In 1978 he published Majesty, his biography of Elizabeth II which has since established itself as a reference in the field. He was also one of the editors of the Sunday Times, where he documented – very seriously – the deeds and actions of the royal family. To do his job well, he told the Point, “You have to know not only the members of the family, their entourage, but the society in which they evolve”. This being the case, Robert Lacey has been close to Lord Snowdon (Princess Margaret’s husband), has previously met the late Prince Philip, and is married to the daughter of the 8th Marquess of Londonderry. His very fine knowledge of “the firm” has also pushed the producers of the series The Crown to ask for his help for the first four seasons.
So when he publishes Royal War, Lies and Betrayals (1), on the disagreements between Prince William and Prince Harry, we expect to have answers to the following questions: Who is really responsible for Harry’s shattering exile in the United States? Where and when were the first disagreements between William and Harry born? Is reconciliation still possible? We do have a few.
Madame Figaro. – In its original version, your work is titled Battle of Brothers, in French Royal war. A war that would have started long before the arrival of Meghan Markle at Buckingham Palace, when William began to be brought up as a king, and his brother as the “replacement”. Did Harry experience his second position so badly?
Robert Lacey. – In reality, this is a very commonplace situation within the great dynasties, and has been for centuries. In England, we talk about “the heir and the spare», The heir and the spare part. Whoever inherits this role of spare wheel logically stores a lot of frustrations. Prince Andrew, yet the Queen’s favorite son, got to know him with Prince Charles. Princess Margaret lived it with her sister Elizabeth. We must remember the time when they were still young and were nicknamed the “two little princesses”. Overnight Elizabeth was cast as Queen, and everyone from the staff of Buckingham to the people of England put Margaret second, forever. This was arguably Harry’s problem, although Diana was expressly keen that the two boys be photographed together, on an equal footing. Many years later, it was Meghan who came into his life and helped him identify his frustrations, to seek another destiny.
In video, William and Harry arrive together at the unveiling of the statue of Diana
You describe William as a rowdy kid, a rebellious teenager, and a man with no qualms. After meeting him for the first time, you tell in the book, Camilla came out “trembling like a leaf”. He seems to be a lot more complex than the kind, smiling man we’re used to seeing …
Yes, and this family crisis continues to reveal it. As a child, it’s true, he behaved very badly with people, he was very aggressive (at 3 years old, he said to his father who was talking with Bob Geldof: “Why are you talking to this gentleman, he’s all dirty!”. Only Harry was covered in kisses and hugs by his brother, as Diana recounted. But it was a little later that William’s royal rudeness calmed down, when he realized he was going to be king one day. At that point, her life took a new turn. And being the future sovereign, he learned to wear the costume, to play this comedy, to hide his true nature, including his very imperious character.
Prince Charles, an absent father
Your book is pretty tough on Prince Charles. To read you, this image of a loving father and attentive to his sons was fabricated from scratch by his communicators. What father was he really?
Little present, little involved. Between 1997, the year of Diana’s death, and 2005, the year of her second marriage, Charles’s priority was to get Camilla accepted by the English. This had two consequences on his fatherhood: the first was that he had less time and emotional energy for his sons, which he let go. (at 14 and 16, Harry and William were already heavy drinkers, we read in the book, Editor’s note). The second is that his communicators did not hesitate to distort family facts in Charles’ favor. For example, when Harry started having addiction problems at 16, it was Mark Dyer (his mentor, Editor’s note) who discreetly accompanied him to a detoxification center, Charles was not even aware. However, when the story was published in the press, the newspapers headlined on the decisive intervention of the father and the courage of a Charles who gives everything for his children. The work of the Prince of Wales’ public relations master …
At what precise moment can we locate the real point of rupture between William and Harry?
Meghan’s arrival marks a turning point in their relationship. How quickly Harry wanted to put the ring on him, first. Meghan is an activist and ambitious woman, the kind of woman who has never come to terms with a situation thinking about failure. Maybe William sensed this when he advised Harry not to go too fast. He did not understand how his brother could consider marrying this girl he barely knew, without her having proven herself… He who had made Kate hang around for ten years before she became his companion for life! But the real breaking point has to do with complaints from Kensington Palace staff about Meghan’s tyrannical behavior. From the moment he learned of the harassment accusations, William called Harry and they didn’t understand each other. This is where Kate and William started to be suspicious of Meghan, and William brought up the fact that Meghan might have a plan. (“Agenda” is the term he used in front of his friend, Editor’s note).
Kate Middleton, the rebellious
Have Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton ever been close to each other?
I don’t think so, at any time. However, their royal history is a bit similar, they are both older than their husbands, commoners, endowed with a strong character. That said, it is interesting to point out that the English feel like they know Meghan’s true nature, whereas they are often mistaken about Kate’s, whom they see as a wife rather subject to the rules of the monarchy.
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How is she in reality?
She is much smarter than that! She even has a decisive role in the actions of the royal family. When William, Harry and she launched, long before Meghan’s arrival, the “Heads Together” campaign dedicated to mental health, William had particularly insisted: it was Kate’s idea, it was Kate who decided that mental health should be a priority in their country. During the interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan said at one point: “The whole world thought I made Kate cry, but in reality she was the one who made me cry!” (the day of the fitting of the bridesmaids’ dresses, some time before the wedding of Meghan and Harry, Editor’s note). We still don’t know the truth today, and whatever, but it may be an example of Kate’s not-so-sweet temper.
Everyone seems to agree that today William and Harry are two enemies. Yet they appeared surprisingly relatives, accomplices and smiling at the inauguration of the statue of Diana in July. Are they on good or bad terms?
When Oprah asks Harry the question in the famous interview, he has a very considerate response for her brother: “We have taken different paths, but we love each other until death, we will always be there for one. other”. And they confirmed it to us on the day of the inauguration of the statue of Diana, appearing very united to pay homage to their mother. On the other hand, we also know that they are both on deeply hostile terms. Their problems are not little problems that you can easily get rid of. It is about love, and about duty. Concretely, William’s duties as a future king must count more than his brother’s feelings. He has to defend the monarchy when Harry wants to defend his wife. A few months ago, we dreamed of a reconciliation at the next jubilee, all together on the balcony of Buckingham. And then there was this news that Harry was going to publish his memoirs. And we all know that these memories will be at least as critical as the interview with Oprah. No publishing house would pay hundreds of millions of dollars for a less powerful, less impactful work.
Meghan Markle, the misunderstood
You write: “There is only one millionaire and self-made person in the royal family and that is Meghan Markle. If they’d taken the time to sit down with her at the start and say, ‘Okay, let’s talk about what you are interested in,’ things would have been different. ” What exactly would have been different?
The royal family has not taken Meghan Markle by the right end. The entourage of the queen did not think enough, worked around the reception of a personality like Meghan. It was only after things started to go wrong that the Queen decided to leave her the sponsorship of the National Theater. Why was it not done from the start? At the same time, they have given Meghan a function within the Commonwealth, but why not as soon as she arrives? Until now, the royal family had only welcomed young women who knew the rules, were happy to apply them and play the princesses. They thought Meghan would be like them. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work.
What should they have done?
They could have given him a project, a mission from the start. By not doing so, they insulted his talent and experience. Meghan was treated like an ingenuous. If she had been treated like a highly skilled woman, for public speaking for example, maybe she wouldn’t have left. Because it would be wrong to say that she had planned everything to go to California. On the contrary, we can say that Meghan was naive and even ignorant in thinking that the royal family could want in her midst such an enterprising personality. It’s a waste.
(1) Royal War, Lies and Betrayals, by Robert Lacey, ed. Albin Michel, 21.90 euros.