Clues point to the real royal villain
Before Harry and Meghan's interview with Oprah Winfrey aired on Sunday, palace insiders were particularly worried about the prospect of them lashing out at William and Kate.
Rumours of a bitter rift between the Sussexes and the Cambridges had plagued the royal family for years. Meghan reportedly blamed William and Kate's household for leaking negative stories about her to the news media.
Were she and Harry about to expose the truth about that rift?
"This is Meghan's nuclear option," one source told The Sun hours before the broadcast.
"If she has chosen to speak candidly about her time with Kate, then the damage that could be done to the monarchy is vast.
"She has the power to lay bare just how bad things really were between her, Harry, William and Kate."
Those fears turned out to be unfounded.
In fact, while Harry and Meghan were both scathing towards the institution of the royal family, they seemed keen to avoid criticising specific family members.
But there was one striking exception: Prince Charles.
Let's run through what the couple had to say about the senior royals.
They offered no criticism whatsoever of the Queen. In fact, Harry stressed that she had been "amazing throughout".
"I've spoken more to my grandmother in the last year than I have done for many, many years," he said.
"My grandmother and I have a really good relationship."
Off camera, he told Oprah that neither the Queen nor Prince Philip had been the family member to voice "concerns" about the colour of his son's skin.
Meghan said the Queen had "always been warm and inviting and really welcoming".
What about the Cambridges? Harry did acknowledge the existence of a rift with his brother, William, saying they "are on different paths". Again though, he only had warm words.
"I love William to bits. He's my brother. We've been through hell together," he said.
"Time heals all things, hopefully."
Meghan claimed Kate had made her cry before her wedding, though she only did so when Oprah specifically asked about the incident.
She said she was sharing her version of events because media reports, which claimed Meghan made Kate cry, were inaccurate, and the palace did nothing to correct them.
"I'm not sharing that piece about Kate in any way to be disparaging to her," Meghan insisted.
Then we come to Charles.
"There's a lot to work through there, you know? I feel really let down," Harry said when asked about his relationship with his father.
"I will always love him, but there's a lot of hurt that's happened. And I will continue to make it one of my priorities to try and heal that relationship."
He did not speak this way about any other family member.
RELATED: Glaring question Oprah failed to ask
Charles' underlying influence was evident even when he was not being mentioned.
In yesterday's story examining the questions the interview had left unanswered, I brought up Harry and Meghan's fury at the royals' decision not to make their son a prince, which meant he would not be entitled to security funded by British taxpayers.
I believed they were wrong about the rules, which say the children and grandchildren of the reigning monarch are automatically entitled to be princes and princesses.
Archie, being the Queen's great-grandchild, would not normally have that right until Charles becomes king. So, when Meghan told Oprah that Archie was "not being titled in the same way" that other royals would be, I concluded she was mistaken.
Confession time: I actually misunderstood what she and Harry were claiming. Here is the crucial quote I missed the first time around.
"There's a convention that when you're the grandchild of the monarch, so when Harry's dad becomes king, automatically Archie and our next baby would become prince or princess, or whatever they were going to be," Meghan said.
"I think even with that convention I'm talking about, while I was pregnant, they said they want to change the convention for Archie."
She said it was "not their right to take it away".
So, Harry and Meghan are not upset because the royals didn't make Archie a prince at birth. They're upset because they were told the convention would be changed to ensure he would not be entitled to become a prince after Charles took the throne.
That decision has never been publicly announced, but it sounds as though it was relayed to the Sussexes before Archie was born.
Why is this relevant? Because this is not the Queen's choice. As Archie's grandfather, Charles is the one who will get to decide.
It is no secret that Charles wants to slim down the monarchy, reducing the number of working royals who are reliant on the Sovereign Grant. Changing the convention to ensure there are fewer princes and princesses would certainly be in line with that goal.
Meghan and Harry were clearly resentful of the fact that Archie will not receive publicly funded security. Again, given how much it would cost taxpayers to fund a permanent detail of British police stationed with the Sussexes in Los Angeles, the decision obviously aligns with Charles' plans to make the institution more cost effective.
That is not the couple's interpretation.
Oprah went on to ask why "they" didn't want to make Archie a prince, and whether race was a factor. Meghan implied the answer was yes, linking the conversations about Archie's title to racist remarks about "how dark his skin might be".
Another clear source of anger, particularly for Harry, was the couple's financial situation. This subject came up while they sought to justify their lucrative deals with Netflix and Spotify.
"We didn't have a plan. That was suggested by somebody else, by the point of where my family literally cut me off financially. I had to afford security for us," Harry said.
"Wait. Hold up. Wait a minute. Your family cut you off?" Oprah asked.
"Yeah. In the first half, the first quarter of 2020. But I've got what my mum left me, and without that, we would not have been able to do this," he said.
"While we were in Canada, in someone else's house, I got told at short notice security was going to be removed."
Oprah asked why that decision was made.
"Their justification is a change in status, which I pushed back on and said, 'Well is there a change of threat or risk?'" Harry explained.
"After many weeks of waiting, eventually I got the confirmation that no, the risk and threat hasn't changed, but due to our change of status …"
When Harry talks about "the family" cutting him off, he is alluding to his father.
At the time Harry and Meghan first announced they were "stepping back" from their roles as senior royals - with the stated goal of becoming "financially independent" - about 95 per cent of their costs were being covered by income from Charles' Duchy of Cornwall estate, with the rest coming from the Sovereign Grant.
When they say they were "cut off", they're mainly talking about the money from the Duchy. Once again, this would have been Charles' decision, rather than the Queen's.
I should note that royal sources have pushed back on Harry's claims here, telling The Evening Standard: "The Prince of Wales went out of his way to make sure his son and daughter-in-law were financially supported."
We got yet another clue about Harry's underlying feelings when he told Oprah about the 2018 tour of Australia, framing that trip as the point at which the family's relationship with Meghan "really changed".
"You know, my father, my brother, Kate and all the rest of the family. They were, they were really welcoming. But it really changed after the Australia tour, after our South Pacific tour," he said.
"That's when we announced we were pregnant with Archie. That was our first tour," Meghan interjected.
"But it was also - it was also the first time that the family got to see how incredible she is at the job. And that brought back memories," Harry said.
Meghan's "incredible" performance in Australia brought back memories. Memories of what? He must have been talking about Charles and Diana's famous tour to Australia in 1983.
And whose memories are we referring to? Not Harry's. He wasn't even alive at the time. Not Diana's. The logical answer is Charles.
Princess Diana's popularity famously eclipsed her husband's during their visit to Australia. Speaking to the BBC in 1995, she recalled that her star turn made him jealous.
"We've be going round Australia, for instance, and all you could hear was, 'Oh, she's on the other side.' Now, if you're a man - like my husband, a proud man - you mind about that, if you hear it every day for four weeks. And you feel low about it, instead of feeling happy and sharing it," Diana said.
"With the media attention came a lot of jealousy. A great deal of complicated situations arose because of that."
A fictionalised version of that dynamic played out in season four of The Crown last year. Oprah, apparently an avid viewer, brought it up.
"I'm thinking - because I watch The Crown, OK? I watch The Crown. Do y'all watch The Crown?" she asked.
Harry and Meghan both said they had watched "some of it".
"There's this - think it was the fourth season, actually - where there is an Australian tour," Oprah continued.
"So is that what you're talking about? It brought back memories of that, the Australia tour?"
"Yeah," said Harry.
"Where your father and your mother went there, and your mother was bedazzling. So are you saying that there were hints of jealousy?" she asked.
"Look, I just wish that we would all learn from the past," he said.
That is … certainly not a "no".
So, aked directly whether Meghan's reception in Australia led to "jealousy" from Charles, Harry did not deny it, instead saying he wished people would learn from the past.
He repeatedly drew parallels between Meghan and his mother throughout the interview, saying he feared history was repeating.
Harry and Charles are back on speaking terms, apparently, after the Prince of Wales temporarily stopped taking his son's calls. But in his answers to Oprah's questions, Harry made it clear their relationship was far from fixed.
Multiple key decisions the Sussexes resent can be traced back to Charles. And if they're angry with other members of the family, they never expressed it during the interview. He was the only one to cop any level of hostility.
Meanwhile, by casting Charles as the antagonist in their story, the Sussexes may have done more damage to the royal family than any salacious information about the Cambridges would have wrought.
According to Vanity Fair, which reported Charles was "in a state of despair" on Sunday, the interview could seriously hurt the future king's public standing.
"Now, just at a time when by and large Charles had started to look like a more popular king than one would have guessed, here's a major blow to his reputation. That his son felt let down by him," said royal author Sarah Gristwood.
"It's hard to know if Harry is aware of the damage this has done. Did he actually intend to cast this damaging light on his father and his family? We don't know."
Originally published as Clues point to the real royal villain