Harry welcomed Kate to the royal family when she and William began dating in 2003. Harry forged a close bond with his sister-in-law, which only grew after she married his older brother in 2011. However, the younger prince “felt very much like a spare wheel,” royal expert Katie Nicholl told Entertainment Tonight in July 2020.
Harry learned what it was like to be a part of a royal duo in 2016 when he started dating Meghan. They quickly gained popularity with the public, but his family was less enthusiastic about the partnership, which caused tension between him and William.
Amid their husbands’ feud, Kate and Meghan had not talked “directly in over a year,” a source told Us Weekly in March 2021. “They were never that close, but the reason they’re not speaking is because of the rift between Prince Harry and Prince William. Harry and William have communicated sparingly over the last year, but none of their communications have been friendly in quite some time. There is real animosity that the brothers have toward one another, and that has spilled over to Meghan and Kate’s relationship, making it very hard for them to be friends or even friendly.”
While the siblings and their wives weren’t seen together when Harry and Meghan returned to the U.K. for the queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June 2022, they put on a united front when the monarch died that August, stepping out as a group to greet mourners in Windsor, England.
Scroll through the gallery below to revisit the Fab Four’s strained relationship through the years.
Prince William and Princess Kate’s Relationship With Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: A Timeline
Harry was close friends with Kate and William prior to meeting Meghan. He viewed Kate as the sister he never had, and the trio often attended events together. Through their joint foundation, they launched the Heads Together campaign in May 2016 to combat the stigma around mental health.
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Meghan “prepared herself for a grilling” when she met William for the first time, authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand wrote in their 2020 book, Finding Freedom. However, he welcomed her to his house and said, “I was looking forward to meeting the girl who has put that silly grin on my brother’s face.”
William also backed the couple after Harry released a statement denouncing the racist and sexist coverage of his relationship with Meghan. “The Duke of Cambridge absolutely understands the situation concerning privacy and supports the need for Prince Harry to support those closest to him,” a statement to The Telegraph in November 2016 read.
Harry then introduced Meghan to Kate in January 2017. “Meghan’s so happy she’s getting to know more of Harry’s nearest and dearest,” an insider told Us at the time.
The brothers grew distant after the argument, though Harry decided to follow his heart by proposing to Meghan. They announced their engagement in November 2017.
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William, Kate, Harry and Meghan appeared at their first joint event together in February 2018, speaking at the Royal Foundation Forum in London. “I am particularly happy to be at our first Royal Foundation event with Meghan,” William said. The Fab Four also joked about working together, confessing that their disagreements came “so thick and fast” that they could not keep track. Harry added: “It does have its challenges. … But we are stuck together forever now.”
“The reverse happened,” Meghan said during the sit-down. “A few days before the wedding she was upset about flower girl dresses and it made me cry. It really hurt my feelings.”
The former actress continued: “It was a really hard week of the wedding. And she was upset about something, but she owned it, and she apologized. And she brought me flowers and a note, apologizing. And she did what I would do if I knew that I hurt someone, right, to just take accountability for it.”
Harry and Meghan split royal households from William and Kate in March 2019. Kensington Palace told Us at the time that the queen “agreed to the creation of a new household for The Duke and Duchess of Sussex” and allowed the pair to move their office from Kensington Palace to Buckingham Palace. “This long-planned move will ensure that permanent support arrangements for the duke and duchess’ work are in place as they start their family and move to their official residence at Frogmore Cottage.”
Kensington Palace confirmed in June 2019 that Harry and Meghan would split from their joint charity with William and Kate. “The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex has today announced the conclusions of a review into its structure, and how it will best support Their Royal Highnesses with their future charitable activity,” a statement to Us read. “Later this year The Royal Foundation will become the principal charitable and philanthropic vehicle for The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will establish their own new charitable foundation with transitional operating support from The Royal Foundation.”
The shift was “designed to best complement the work and responsibilities of Their Royal Highnesses as they prepare for their future roles, and to better align their charitable activity with their new households.” The four were described as “incredibly proud of what they [had] achieved together.”
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Harry confirmed his rift with William in the October 2019 documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey. “Part of this role and part of this job, this family, being under the pressure that it’s under, inevitably stuff happens,” he explained. “But look, we’re brothers, we’ll always be brothers. We’re certainly on different paths at the moment but I’ll always be there for him and as I know he’ll always be there for me.”
Harry noted that he and William did not “see each other as much as we used to because we’re so busy, but I love him dearly,” adding that they had “good days” and “bad days.”
Harry and Meghan announced their plans to “step back” from their roles as senior members of the royal family in January 2020. They agreed to complete their royal duties in March 2020, at which point they reunited with William and Kate at the Commonwealth Day Service. Royal watchers noticed that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge barely acknowledged Meghan and Harry when they arrived at the event, which marked their final official engagement together.
A source told Us that William felt “totally let down” by Harry’s decision to leave royal life, while Kate was “incredibly hurt” as well since she “acted as a mentor to Harry before Meghan came into the picture.”
Meghan and Harry, along with son Archie, relocated to her native California in March 2020.
Harry and Meghan opened up about their relationships with William and Kate in the year after their royal exit. “As I said before, I love William to bits. We’ve been through hell together and we have a shared experience but we are on different paths,” he said during the pair’s March 2021 tell-all interview. “The relationship is space at the moment and time heals all things, hopefully.”
Meghan, meanwhile, defended Kate after claiming her sister-in-law made her cry in 2018. “I’m not sharing that piece about Kate in any way to be disparaging to her,” she clarified. “I think it’s really important for people to understand the truth. … She’s a good person. And I think so much of what I have seen play out is this idea of polarity, where if you love me, you don’t have to hate her. And if you love her, you don’t need to hate me.”
William, Harry and Kate reunited at Philip’s funeral in April 2021, while Meghan remained home due to her second pregnancy. The trio were spotted talking and walking together after the service. However, Lacey claimed the brothers were “at each other’s throats” behind closed doors.
After the family expanded, Kate made an effort to mend her relationship with Meghan. “Kate has been reaching out to Meghan a lot more since [Lilibet] was born, she’s sending [notes and] gifts and trying to build up a relationship,” a source noted in June 2021.
"Senior members of the royal family were seated in the front row and non-senior members in the second row,” an insider told Us at the time. It was the palace's decision, they added, "to keep them on opposite sides of [the] cathedral to avoid any unwanted attention" after the two couples were “scrutinized” during the 2020 Commonwealth Day Service, which was Harry and Meghan's final official engagement as senior royals.
William and Harry saw each other again in September 2022 when they both traveled to Scotland upon the news that the queen’s doctors were “concerned” about her health. Both princes arrived separately after Queen Elizabeth II died at age 96.
“There was fractional engagement between William and Harry at Balmoral,” an insider told Us at the time. “While the brothers are keeping it civil and acting like adults as they mourn the queen’s death, they’ve by no means turned the page and made amends.”
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Days after the queen died, William invited Harry and Meghan to speak with mourners who lined the streets of Windsor, England. The September 10 outing marked the first time the foursome stepped out as a group in years.