How Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s new public approach to royal life has affected their relationships with the rest of the family

The Sussexes and the Cambridges at an Armistice Service at Westminster Abbey.

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The Sussexes and the Cambridges at an Armistice Service at Westminster Abbey.
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Reuters

Ever since the Duke and Duchess of Sussex earlier this year released candid interviews detailing their struggles with royal life, there have been reports of tension between the couple and the rest of the royal family.

Meghan Markle has also launched a lawsuit against the British tabloid The Mail on Sunday, abandoning the Queen’s “never complain, never explain” mantra as she spoke publicly for the first time about her issues with the media.

This new candid approach to royal life is something that was “unlikely to have gone down well with senior royals,” according to Richard Fitzwilliams, a royal commentator.

Insider spoke with royal experts to break down how Prince Harry and Markle’s recent actions have affected their relationship with the royal family.

The royal family are reportedly concerned for Harry and Meghan

The Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex.

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The Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex.
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Getty Images

Harry first addressed rumors of a rift with his brother, Prince William, in an ITV documentary about his and Markle’s tour of Africa that aired in October.

“Part of this role and part of this job, this family, being under the pressure that it’s under – inevitably, stuff happens,” he said. “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.”

While the BBC reported in October that a “well-placed source” said William was “furious” with Harry about the interview, for another palace official, “that was not his understanding of the prince’s mood.”

“Instead the official suggested a mood of concern, for the safety of the couple,” the BBC said.

Meanwhile, the Evening Standard reported that the Queen invited them to Balmoral, “where family problems are usually aired.”

Another source told People magazine last month that the couple’s interviews had not affected their relationship with the family, as they had already been drifting apart before it aired.

“There hasn’t been this complete 180,” the source said. “Nothing has changed. They don’t speak. No one is checking in. No one is texting.”

‘They complained about royal life with a global audience watching’

Meghan Markle spoke with Tom Bradby for the ITV special.

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Meghan Markle spoke with Tom Bradby for the ITV special.
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ITV News

Fitzwilliams told Insider that it was never Harry and Markle’s intention to seek approval from the family after their interviews aired.

“There is little doubt that Harry and Meghan’s ITV documentary about their Southern African trip where they talked openly about the strain of royal life is unlikely to have gone down well with the most senior royals,” Fitzwilliams said. “It wasn’t meant to.

“Harry gave credence to the rumors of a rift with his brother. Meghan implied that she was surviving, not thriving, and that there were few inquiries as to how she was doing.”

Asked about the effect of the media scrutiny on her mental health as a new mother, Markle said in the ITV documentary that “not many people have asked if I’m OK.” It was not clear whether the duchess was referring to members of the royal family.

“They complained about royal life with a global audience watching,” Fitzwilliams said of Markle and Harry.

“Unless the Sussexes, who would be such brilliant charitable activists following in Diana’s footsteps, agree to be more conventional royals, with the press attention that goes with that, or actually decide to drop out and base themselves elsewhere, they must conform much more.

“After a year beset with crises which has shown royal advisers either to be ignored or inadequate, there must be change at the palace.”

The Queen and Prince Charles could be providing support to Harry and Markle behind the scenes

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex with Queen Elizabeth II on the Buckingham Palace balcony.

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex with Queen Elizabeth II on the Buckingham Palace balcony.
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Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Markle has not only been criticized for speaking out about royal life, but received backlash for announcing plans to sue The Mail on Sunday after the newspaper published excerpts from a private letter she sent to her father earlier this year.

However, many royal fans may not know that Prince Charles went through a similar situation in 2005, when he sued the same publication, accusing it of publishing excerpts from his private journal.

Like the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Charles spoke publicly about his decision to take legal action.

“The Prince of Wales has reluctantly decided to take legal action against Associated Newspapers following the publication of extracts from his private journals in the Mail on Sunday,” a Clarence House representative said at the time, as reported by The Times.

“The Prince of Wales’s office has been advised by lawyers that the Mail on Sunday has breached both the Prince of Wales’s copyright and confidentiality.”

Charles and the duchess have reportedly maintained a close relationship since he walked her down the aisle at her wedding to Prince Harry in 2018.

“I know that the Prince of Wales has several times reached out to Meghan,” a source told the Evening Standard after the ITV interview aired.

“They get on and share a love of music too. I know he invited her to a preview of an exhibition at the palace.”

Meanwhile, there are rumors that Harry and Markle decided to spend Christmas away from the royal family because of the feud resulting from their ITV interviews.

“They knew the Queen’s family Christmas was a perfect opportunity to end the year on a good note, mending broken fences with the Cambridges and spending time with Her Majesty at a time when she and her husband Prince Philip are nearing the end of their long and remarkable lives,” Piers Morgan wrote in his column in the Daily Mail.

He added: “So what do they decide? They do the one thing guaranteed to generate yet more negativity – they announce they’re not going.”

However, Grant Harrold, a former butler to Charles, told Insider that this was not the case – and that the monarch was likely providing support to the couple behind the scenes.

“I don’t think the family would think the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are neglecting them. I don’t imagine it would be an issue,” Harrold told Insider.

“The Queen understands they want to be with their family,” he added. “In private it’s about family, and in public it’s about duty. There’s a very fine line between the two.”

Harrold’s statement could easily sum up the couple’s relationship with the royal family moving forward.

Though the monarch hasn’t spoken publicly about the duke and duchess’ recent struggles, that doesn’t necessarily mean she and the rest of the family don’t support them.

After all, the Queen still appears to follow her “never complain, never explain” policy while conducting royal engagements.

But behind closed doors? According to Harrold, that’s the one place the Queen favors family over duty.