In December 2019, William, 38, posed alongside Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles in a festive portrait that depicted the direct line of succession. His eldest son, Prince George, was also prominently featured in the photograph. At the time, tensions were reportedly rising between William and Harry, 36, who decided to spend the winter in Canada with Meghan Markle and their son, Archie.
“According to insiders, this formal photograph, taken in the Buckingham Palace Throne Room a week before Christmas 2019, was the idea of Prince Charles, anxious to promote his cause of the ‘slimmed-down monarchy,'” Robert Lacey writes in the new royal tell-all, Battle of Brothers: William, Harry and the Inside Story of a Family in Tumult.
William “enthusiastically supported” his father’s idea to put only “the direct line of royal succession” on full display, Lacey claims. Though the Duke of Cambridge “was not saying anything for the record” about the plan, he “wanted to send his younger brother a message” by leaving him out of the picture.
The photograph wasn’t shared by Buckingham Palace until January as the royal family celebrated the new year. “A new portrait of The Queen and The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and Prince George has been released to mark the start of a new decade,” a post on the Kensington Royal Instagram account read at the time. “Wishing all of our followers a happy and healthy 2020!”
Before they announced that they would be stepping down from the royal family, Harry and Meghan, 39, made a controversial choice to spend the holidays outside of the U.K. Traditionally, royal family members join the queen, 94, at her Sandringham Estate.
“Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are spending private family time in Canada,” a spokesperson for the couple confirmed in a statement to Us Weekly in December. “The decision to base themselves in Canada reflects the importance of this Commonwealth country to them both.”
Though the Palace claimed that Harry’s grandmother was supportive of the decision, Lacey writes that the family felt “snubbed” by the Sussexes, who “didn’t even bother with an excuse” as to why they wouldn’t stick to tradition. While the intention behind their move may not have been made public, a source previously revealed to Us that Harry’s relationship with his older brother was a driving force.
“Harry and Meghan are having a small Christmas with just immediate family instead of spending it at Sandringham,” an insider exclusively told Us during the holiday season. “The rift between William and Harry is one of the main reasons behind their decision.”
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