Britain’s Prince William and his younger brother Harry publicly denounced an “offensive” newspaper report about their relationship on Monday as the royals met for crunch talks to discuss the future roles of Harry and his American wife Meghan.
The Times, citing an unnamed source, reported that Harry and Meghan had been pushed away by “a bullying attitude” of William who had not been welcoming to Meghan.
“In spite of 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,” said the statement issued by the offices for William and Harry.
“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.”
The shock announcement by Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, has exposed divisions in the Windsor family and prompted soul-searching over what it means to be royal in the 21st century.
The couple consulted neither the queen nor Charles on the announcement, made on Instagram and their own website, a step seen as impertinent and premature by a family whose roots go back through a thousand years of European history.
Meghan is currently in Canada with their infant son Archie. She may join the discussion by telephone.
She and Harry say they want a “progressive” new role for themselves and financial independence, which could mean working in the U.S. where Meghan is from.
But it was unclear how they will pull off a partial pullback from royal roles – which some media have dubbed “Megxit” in a play on Britain’s tortuous Brexit departure from the European Union – or who will pay for a transatlantic lifestyle.
When the most powerful members of the so-called royal “Firm” meet at the queen’s Georgian mansion, Elizabeth, 93, and her son Charles, 71, will have to grapple with much more than family issues: their decisions could shape the monarchy’s future.
The queen will have to find a way to harness Harry and Meghan’s global appeal, especially among young people, while giving them the freedom they crave and ensuring the bill to the British taxpayer is as modest as possible.
Though Elizabeth and her husband Philip challenged royal convention in their youth, she has served dutifully since 1952, earning the admiration of most Britons – including many republicans.
Prince Charles has long sought a leaner royal family, though it is unclear how Harry and Meghan would fit into that model – especially if they essentially become Hollywood superstars.
The couple’s ambition to break out of their gilded royal casts has become a feast for British tabloid newspapers with which Harry and Meghan have repeatedly clashed.
Harry remains deeply affected by the hounding role the media played in the life and death of his mother, Princess Diana.