In the first two parts of our serialisation of his new book, distinguished royal historian Robert Lacey revealed how Harry and Meghan’s behaviour left the Royal Family ‘hopping’ mad, and Harry’s fury when William asked his uncle, Earl Spencer, to suggest he slow down his marriage plans.
But, as today’s extract reveals, the roots of the rift between the brothers actually took hold long before Meghan came on the scene… as did their own psychological pain, which began in early childhood…
Back in 1992, both brothers had to cope with their parents’ conflict going public, appearing in lurid detail on TV screens and newspaper front pages after the publication of Andrew Morton’s explosive book, Her True Story — based largely on Diana’s own taped testimony. It was a deliberate and aggressive exposure of the family’s bad blood.
The mother who felt sure she was so devoted to her children had months to think about the effect that her revelations might have on them. But she’d gone ahead anyway, disclosing how she had tried to commit suicide when she was three months pregnant — which effectively said to William: ‘I tried to kill us both when I was carrying you by throwing myself down the stairs.’
Ten weeks after Morton’s book was serialised, the Diana–James Gilbey tapes were published, revealing to the world that the princess answered to the name of ‘Squidgy’; that Gilbey made her go ‘all jellybags’; and that life with Prince Charles was ‘real torture’.
‘Squidgygate’ was nothing, however, when compared with the ear-nose-and-toe-cringing embarrassment of ‘Camillagate’ — the transcript of Harry and William’s father talking on the phone to his mistress.
‘I want to feel my way along you, all over you and up and down you and in and out. . . Particularly in and out,’ he said, in one of their exchanges.
Next came Charles’s admission in 1994 to his relationship with Camilla in a TV interview with Jonathan Dimbleby, followed by Anna Pasternak’s sensational account of their mother’s love affair with James Hewitt. The two princes were particularly infuriated by the Hewitt revelations.
They’d spent long hours on horseback with the man they’d called Uncle James, and had driven down with him and Diana quite regularly to stay in Devon for breaks with his mother Shirley.
Now, in October 1994, William and Harry were informed by Anna Pasternak’s book that Uncle James had made love to their mother in a Highgrove lavatory while they were on the other side of the door.
The following year, 13-year-old William saw Diana accomplish her final flanking movement in her media battle with his father.
In her November 1995 interview with Martin Bashir on BBC’s Panorama, which he watched alone in his housemaster’s study, she talked of ‘three of us in this marriage’.
But it was his mother’s candid admission that there had come to be four in the marriage — that she’d fallen in love with James Hewitt — which tipped the teenager over the edge.
Diana spoke of ‘betrayal’, and that was exactly what William felt. Their mother had clearly seen how upset both her sons had been when Charles had confessed his intimacy with Camilla on TV the previous year. Yet here she was, doing the very same thing.
When William’s housemaster returned to his study, he found the prince slumped on the sofa, his eyes red with tears. And when Diana telephoned an hour later, William refused to speak to her.
Two days later, the distraught princess told her faith-healer Simone Simmons what had happened. William had been ‘so angry with her,’ said Diana.
He had broken out in one of the notorious rages that would, from time to time, scar his teenage years and young adult life.
‘All hell broke loose. He was furious . . . that she had spoken badly of his father, that she had mentioned Hewitt . . . He started shouting and crying and, when she tried to put her arms around him, he shoved her away.’ The next day, William apologised to his mother for his bad temper, and presented her with a bunch of flowers. But Diana felt some irretrievable damage had been done.
‘What have I done?’ Diana kept asking Simone, as though she finally realised the pain and long-term emotional damage her bitter public feuding had inflicted on her sons. ‘What have I done to my children?’
By the time Harry joined William at Eton in 1998 — a year after Diana’s death — life and tragedy had forged the brothers into a mutually supportive companions. They enjoyed two of the most closely interlinked years of their lives.
William had established a close and trusted circle of Eton friends, and his brother was invited to join them. But quite a few of his expanding social circle were a full two years older than him — making it likely that the 14-year-old would be introduced to temptations ahead of his years.
And Harry’s bright self-confidence was misleading — he was not as grown-up as he appeared.
For security reasons, Prince Charles had a bomb-proof shelter constructed in the cellar of Highgrove, and he allowed his sons to adapt it into a disco-rumpus room — ‘Club H’, a black-painted dungeon discothèque scattered with scruffy sofas, where Harry and William could entertain their school friends during their holidays.
It featured a well-stocked bar — here was the first temptation for the young Harry — along with a state-of-the-art sound system that made every floor of the 200-year-old building quiver.
Club H turned Highgrove into quite the hot spot when Dad happened to be away — which was an ever more frequent occurrence.
Charles’s priority at the time was his campaign to get Britain to accept his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.
In his absence, 16-year-old William — already a steady drinker — and his younger brother ‘relaxed’ intensively. Club H had been very much William’s inspiration, with his older friends largely setting the social pace for Harry.
If Prince Charles did happen to be at home, the two brothers and their friends could all pile out together to The Rattlebone Inn in the village of Sherston five miles away.
Of course, it is illegal in British pubs to sell alcohol directly to anyone below the age of 18, but the landlord of the Rattlebone turned a blind eye to under-age drinking – and the inn also allowed its young royal patrons to engage in afterhours ‘lock-ins’, where cannabis was smoked. The cars of royal bodyguards outside meant local police were unlikely to stage a raid.
So these were the years when Prince Harry — still an impressionable teenager — started to drink alcohol in serious quantities. He loved to swill it down like his brother, reported friends.
And some of the Rattlebone circle also began sampling exotic substances. This can hardly have been a shock to Harry, who’d already earned the nickname ‘Hash Harry’ at Eton, on account of the smoky aroma that often emanated from his room.
But a quiet word of warning in the right ear might have avoided what happened next.
By August 2000, William, now 18, had left Eton and headed off to Belize for his pre-university gap-year adventure. Lonely and left to his own devices, Harry began getting stoned to excess, continuing his pot-smoking throughout William’s absence in 2001, until someone — a member of the Highgrove staff, it is thought — told Prince Charles what was going on.
Courtesy: Dailymail UK