How Meghan’s arrival could not have come at a better time for Charles
She has cheered the prince after years of public anguish and simmering family tensions
It was the royal family photo of the year. Capturing a beaming Prince Charles on his 70th birthday in November 2018, with his eldest grandchild, Prince George, on his knee, the image of the future king surrounded by his nearest and dearest gave a touching insight into the close bond between three generations of royalty.
It came just a few months after another show of family unity as the three generations gathered on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in July to watch the RAF flypast. On Tuesday, the heir to the throne was once again flanked by his wife, Camilla, his sons, William and Harry, and his daughters-in-law, Kate and Meghan, as the queen hosted a lunch reception at Buckingham Palace to mark the 50th anniversary of his investiture as the Prince of Wales.
The event celebrated a range of Welsh organisations and featured a performance by the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, of which Charles is patron. All of which will be music to the ears of the Duchess of Sussex. For we can reveal the pair have struck up what sources have described as a “close bond” over a “shared love of art and culture”.
As well as acting as Meghan’s “mentor” on matters of royal and constitutional history, the prince is understood to have been educating the former actress about the masterpieces in the Royal Collection since she married into the Firm. An insider revealed: “Meghan has been learning about royal history, through time spent with the prince. They have a shared love of history, art and culture, and that’s the common ground between them. The duchess has shown a genuine interest in learning more about the history of the family she has married into, and her father-in-law has been delighted to impart his knowledge.”
It seems that Meghan’s official arrival on the royal scene after Harry proposed over a roast chicken dinner in November 2017 could not have come at a better time for Charles. The prince had endured a hellish summer, with a series of documentaries to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, dredging up column inches of negative publicity. Tensions had built up between father and sons after William – and, to a lesser extent, Harry – had refused to acknowledge the importance of Charles’s role in their upbringing after their mother died in 1997, when they were aged 15 and 12, respectively.
Times Select understands that Charles’s aides “begged” William to give a nod to his father when he addressed journalists before the screening of the ITV documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, but he refused. The only mention of Charles came in a BBC documentary, when Harry paid tribute to his father for his attempts to comfort them in the aftermath of Diana’s death, saying: “He was there for us, he was the one out of two left and he tried to do his best and to make sure we were protected and looked after.”
Two royal weddings and a 70th birthday celebration later, and sources describe the three princes as being “closer than ever”. Having moved back to London from Anmer Hall in Norfolk, following speculation that Kate’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, had been “monopolising” the grandchildren, the Cambridges now see much more of Charles and Camilla. A rift between William and his father over a previously unseen photograph of George inadvertently appearing in a video broadcast also appears to have healed. With talk of “transition” high on the agenda behind the palace gates, Charles is increasingly involving his eldest son in decision-making.
But what role has Meghan’s arrival on to the scene played in all this?
Last week, it was reported that the queen was “impressed” with Meghan’s stamina after the Sussexes’ three-day tour of Morocco. Although rumours of her majesty sending Meghan a thank-you note appear to be wide of the mark, the briefing suggests the 92-year-old monarch has risen above alleged tensions in the run-up to the royal wedding in 2018, when she is reported to have taken Harry aside and admonished him for telling staff: “What Meghan wants, Meghan gets”, following a row over a tiara.
The queen also, no doubt, acknowledges the fact that, according to royal sources, the former Suits star has been “instrumental” in helping Harry to reconnect with his father. Plagued by her own fractious relationship with her father, Thomas Markle, Meghan has apparently advised Harry to “look after the loving parent you have got left”.
“The prince has always been close to Harry, but it’s no secret that August 2017 was very difficult,” said an insider. “That summer took both of the dukes back to a difficult time, and the tensions were painful for everyone. But they’ve come out of that and reconnected, and Meghan has helped. Her message to Harry has been: ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater’.”
It is also worth pointing out that Charles’s relationship with his other daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, has gone from strength to strength, not least since she has had Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. “Charles and Kate have always got on very well,” said a source.
The prince was heavily involved in Harry and Meghan’s Windsor wedding last May, and Meghan has taken time to get to know her father-in-law. Charles was acutely aware of how devastated the couple were when Meghan’s father backed out of the wedding at the last minute. It was Charles’s offer to walk Meghan down the aisle that helped calm a fraught situation.
The trio are now in regular touch over the renovations to the Sussexes’ new Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage, which is undergoing a £3m refurbishment. Having recently overseen the renovation of 18th-century Dumfries House in Scotland, Charles knows a thing or two about handling historic and listed buildings such as Frogmore, which was built in 1801 at the direction of King George III’s consort.
The prince’s love of neoclassical architecture no doubt featured in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech on Tuesday, when he was expected to pay tribute to Charles’s enormous contribution to public life, most notably through The Prince’s Trust, which has raised £800m since its inception in 1976.
Times Select understands there had been talk of the queen delivering a speech in which she might touch upon the Duchess of Cornwall’s future role as “queen”.
“But with the British public already at sixes and sevens over Brexit, it was felt that that was a speech best left for another day,” said an insider.
The significance of the palace lunch should not be underestimated. Royalty does not usually gather on this scale outside of family weddings, Trooping the Colour, ceremonies at the Cenotaph and Christmas. This show of unity by the Cambridges and Sussexes reminds us that when it comes to family matters, Charles remains the ultimate kingmaker.
– © The Daily Telegraph