When Meghan Markle and Prince Harry decided to leave the royal family back in January, there was a notable outlier to the family’s cool response: his father, Prince Charles. While the Queen ultimately helped Harry make the arrangements necessary, she was understood to have been surprised and disappointed by the decision, and reports of mounting tension between Harry and Prince William have made the rounds this spring as well. Charles, however, stood on the sidelines, quietly offering his son financial support and wishing him the best. Royal biographer Nigel Cawthorne now reveals that Charles had a clearer view of Meghan’s coming clash with the royal family than the rest, having lived through a similar media frenzy when Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson in 1986. Both Meghan and Andrew’s marriages shook up the royal family; but when Fergie had enough in 1992, she left on her own. When Meghan left in 2020, she took Harry with her.
Cawthorne claims that Charles never had an issue with Meghan personally, but knew that the introduction of another high-profile woman would spell trouble for “The Firm” (how royals refer to the royal family).
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“Harry and Meghan amplified the popularity of the royal family in the way that Prince Andrew and Fergie did at the time,” Cawthorne told The Sun. “I think he foresaw considerable problems ahead for The Firm.”
“I think he likes strong women,” Cawthorne added. “But in The Firm there is only room for one Queen.”
A post shared by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (@sussexroyal) on Aug 4, 2019 at 12:00am PDT
So, why would Charles in particular be so affected by the memory of his younger brother Andrew and Fergie? For starters, Fergie shared a significant amount in common with his own late ex, Princess Diana. As an outsider who married into the family at a similar time to Diana, Fergie and the Princess were close, and shared similar struggles with the constraints of the royal family.
When Fergie did leave, she described her reasons like this in 1992 autobiography My Story: “For six years I had shouldered the demands of Palace life. Gradually, relentlessly, they had beaten me down. They were killing me by inches. It was time to save my life.”
Nearly two decades later, Meghan Markle offered a gentler version of the same sentiment, pre-Megxit: “Any woman, especially when they’re pregnant, you’re really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging,” she told ITV’s Tom Bradby. “Also thank you for asking. Because not many people have asked if I’m okay.”
So, Charles likely recognized Meghan’s clash from the start, having felt it so keenly first with Diana and then with her close friend Fergie. And there’s one more reason that Andrew’s marriage may be so keenly linked to Meghan’s in Charles’ mind.
As Fergie describes it, the summer she announced her split from Andrew was a perfect storm for the royal family — and for Charles in particular. Within months of the announcement, the first excerpts of a new Princess Diana biography had come out, detailing her mental health and marital issues in lurid detail.
“If ever the Royal Family needed a respite, it was in August of 1992,” Fergie wrote. In April, Princess Anne entered divorce proceedings against Captain Mark Phillips. In June came the first published extracts of Diana: Her True Story…Not one to be left out, I’d had my own bit to contribute.”
A post shared by Sarah Ferguson (@sarahferguson15) on May 15, 2020 at 9:48am PDT
Within months of Diana’s life being published in tabloid detail, Charles lived through yet another royal family scandal with Fergie’s departure, a summer no doubt burned into his brain. Is it any wonder that Charles had a sense of déjà vu as Meghan and Harry’s relationship picked up steam, and premonitions about how this might end?
While Charles may not have had faith in Meghan’s ability to mesh with the royal family, it’s secretly believed that he’s proud of Harry for what he’s doing now. “In truth, however, there wasn’t a lot he could do apart from offering moral support,” biographer Cawthorne concluded.
But when you’re leaving behind centuries of royal tradition, we bet moral support from your father means a lot. And while Charles may have predicted Harry and Meghan’s marriage ending like Andrew and Fergie’s, we’re happy the Sussex couple proved him wrong.
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