EXCLUSIVE: Prince Harry is back in the U.K. sooner than expected – and one palace insider hopes the family will heal after a painful year.
The Duke of Sussex was originally supposed to return in July to join his older brother Prince William for the statue unveiling honoring their late mother Princess Diana. She would have turned 60 on July 1.However, the 36-year-old arrived on Sunday to attend the funeral of his grandfather Prince Philip, who died on Friday at age 99. Harry traveled solo as his wife Meghan Markle stayed back in California with their almost 2-year-old son Archie.
The Duchess of Sussex is expecting her second child, a girl due this summer. The 39-year-old was advised by a physician not to travel.
The funeral will take place on Saturday. It will also be the first time that Harry will come face-to-face publicly with the royal family since he and his wife stepped away from royal duties last March.
While that departure caused a huge rift within the palace, family relations took a further dive last month when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex gave a bombshell tell-all to Oprah Winfrey that was viewed by nearly 50 million people globally.
“It’s all speculation right now of what will happen,” True Royalty TV co-founder Nick Bullen told Fox News. “But funerals, weddings and births do often reunite families. And I think both William and Harry will know – and do know – that the Duke of Edinburgh would want them to be reunited.”
Bullen said it’s important now more than ever for “The Firm” to put on a united front for the grieving queen, who lost her husband of 73 years.
“Let’s all hope that this is a catalyst for them to heal,” said Bullen. “Especially for the queen’s sake. It’s important that all the members of the royal family are pulling in the same direction as she steps into her platinum Jubilee year. So fingers crossed that this is a positive coming together.”
It wouldn’t be the first time that William, 38, and Harry have shared grief. More than two decades ago, the brothers attended another royal funeral – that of their mother, who died in 1997 at age 36.
On Saturday, William and Harry are expected to join the other senior royals and walk behind their grandfather’s coffin, as the funeral procession makes its way through Windsor Castle.
It was clear from at least 2019 that Harry wanted a break from the constraints of the monarchy to craft his own narrative. That year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex separated from the Royal Foundation, originally set up as the brothers’ joint charitable venture, so they could have their own platform.
The princes’ separate statements this week in tribute to Philip reflected their personalities and differing styles. While William’s stated that he and his wife Kate Middleton will “continue to do what [Philip] would have wanted and will support The Queen in the years ahead,” Harry’s tone was much more informal and light-hearted.
The younger brother praised Philip for being “authentically himself” and thanked him for his “dedication to Granny.” He also wrote: “While I could go on, I know that right now he would say to all of us, beer in hand, ‘Oh do get on with it.'”
After Harry and Markle married in May 2018 at Windsor Castle, the royal family seemed to welcome the Duchess of Sussex, a glamorous former TV star. The pair were seen as providing a fresh young face for the monarchy of an increasingly multicultural nation.
It didn’t take long for the fairy tale to unravel.
The couple stepped away from royal duties last year and eventually settled in California, saying they wanted to escape racist coverage and unwanted intrusions on their privacy by the British media.
Harry acknowledged to Winfrey that he and his brother are on “different paths.”
“I love William to bits,” Harry explained. “He’s my brother. We’ve been through hell together. But we are on different paths.”
While Harry described his relationship with William as “space,” the prince stressed he “will always be there” for him.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.