Why Harry’s UK visit turned into a royal ‘snub’, according to a historian

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“Recollections may vary” over why King Charles was unable to meet Harry, the Duke of Sussex last week, sources close to the monarch have reportedly said.

The King offered his son the use of a royal residence during his three-day trip to London, friends of the King told The Times, but the Duke is nevertheless thought to have chosen to stay in a hotel during his visit to the UK.

The reports follow days of speculation surrounding why the father and son did not meet, with a spokesperson for Prince Harry claiming at the time that the meeting would “not be possible due to His Majesty’s [the King’s] full programme”.

Friends of the King, meanwhile, are said to have stressed that, to the best of their knowledge, Prince Harry had neither requested to visit his father, 75, or invited him to an event at St Paul’s Cathedral, marking Invictus Games’s tenth anniversary last Tuesday.

“Let’s say recollections may vary once again,” one friend of Charles purportedly told the newspaper.

The comment seemingly referenced the Palace’s reaction to the Duke and Duchess of Sussexes’ suggestion that other members of the Royal Family had questioned the skin colour of their son Archie before he was born.

Royal historian Dr Judith Rowbotham said the conflicting reports were down to the lack of co-ordination between the King and Harry’s PR teams.

“There is no real connection between their [Sussexes’s] PR team and the King’s PR team,” she told i, “because that would be constitutionally improper. If they were acting together you could create a situation where the King would be ignoring government restraints.”

In 2020 the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stood down from frontline royal duties, meaning they are no longer “part of the state structure,” according to Dr Rowbotham.

The Palace is therefore likely to feel unable to share potentially confidential information with the duke’s press team.

The academic, specialising in the social history of the royal family, contrasted this with the apparent co-operation the King’s office has with the Prince of Wales’s.

“The interesting thing about King Charles and the new Prince of Wales is that pretty much from the start those PR teams as households have been working together – that is what is unusual,” she said.

The last time Prince Harry, 39, saw his father was in February, when he dashed across the Atlantic after the Palace publicly announced the King’s cancer diagnosis. The meeting reportedly lasted less than an hour.

Sources close to Harry have reportedly insisted Prince Harry gave his father sufficient notice when he visited London last week, with his trip being “long on the radar”. A friend highlighted how the King and the Home Office must be given 28 days’ warning for security reasons.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, list to a speech by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Photo: Kola Sulaimon/ AFP)

A friend of Charles, who is currently undergoing treatment for his cancer, reportedly said “It’s all very sad”, suggesting the King was unlikely to deny his son a meeting if “he did, of course, agree to see his son at the most vulnerable moment of his illness” in February.

Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliam agreed the reports by The Times would “certainly indicate” that there was an “irrevocable” PR split.

“One [PR team] is being economical with the truth,” he told i. “This will bring mistrust to a level that is almost imaginable given the King’s health.”

Buckingham Palace did not comment on the reports. The Duke of Sussex was contacted for a response.

Dr Rowbotham stressed how the differing approaches to the press were not without precedent, pointing to “War of the Waleses” between the then-Prince of Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

She said the duke’s press team, led by American Ashley Hansen – a former vice president at Universal Pictures – also lacks staff with “politically sensitive expertise” which Dr Rowbotham said leads to even more extreme friction between sides.

After Harry’s visit to the UK, the duke flew to Nigeria on Friday, where he was joined by his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex for a quasi-royal tour to promote mental health for wounded soldiers and young girls.

Dr Rowbotham said the visit was not planned “constitutionally conscientiously”, with trips made by working royals usually planned by the Foreign Office, “in concert with the royal house”. “There is such scrutiny around these trips, that anything royals say, no matter how innocent, has constitutional implications.”

While in the country’s capital of Abuja, Harry has been criticised for inspecting troops of the Nigerian military.

Meghan, meanwhile spoke about the “eye-opening” and “humbling” experience of finding out through a genealogy test that she was partly Nigerian.

She said: “What has been echoed so much in the past day is, ‘Oh, we are not so surprised when we found out you are Nigerian.

“It is a compliment to you because what they define as a Nigerian woman is brave, resilient, courageous, beautiful.”

The duchess revealed she was “43 per cent” Nigerian on a podcast in 2022.

Earlier in the day, Meghan and Harry spent time with Nigeria Unconquered, which compiles the country’s Invictus Games team. The duke played a game of sitting volleyball with army veterans who had mostly been wounded in battle against the country’s Islamist insurgency.

“We are friends and family supporters of Harry and Meghan,” said Peace Adetoro, 57, attending the event. “They are a beautiful couple and we love them so much. We support them 100 per cent.”

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