Fallout from tension between royal brothers Prince William and Prince Harry continues to ripple across the royal family, from seating to staffing to Christmas plans, as Harry and wife Meghan Markle announced they will not be spending the holiday with the royal family at Sandringham this year.
Those close to the couple say both Meghan, 38, and Harry, 35, struggle with ongoing feelings of isolation from the rest of the family, with Harry’s friend Tom Bradby—who interviewed the couple for an October documentary—describing them as “bruised and vulnerable.”
Some of that division can be traced back to the fall of 2016, when, sources say, William cautioned Harry about moving too fast with Meghan, which led to a painful rift between the brothers. Harry opened up about his relationship with his brother in the ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, saying: “Inevitably stuff happens. But we’re brothers, we’ll always be brothers. We’re certainly on different paths at the moment.”
Adding to the troubles was the 2017 departure of the Queen’s longstanding private secretary Christopher Geidt, who had long smoothed over any grievances between the boys and the rest of the family, particularly their father Prince Charles, with whom William and Harry have a complex relationship. An unflappable palace courtier, Geidt “really had the boys’ backs,” says a friend in this week’s cover story. He also offered them a side channel around their dad.
“There is a lot of hurt and a lot of unresolved issues between the boys,” says the friend, “and no one to help mediate.” What’s more, “petty grievances can become huge conflicts between all the different royal offices if they aren’t managed correctly, and that’s exactly what’s happening now.”
Some of the distance between William and Harry is a normal consequence of their moving into adulthood, say those in palace circles. “After the death of their mother, Princess Diana, in 1997, the two brothers were thrown together by the tragedy of their childhood,” says longtime royal historian Robert Lacey. “But it’s inevitable, as they grow up and develop different personalities, that synchronicity won’t apply anymore.”
A royal source emphasizes that any change in the brothers’ relationship is merely a result of the new chapters in their lives. “As is often the case in any family, when one of your siblings gets married, there’s always a period of readjustment,” says the source. “People have new priorities and different focuses.”
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At the same time, William and Kate, both 37, are moving further into their future roles as King and Queen. It’s no coincidence that the division comes as Queen Elizabeth, 93, hands off many of her duties to her heir, Prince Charles, 71, with William sliding in behind him.
“William is the future King. There is going to be some competitiveness between him and Harry,” says the source. “That already puts a rock in the relationship.”