In Depth

Will Meghan and Harry ‘go nuclear’ with damaging accusations?

Princes deny ‘offensive and potentially harmful’ reports of brotherly rift amid Sandringham summit

Buckingham Palace fears the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will “go nuclear” with damaging accusations against the Royal Family if they are left unhappy after crisis talks, according to reports.

Senior royals will meet today at Sandringham to discuss Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s future role, following the couple’s announcement that they will be stepping down as “senior” royals.

Harry, Prince William, Prince Charles and the Queen will attend the so-called “Sandringham summit”, with Meghan expected to dial in from Canada.

The BBC’s royal correspondent Jonny Dymond has described the meeting as “royal history in the making”.

What do we know?

Journalist Tom Bradby, a close friend of the Sussexes, has warned that if the couple are left feeling hard done by after the Sandringham meeting, they may give a “no holds barred” interview that could inflict further damage on the monarchy.

In an article in The Sunday Times, he says that relationships within the family started to become strained around the time of Harry and Meghan’s wedding.

“Really damaging things were said and done. The atmosphere soured hard and early, but few meaningful attempts were made by anyone to heal the wounds,” writes Brady, who made a documentary with the couple last year.

Prince William has spoken of his “sadness” at the rift with his brother and voiced his unhappiness that the family is no longer a “team”. “I’ve put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can’t do that any more - we’re separate entities,” William reportedly told a friend.

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The brothers have moved to deny “offensive and potentially harmful” reports of a rift in their relationship in a joint statement. Reuters and the Press Association have linked the brother’s statement to a report in The Times, which cited an unnamed source who claimed Meghan had been pushed away by the “bullying attitude” of William.

Spokespeople for the Duke of Sussex and Duke of Cambridge said: “Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a UK newspaper today speculating about the relationship between The Duke of Sussex and The Duke of Cambridge.

“For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful.”

According to The Times report, an unnamed source had said the brother’s relationship never recovered after “Harry felt that William was insufficiently welcoming towards Meghan when they first started dating”. 

The Sussexes’ desire to step down as senior royals follows “two years of constantly being told their place”, according to the source. However, The Times noted that the account of a rift over William’s attitude to Meghan “is contested by sources close to Prince William and others close to Prince Harry”.

Harry and Meghan’s withdrawal from royal life - a decision made without consulting other members of the family -  has left Prince Charles “incandescent with rage” and the Queen “disappointed”, reports The Sun.

Meghan last week returned to Canada, where she and Harry spent the Christmas break, after flying to the UK to make the announcement.

What might the Sussexes reveal?

What exactly the couple might say in a tell-all interview isn’t clear, but The Sunday Times’ royal correspondent Roya Nikkhah reports that courtiers are concerned Meghan could brand members of the family “racist and sexist”.

In his article for the paper, Bradby says: “I have some idea of what might be aired in a full, no-holds-barred sit down interview and I don’t think it would be pretty.”

Harry and Meghan “find some other members of the family (with the exception of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh) jealous and, at times, unfriendly”, Brady adds.

A Palace source told the Daily Mirror that such an interview would be the “nuclear” option if Harry and Meghan were still unhappy following the Sandringham talks.

Meanwhile, commentators suggest that the Royal Family may feel backed into a corner by the threat of accusations that could do further damage to the ailing institution.

“A deal will probably be crafted,” says the BBC’s Dymond. 

But he adds: “The direction of travel is one way. Prince Harry and Meghan are looking for the exit.”

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