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Ever since Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan announced they were stepping down as senior royals, the war of words between the Sussexes and the Royal Family has only escalated. It began with their response to the official statement outlining the terms of their exit from royal life, when they seemingly disagreed with Queen Elizabeth's decision that they were not entitled to use the word "royal" in their branding. When the time came for the one-year review of the agreement and the Queen decided the couple could not be part-time royals and fulfill their obligation to serve to Britain and the Commonwealth, the Sussexes released a statement saying, "Service is universal."
Over the course of the past few months, Harry and Meghan's disputes with the royals have gotten more explosive and much more personal, leaving the Palace in unfamiliar territory when it comes to messaging and maintaining the above-it-all air that's been essential to preserving the mystery that has defined the family for centuries.
Harry, like his mother, Princess Diana, before him, ripped the velvet curtains from the windows of Buckingham Palace by going public with his claims of indifference and cruelty that have made headlines around the world, while the Royal Family remained largely silent. But in this latest chapter of the Sussexes vs. the Royal Family saga, royal insiders have claimed the Queen has made "a dramatic departure from her longstanding 'never complain, never explain' policy."
Read on to find out why the Queen is willing to forego the long-standing royal motto and why the family is still worried about Harry and Meghan's public airing of grievances.
The Queen is reportedly instructing Palace aides to correct any inaccurate media reports.
According to the Daily Mail, Her Majesty "has instructed courtiers to correct any statements which misrepresent her private conversations or those of other senior royals."
The Daily Mail claims this unprecedented decision provides insight into just how upset the Queen has been over the claims from the Sussexes and their unnamed supporters that conflict with those statements issued by the Palace. The issue appears to have come to head over the barrage of inconsistent coverage about the birth of Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, specifically whether Harry asked his grandmother for her permission before using Her Majesty's deeply personal nickname as his daughter's first name or if he told her after the baby's birth.
The BBC reported the prince did not ask for the Queen's consent prior to the official birth announcement, prompting Harry to vehemently deny the story and threaten the BBC with legal action. When asked about the situation by ITV, a Palace aide did not deny the BBC report. Palace aides also disagreed with the Sussex camp who said Harry and Meghan introduced Lilibet Diana to the Queen via video call, denying any such call took place.
"Palace aides would certainly not directly deny something Harry and Meghan said without expressed permission from the Queen," an insider told Best Life. "Or, perhaps her family has convinced her that they have to fight back and have told the aides to do so. Either way, this is an extraordinary change."
The shift started with Harry and Meghan's interview with Oprah Winfrey.
The Palace was bracing for the worst earlier this year when they learned that Harry and Meghan would be doing a 90-minute joint interview with Oprah Winfrey, but even so, they were in no way prepared for the tsunami of press coverage and highly charged criticism the Royal Family received as a result on social media, calling into question the very future of the monarchy. Harry and Meghan's claim that they faced racism within "The Institution" and that an unnamed family member expressed concern over the color of their yet-to-be-born son's skin plunged the Palace into chaos. Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Prince William reportedly huddled behind closed doors for two days of crisis control meetings.
In the official statement from the Palace, the Queen said, in part, "The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members." But the damage had been done. Just days after the interview aired, William and Kate were visiting a school in London and as the couple left, a Sky News reporter in the press pool called out to the prince asking: "Is the royal family racist?" Without stopping to address the questioner face to face William said, "We are very much not a racist family."
An inside source told Best Life, "There was this sense that the Sussexes were at war with the Palace and all the rules were about to change."
Harry's criticism of Prince Charles' parenting and indirectly disrespectful comment about the Queen was an eye-opener for the Palace.
While speaking with Winfrey, Harry revealed that his father cut him off financially and stopped taking his calls for a time. "I had three conversations with my grandmother, and two conversations with my father before he stopped taking my calls," he said. "And then [Prince Charles] said, 'Can you put this all in writing?'" A royal source told Best Life that Charles' senior staffers did not want Harry going directly to the Queen to talk about his plans for leaving the Royal Family without discussing it with his father first and blocked him from seeing Her Majesty. "That one decision set into motion a series of events that resulted in a profound change within the family and set the stage, in Harry's mind, to vilify his father," the insider said.
But that was just the beginning. In an interview on the podcast Armchair Expert in May, Harry doubled down on his criticism of his father, saying that the reason he did not want his children to be raised within the confines of the Royal Family was because he did not want to perpetuate the cycle of "genetic pain and suffering" that Charles had endured and then passed down to him and to William. The prince told host Dax Shepard: "He treated me the way he was treated."
"It was a stunning rebuke of Her Majesty and Prince Philip, who had died just weeks earlier," a royal source told Best Life. "Palace aides were infuriated that Harry would strike out in such a thoughtless way as to not only continue to wage his public war on his father but to call into question the parenting of the Queen and his late grandfather. His toe-curling claims went too far. There was a sense that there was nothing Harry wouldn't do or say."
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The Royal Family knows they can't control the Sussexes, but they've learned they can't let their claims go unchecked.
Despite Harry and Meghan's allegations over this past year, the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family did not come out and personally challenge the Sussexes' claims, no matter how damaging. "Her Majesty and the rest of the family must always be above the fray," an inside source told Best Life. "However, there is nothing stopping Palace aides from speaking out when damaging allegations or mistruths are said. After the Oprah Winfrey interview, there was a hope that would be it, but when Harry's comments became even more personal and hurtful, something had to be done."
Now, the Palace is bracing for more bombshells from the Sussex camp, especially once an updated version of the tell-all book Finding Freedom is released in August. In an April piece for Sunday Times, royal editor Roya Nikkhah reported that the new edition will cover virtually everything that has happened involving the couple this year, from their interview with Winfrey to the drama surrounding Prince Philip's death. One of the book's co-authors, Omid Scobie, took to Twitter to dispute the report that new chapters have been added.
But insiders suspect there's much more to come. "If the book doesn't talk about their interviews and all that happened before and after the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral, what is there to talk about? Of course it's going to be highly flattering to Harry and Meghan. The first one was downright fawning," a source told Best Life. "It's highly unlikely any publisher would pay for a book where the only fresh revelations involve Archewell or their experience as new parents—especially when those are topics that Harry and Meghan could write about themselves."