Unlike most kids, Prince Harry never speculated about what he was going to be when he grew up.
From a young age it was painfully apparent what his final job would be. And while he, like most male members of The Firm, was afforded a fruitful decade-long stint in the British army even briefly making his way to the front lines in Afghanistan, eventually he settled into his forever role as a professional royal. Determined to make the gig more than just shaking hands and holding a title, he carefully researches the charities he involves himself in, each cause falling into one of three camps.
The first are those that honor the legacy of his late mother, Princess Diana, say, his charity Sentebale that he formed with Lesotho’s Prince Seeiso, which translates to “forget me not” and works to help children in the African nation most vulnerable to HIV and his patronage with anti-landmines charity the HALO Trust. “I intuitively know what my mother would like me to do and want to progress with work she couldn’t complete,” he shared in a sit-down with Newsweek‘s Angela Levin last year.
The next is work that supports his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, who, he notes “has been fantastic in letting us choose” which of her duties they’d like to absorb. “She tells us to take our time and really think things through.”
And, finally, there’s anything that falls under the Royal Foundation umbrella, the organization he and Prince William set up in 2009 to champion the causes they are both equally passionate about. William’s wife Kate Middleton joined after their 2011 vows and now the trio has expanded to include Harry’s bride Meghan Markle as well. Gathering this February for their first annual forum, the group talked about the work they intend to do together to modernize the monarchy and change the world and what it’s really like to serve side-by-side with your siblings and in-laws. As Harry joked, “We’re stuck together for the rest of our lives.”
According to a new report by The Sunday Times‘ royal correspondent Roya Nikkah, now that the brothers are building dynasties of their own, they’re making plans to split their shared Kensington Palace household, which boils down to creating two separate courts with separate staffs “as their future roles with Kate and Meghan diverge,” the source shares. “The brothers have leant on each other and looked after each other since their mother died. But now they have their own families, they no longer rely on each other as before.”
While it sounds like the most dramatic of breakups—or, at the very least, the start of some mild family squabbling—it’s more of a formality, an acknowledgement that the parts they play in the monarchy are admittedly a bit different. As William has known from a young age, he will, in all likelihood, one day ascend to the throne. And as a future king it’s always been imperative for him to toe the line. Not to mention he and Kate have to think about when they’ll begin preparing 5-year-old Prince George to start following in his regal footsteps.
Growing up the so-called “spare heir” has always afforded Harry a bit more freedom. Currently sixth in line for the monarchy, he’s unlikely to ever find a crown on his head, a chance that will diminish even further when his nieces and nephews grow their families. During his younger years, a time when he was admittedly acting out, unsure of how to handle all the emotions he felt about the premature death of his mom, that translated to some less than savory behavior, his bad boy antics amounting mostly to one really poor costume decision and a wild night that should have stayed in Las Vegas. But now his position in the line of succession means he and Meghan have a great deal more leeway to set their own agenda in tackling the causes that are close to them.
“It does make much more sense that the House of Cambridge and the House of Sussex are separated because they will now have different staff and different roles,” explains E! News’ Melanie Bromley of the decision. However, she notes, “William and Harry are as close as ever. They are still going to be as much of a unit as they were before.”
Those are statements that can be made of most brothers born just 27 months apart. But growing up as two pint-sized princes in the fishbowl setting that was Kensington Palace created a unique, only-we-can-truly-understand-what-we’ve-been through bond between the siblings. Throw in a devastating tragedy experienced when William was 15 and Harry not quite 13 and, well, they’re incredibly tight.
“My brother and I’s relationship is closer than it’s been because of the situations we’ve been through,” William noted during a January appearance at an event for the Campaign Against Living Miserably charity. “Losing our mother at a young age has helped us to travel through that difficult patch together. You’re like-minded. You go through similar things, it’s a bond and it’s something you know you’ve tackled together and come out better for it.”
Their shared past ensured they’d always remain intrinsically linked, but it was their choices about the future that often kept them physically close.
While the pair separated after high school when William headed north to Scotland for university, more or less determining his future when he met Kate in their freshman dorm, their paths converged again after his 2005 graduation when William followed Harry to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
Following their training, the brothers remained on separate tracks for a spell. Having famously expressed his desire to involve himself in the wars raging in both Iraq and Afghanistan—”There’s no way I’m going to put myself through Sandhurst and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country,” he reportedly said—Harry was deployed to the latter in early 2008. He spent 10 weeks as a forward air controller, the first member of the royal family to serve in a war zone since his uncle Prince Andrew was tasked with flying helicopters during the Falklands War, only to be abruptly pulled out when the media revealed his location.
But by 2009, he and William—who as second-in-line to the throne had even less of a chance of seeing active duty—found themselves in the same spot, studying to become helicopter pilots with the Royal Air Force.
“I think that the struggle I was talking about was mainly the exams and stuff like that,” Harry shared in a 2009 interview of the inherent challenges. “Exams never been my favorite, and I always knew that I was going to find it harder than most people. But I’m through that now and finally got hands-on to a job that I absolutely adore. And it’s still hard work, but I’m better than William, so it’s fun.”
Of course William returned the favor. When asked if he’d been helping his younger brother with studying he replied, “An awful lot. He needs a lot of help.” Then he launched into an explanation of what it was like to share a living space with Harry. “It’s been a fairly emotional experience,” he joked. “I cook for him and feed him basically every day. I think he’s done rather well.” Asked if Harry handled clean up duty he shot back, “He does do a bit of the washing up, but then he leaves most of it in the sink, and then he comes back in the morning and I have to wash it out.”
“Oh, the lies,” Harry offered as response.
So, yeah, they had some fun together. But for all their joking, the siblings shared some serious moments. It was William, for instance, who first made note of his brother’s ongoing suffering, that his grief had transformed itself into a simmering rage that remained unchecked. And it was William who pushed him to seek counseling in 2014.
“My brother was a huge blessing,” Harry revealed in a 2017 appearance on Telegraph journalist’s Bryony Gordon’s mental health podcast Mad World. “He kept saying, ‘This is not right, this is not normal—you need to talk about stuff. It’s not normal to think that nothing’s affected you.”
Because William knew what it was like. He had struggled not only with Diana’s passing but the gut-wrenching emotions he experienced in his work as an air ambulance pilot. “I took a lot home without realizing it,” he shared at a September event for the launch of a website focused on mental health in the workplace. “You see many sad things every day that you think life is like that. You’re always dealing with despair and sadness and injury.” Eventually, he summed up, “The attrition builds up and you never really have the opportunity to offload anything if you’re not careful.”
It was this self-awareness, and perhaps in honor of their mother who was the first to break with the royal family’s stiff upper lip mentality and share the postpartum depression she suffered after William’s arrival, that led the boys and Kate, to launch Heads Together, a campaign that’s determined to snap the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues.
“Just starting a conversation on mental health can make all the difference,” William has explained. “When you talk about something you have less reason to fear it and when you can talk about something you are much more likely to ask for help.”
Working as a trio was a natural fit as Harry has long embraced Kate as more than just a sister-in-law. When she and William got engaged in 2010 after nearly a decade of dating, Harry called her the big sister he never had, wrote Newsweek‘s Levin. And after they all settled into Kensington Palace, he often found himself making the walk from his two-bedroom Nottingham Cottage digs to their sprawling apartment so Kate could cook him a meal, roast chicken reportedly being a favorite.
And when he found a culinary star of his own (roast chicken incidentally being the exact dish Meghan was making when Harry proposed), he needed to ensure she passed muster with Kate.
“Harry and Kate are very close, she’s been like a mentor to him and he wanted her seal of approval,” a source shared in Grazia UK. “Kate is different to Meghan in many ways, but she has made great strides to help Meghan settle in.”
Indeed, after the success of their initial 2017 meeting, in which Meghan went a long way towards making a good impression by gifting Kate a dreams journal for her birthday, Kate has made it a point to make Meghan feel welcome. “Since very early on she made it clear that should Meghan ever need something, or just want to chat, she shouldn’t hesitate to get in touch,” an insider told E! News. “Kate knows how difficult it is navigating one’s way through this very different world.”
As a sign of their burgeoning relationship, Meghan reportedly presented Kate with a gold friendship bracelet at her May vows and by July they were taking in a Wimbledon match together, appearing the closest of friends as they watched Meghan’s pal Serena Williams do her thing.
On the surface, the boys’ brides don’t seem all that similar. Meghan, a former actress, gravitated to life in the public eye both as an artist and a philanthropist well before she was set up on that fateful 2016 blind date while Kate has long seem more reserved. The art history grad seems no less keen to make a difference and really create effective change with the platform that’s been thrust upon her, but the pageantry that’s involved with royal life, the performance aspect has taken a bit more practice.
Those close to William and Harry say those differences are reflective of the brothers themselves. “Emotionally, they are very unalike,” a royal insider told Newsweek‘s Levin. “Harry wears his heart on his sleeve. William is introverted and reclusive. They are bonded together by the unique position they are in and the experience of losing their mother very young. But they don’t live in each other’s pockets.”
Echoed a source close to Harry, “William was more successful academically, but when it comes to dealing with people, Harry knocks the spots off both him and Kate, especially with children. Harry is passionate about them and is a natural, which neither William nor Kate are.”
But those differences have made the threesome—now a foursome—even stronger when it comes to the purpose that drives them all. “We’ve got four different personalities,” Harry shared back at February’s forum, “and we’ve all got that same basic passion to want to make a difference.”