LONDON — More than two decades have passed since Princess Diana’s death in 1997. About 2.5 billion people watched the funeral, in which her sons, Prince William, 15, and Prince Harry, 12, marched silently behind her coffin. But now the two brothers, who once said they were “uniquely bonded because of what we’ve been through,” appear to be at a breaking point, with reports of a physical attack and sibling rivalry in Harry’s new memoir, “Spare.”
How did two of Britain’s royals who once seemed so close end up here?
May 2018: The wedding
When Harry married Meghan Markle at England’s Windsor Castle in 2018, William was best man. Ahead of the ceremony, the two princes walked around the castle grounds side by side, joking and waving at members of the public — much to the delight of fans and well-wishers.
But soon, Britain’s tabloids were reporting jealousy between Meghan and William’s wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, over Meghan stealing the limelight. She was also accused of inserting a wedge between the brothers.
“Very quickly it became Meghan vs. Kate,” Harry said in an interview with Britain’s ITV News on Sunday, blaming the media for sowing the seeds of misinformation. “Tensions were high” after the wedding, Harry said, noting that the four held a meeting to try to resolve their grievances.
October 2019: ‘Different paths’
In a raw documentary for ITV News in 2019, “Harry & Meghan: An African Journey,” the newlyweds opened up about the detrimental effect the constant glare of the British tabloids was having on their mental health. When asked about the relationship with William, Harry acknowledged that the two were no longer as close.
The pair, he said, didn’t see each other “as often” and “inevitably stuff happens” because of the pressures the royal family is under. “We’re brothers, we’ll always be brothers,” Harry said, before admitting they were on “different paths.”
January 2020: The ‘step back’
It was a decision that stunned the world and reportedly blindsided the royal family: Harry and Meghan announced in January 2020 that they were stepping back as senior royals and would work to become “financially independent,” in Britain and North America.
Their departure was swiftly branded “Megxit” by the Sun — a play on Brexit, as Britain’s exit from the European Union is known. “They didn’t even tell the Queen,” roared the front page of the Daily Mirror.
March 2021: The Oprah interview
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021, Harry and Meghan made a string of shocking allegations. One month before their televised sit-down, Buckingham Palace announced that the pair would be stripped of their royal patronages and honorary military titles.
Meghan told Winfrey that someone at the palace had expressed concern about their son Archie’s skin color, though the pair declined to name the family member. “That conversation, I’m never going to share,” Harry said. Meghan, who is biracial, had faced a slew of racist and sexist coverage in the British tabloids when the pair confirmed they were dating.
The accusation later elicited a retort from William to a reporter: “We’re very much not a racist family.”
The pair also told Winfrey that their security had been pulled and that they were forced to step back from their royal duties because of a lack of support from members of the family. Meghan also used the interview to vehemently deny tabloid reports that she once made Catherine cry and said it was the opposite: Catherine made her cry and later apologized.
September 2022: Death of the queen
When the health of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-serving monarch, rapidly declined on Sept. 8 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, members of the royal family raced to be at her bedside. In an interview Sunday with Anderson Cooper, Harry said he was in London at the time. When he heard his grandmother was under medical supervision, he reached out to William.
“I asked my brother — I said, ‘What are your plans? How are you and Kate getting up there?’” Harry recalled. “All of the family members that live within the Windsor and Ascot area were jumping on a plane together. A plane with 12, 14, maybe 16 seats.”
“You were not invited on that plane?” Cooper asked. “I was not invited,” Harry replied. The prince later arrived at Balmoral on his own, but the queen was already dead.
At the monarch’s funeral, on Sept. 19, Harry and Meghan walked in separately from other family members behind the queen’s coffin at London’s Westminster Abbey. They followed William and Catherine.
December 2022: The Netflix series
Harry and Meghan say they got so fed up with false information being written about them that they decided to seize control of the narrative by teaming up with Netflix for a six-episode docuseries. The show, released in December, is part of their reported multimillion-dollar deal with the streaming giant.
“Doesn’t it make more sense to hear our story from us?” Meghan asks as the pair speak out about their romance and their joint decision to leave the royal institution.
“There’s a hierarchy of the family,” Harry tells the camera. “There’s leaking, but there’s also the planting of stories. It’s a dirty game.” The prince’s remarks were echoed in an interview with Britain’s ITV News on Sunday, in which Harry said that senior members of the family, including King Charles III and his wife, Camilla, Queen Consort, and Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales, were conspiring against him and Meghan. Harry accused his relatives of “getting into bed with the devil,” meaning royal reporters and the tabloid newspapers.
January 2023: The attack story
Leaked passages from “Spare” reveal that William allegedly attacked Harry during an argument in 2019 in which he also called Meghan “difficult,” “rude” and “abrasive.”
Harry writes that William, who is now direct heir to the British throne, “grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace, and he knocked me to the floor.”
“I landed on the dog’s bowl, which cracked under my back, the pieces cutting into me. I lay there for a moment, dazed, then got to my feet and told him to get out,” reads the excerpt from the memoir.
William Booth and Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.