, which — as is his custom — he sent to Buckingham Palace pre-publication.
It’s quite unusual for a royal writer to do this, but Lacey has always worked this way. In 1977, when he was more famous for being an investigative journalist, he wrote what is still regarded as the definitive biography of the Queen. Palace officials co-operated, and he was invited to have tea with senior courtiers.
He has never allowed his subjects to veto his work, but he says allowing them to see ‘parts, not all of a book’ in advance is courteous and allows those involved to challenge key points, if necessary.
‘It allows debate,’ he says. ‘If they don’t agree with something, we can argue it out.’
So he packed up the key chapters from his latest book and sent them off, fully aware that the Palace may not like some aspects of his forensic account of what is happening in the House of Windsor. He was a little surprised, though, when the package was returned to him, unopened, with a terse covering letter. In short, the Palace did not want to know.
Robert Lacey’s new book Battle Of Brothers picks apart the feud between Prince William and Prince Harry, a breach in the Royal family that is 'as dangerous as the Abdication', according to the Royal biographer
The historian sent off draft chapters from his latest book — as is his custom — to Buckingham Palace pre-publication. But he was surprised when the package was returned to him, unopened, with a terse covering letter. In short, the Palace did not want to know.
The problem? The book is called Battle Of Brothers, and it picks apart — in uncompromising detail — the feud between Prince William and Prince Harry. The Palace’s response, to a previously trusted and respected author — one whose aristocratic wife was a maid of honour at the Queen’s Coronation — speaks volumes, he thinks.
‘They took fright over the title, probably,’ says Robert, acknowledging that, had it been opened, the book might have had the effect of a grenade.
But the title is correct, and important. When I started to look into this supposed feud between the two princes, I didn’t believe it. I thought it was newspapers stirring up something that wasn’t there. I didn’t want to believe it, in truth. None of us does. Yet it most definitely exists. Actually, it’s worse than anyone thinks.
‘Some say, “Oh, it doesn’t matter. It will blow over.” But that’s not what historians will be saying in ten years’ time. If this breach between the brothers is not healed in some way it will come to stand with the Abdication crisis and the death of Diana as one of the traumas that changed the monarchy. There is time to change things in a positive direction, but at the moment the Palace is not working in that direction.’
‘They took fright over the title, probably,’ says Robert (pictured with wife Lady Jane Rayne) acknowledging that, had it been opened, the book might have had the effect of a grenade
Robert’s book — serialised in the Mail tomorrow and next week — paints a devastating picture of the fall-out from this breakdown in the once-close relationship between the two brothers. It traces the lives of both of them — and their very different spouses — from the moments they were born.
As we know, it is not the only new book to touch on the lives of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Its approach is very different, however, to that of Finding Freedom, by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, which tells the Harry and Meghan story from their point of view.
Too much so, he believes. ‘It is very much written in the old- fashioned adulatory style of royal eulogy,’ he says. Does he believe the couple were directly involved in briefing the authors? ‘Well, put it this way, there are some descriptions that could only have come from the lips of Harry or Meghan.’
For his own book, Robert spent months talking to royal insiders about when the cracks in the brothers’ relationship started to appear (spoiler alert: it happened earlier than you think), and, pointedly, how the system of monarchy conspired to fan the flames of resentment rather than broker a compromise between the two.
'If this breach between the brothers is not healed in some way it will come to stand with the Abdication crisis and the death of Diana as one of the traumas that changed the monarchy,' said Robert. Pictured: King Edward VIII abdicating the throne in December 1936
Edward VIII's abdication in order to marry American divorcee Wallace Simpson was seen as the greatest crisis for the monarchy in the 20th century. Pictured: The Duke and Duchess of Windsor standing on stone steps in Miami in 1941
Thanks to Robert’s reputation, countless individuals with direct knowledge of what happened agreed to help. Because of the sensitivities, the main sources declined to be named, ‘but there was no shortage of people who did want to talk, because this is an issue there is huge concern about’.
Robert, who is also a consultant on the Netflix series The Crown, once moved his family (he has three children with his first wife Sandi) to Jeddah to write a book on the Saudi royal family. He is impeccably connected. In 2012 he married widow Lady Jane Rayne, daughter of the 8th Marquess of Londonderry — but he points out that his professional reputation pre-dates all this.
Above all, he insists the relationship between the princes is critical to the future of the Royal Family. ‘It matters,’ he says. ‘It’s a question of values, even about the national morale. The idea of our modern royalty was built on the idea of these two brothers.
‘What you’ve got to realise is that the whole strategy of the monarchy was based on them sticking together. Meghan changed all that. She is difficult. She has an incredible and dangerous level of self-belief.
‘But the Palace got this very wrong, as it always does with the second-born. They always treat the second-born badly, not to say cruelly. It happened with Princess Margaret. It happened with Prince Andrew. It’s the classic heir and the spare thing. They just don’t know what to do with the spare. And they certainly didn’t know what to do with the spare’s wife.’
The battle referred to in the title is, he agrees, about ‘not just two brothers, two charming, talented but ultimately damaged young men’, but about wider battles. Love versus duty. Tradition versus reinvention.
What of the Prince of Wales? It’s noticeable that he’s largely absent from our conversation today. It has been a long time since William has sought counsel from his father, Robert suggests, instead looking to his grandmother for guidance
Today, in conversation, Robert is both passionate about his subject and despairing. Not a single soul comes out of the book looking particularly good.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as depicted in the book, are self-pitying, and assume an astonishing level of entitlement. Prince William is praised for having the duty gene but described as having a terrible temper. Even the Queen comes in for criticism. Harry is, by turns, hapless and hurt, but a young man who finds in Meghan an escape.
‘He finds new destiny,’ Robert says today. ‘He realised there was something rotten at the heart of royalness that is not for him.’
Then there is Diana, the late Princess of Wales, whom he describes as an ‘anti-royal’ — he points out the parallels with Meghan, going as far as to say ‘in her own way Meghan walks through minefields like Diana did. Metaphorical minefields’.
The Prince of Wales? It’s noticeable that he’s largely absent from our conversation today. Doesn’t he hold the key to bringing the feuding brothers back together?
When I started to look into this supposed feud between the two princes, I didn’t believe it. I thought it was newspapers stirring up something that wasn’t there. I didn’t want to believe it, in truth. None of us does. Yet it most definitely exists. Pictured: Meghan and Harry speak in a Zoom interview with the Evening Standard from their new £11million home in Santa Barbara
Its approach is very different, however, to that of Finding Freedom, by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, which tells the Harry and Meghan story from their point of view
It has been a long time since William has sought counsel from his father, Robert suggests. ‘William looks to his grandmother for his values, not to his father. He thinks his father has . . . lost his way. But perhaps there is still time for Charles to act. I hope so.’
The book gives the impression everyone has rather lost their way. Robert is careful not to apportion blame but does believe the Palace handled ‘the Meghan situation’ appallingly.
‘There is only one self-made millionaire in the Royal Family and that is Meghan Markle. If they had sat down with her at the start and said, “Let’s talk about the things you are interested in”, things might have been different.
‘They just sent her off to watch the Queen opening the Mersey Bridge. There is nothing wrong with that, but they made the mistake of dealing with the spare’s wife thinking she was just a routine royal. She was never going to be a routine royal.’
Nor should she have been, he argues. ‘I don’t want to go too deeply into the race thing, because that is another minefield altogether, but with Meghan the Royal Family had a mixed-race recruit, and for a monarchy that represents a mixed-race nation and a mixed-race commonwealth this was important. Is it any wonder Barbados and Jamaica are now saying, “We are signing off. We can do without the Queen, thank you very much.”
‘To have failed to hold on to their mixed-race recruit was a mistake.’
Didn’t the whole sorry mess come about because, as he puts it in the book, the ‘Windsors don’t do woke’?
‘They don’t do woke, but if they are to survive, the Windsors have to find their own way to do woke.’
Today, he thinks the baton is mostly in William’s hand, and warns that the history of tomorrow is being written today.
‘Does Prince William want to go down in history as the king who couldn’t hold his family together? This thing has to be resolved, one way or the other.’
Harry and Meghan demand end to 'structural racism' in Britain: Prince reveals his 'awakening' to racial issues and defends Diversity's BGT dance - while Meghan describes BLM protests in the US as 'a beautiful thing'
ByRory Tingleand Mark Duell for MailOnline
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex today demanded an end to 'structural racism' in Britain.
In a wide-ranging interview from their £11million California mansion, Prince Harry revealed his 'awakening' to the discrimination faced by black people after meeting his wife.
Meanwhile, Meghan Markle praised Black Lives Matter protests in America after the death of George Floyd as 'beautiful' - but said this only applied to 'peaceful protest' and admitted many people found them 'inflammatory'.
Speaking on Zoom to the Evening Standard, Harry also weighed in on Diversity's controversial BLM dance routine on Britain's Got Talent and said he was 'surprised' by the negative comments it had received.
In a separate article for the newspaper, the couple said: 'As long as structural racism exists, there will be generations of young people of colour who do not start their lives with the same equality of opportunity as their white peers. And for as long as that continues, untapped potential will never get to be realised.'
The interview is the latest in a long series of political comments by the couple, including last week when Harry intervened in the US election by urging voters to 'reject hate speech'.
The comments - which broke royal protocol - were widely interpreted as a call to vote out Donald Trump. They prompted Buckingham Palace to immediately distance themselves from Harry by noting he was 'not working member of the Royal Family'.
Scroll down for a full transcript.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex called for an end to structural racism in Britain in an interview today with the Evening Standard
The couple gave today's interview to the Evening Standard over Zoom from their new mansion in Santa Barbara, California. In key developments -Prince Harry said he had gone through an 'awakening' over racial issues after marrying Meghan Markle; He said London 'doesn't feel as diverse as it actually is' for BAME people despite being celebrated as a bastion of multiculturalism; Prince also defended dance troupe Diversity for their BLM-inspired dance and said he was 'surprised' by a wave of complaints to Ofcom; He said Zoom had allowed him 'as much as humanely possible' to stay in touch with organisations he supported in the UK; Meghan praised 'beautiful' Black Lives Matter protests in the US and said they were of 'historical significance'; Said life was 'so good' after moving to California and she was enjoying watching baby Archie grow up.
'Because I wasn't aware of so many of the issues and so many of the problems within the UK and also globally as well. I thought I did but I didn't.'
'You know, when you go in to a shop with your children and you only see white dolls, do you even think: 'That's weird, there is not a black doll there?' And I use that as just one example of where we as white people don't always have the awareness of what it must be like for someone else of a different coloured skin, of a black skin, to be in the same situation as we are where the world that we know has been created by white people for white people.'
'It is not about pointing the finger, it is not about blame. I will be the first person to say, again, this is about learning. And about how we can make it better. I think it is a really exciting time in British culture and British history, and in world culture. This is a real moment that we should be grasping and actually celebrating. Because no one else has managed to do this before us.'
On Diversity's BLM dance routine:
'We spoke to Ashley Banjo a few weeks ago, straight after the Britain's Got Talent situation. And that in itself, I am sure even me talking about it will be controversial, but the reality of it is he and his team of guys put on the most amazing display.
'We had such a good chat with Ashley. He was really strong, he felt great about it, but at the same time he was concerned because of the reaction. It was a real surprise that there was what? 1,100 complaints after the show and then three days of hype it became 20 or 25,000. I am very glad Ofcom made the decision that they did but that in itself kind of proves how much this conversation needs to continue.'
Harry said that even in London 'celebrated as one of the most diverse cities in the world, if you actually get out on to the streets and talk to people, it doesn't feel as diverse as it actually is.
'Therefore, now is the best time for us to be able to use our platform and you use your platform as well so we can actually start a conversation and introduce people to the black community that are making a massive difference within their own communities and across the UK as a whole as well.'
On being away from the UK:
'Everything has been through video, everything has been in a room, somewhere. Actually it doesn't matter where in the world we have been, we have stayed in touch with and supported the organisations as much as humanly possible.'
On BLM protests:
'... when there is just peaceful protest and when there is the intention of just wanting community and just wanting the recognition of equality, then that is a beautiful thing. While it has been challenging for a lot of people certainly having to make this reckoning of historical significance that has got people to the place that they are, that is uncomfortable for people. We recognise that. It is uncomfortable for us.'
On life in America:
'We are doing well. [Archie] is so good. We are very lucky with our little one. He is just so busy, he is all over the place. He keeps us on our toes. We are just so lucky.
'Everyone has been accustomed to what it means to be distanced. The impact of that, whether it is across the Pond or across town, you are still for the most part through a computer screen. We have all had to adapt to how we can have the most impact as possible within the constraints of what has happening with Covid-19. Like all of you, we are doing the best that we can and hoping that our passion and our commitment is still felt as it certainly hasn't wavered.'
On nominating her BHM NextGen Trailblazers:
'An incredible example is Baroness Lawrence. Everything she has done in memory of her son [Stephen] is creating legacy across the UK in what it means to really push for the change that is necessary.'
Their joint plea to tackle structural racism:
'For as long as structural racism exists, there will be generations of young people of colour who do not start their lives with the same equality of opportunity as their white peers. And for as long as that continues, untapped potential will never get to be realised.'
The couple's interview comes at a key moment for race issues around the world after the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd by a US policeman sparked a wave of protest.
During the unrest this summer there were scenes of violence, arson and looting, and a number of businesses were targeted.
Asked for her views on the BLM protests, Meghan admitted they had been 'inflammatory for a lot of people'.
She continued: 'But when there is just peaceful protest and when there is the intention of just wanting community and just wanting the recognition of equality, then that is a beautiful thing.
'While it has been challenging for a lot of people certainly having to make this reckoning of historical significance that has got people to the place that they are, that is uncomfortable for people. We recognise that. It is uncomfortable for us.
'And I think when everyone just starts to own that, we push through that and focus on how do we make it different moving forward? And if we just focus on the uplift and the positivity of that, while still acknowledging the past, that's where we reshape things, and that shouldn't be inflammatory at all. That should be really exciting actually.'
Meghan said that BLM in the US was a 'different movement' from the one that existed in the UK.
Harry, 36, who at one point was joined on camera by the couple's Beagle, Guy, said he had become more aware of the issue of racism after marrying Meghan, 39.
He said: 'Because I wasn't aware of so many of the issues and so many of the problems within the UK and also globally as well. I thought I did but I didn't.'
'You know, when you go in to a shop with your children and you only see white dolls, do you even think: 'That's weird, there is not a black doll there?'sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
'And I use that as just one example of where we as white people don't always have the awareness of what it must be like for someone else of a different coloured skin, of a black skin, to be in the same situation as we are where the world that we know has been created by white people for white people.'
'It is not about pointing the finger, it is not about blame. I will be the first person