Thanks to the openness of Princes William and Harry, we have some good insight into their relationship with their late mother, Princess Diana. However, not as much is said about their relationship with their father, Prince Charles. Is he as fun of a parent as Diana was? How does he feel about his sons’ goal to modernize the monarchy? And how did his relationship with Camilla play into all of this? We took a trip down memory lane in search of the answers to those questions.
We hear the tabloid tidbits …
… but they really don’t give us a full story. The royal family is constantly in the news. And there is always banter over whether the more stoic Prince Charles approves or doesn’t approve of something that his more outgoing and modern sons do. But rumors about whether Charles bickers with his adult sons says little about what their relationship is actually like.
Next: Let’s start by turning back the clock.
What were the early years like?
Despite not always being around because of his royal duties, Prince Charles was a hands-on dad when William and Harry were young. There are reports of him taking them away on boys’s trips for the weekend, and always finding ways to keep them active. The Prince of Wales was allegedly not much of a disciplinarian, but always treated his sons — even at young ages — like they were young adults.
Next: But how did Charles compare to the other royal parent?
Did Charles do all the fun things Diana did?
While he did plenty with his sons when they were younger, Prince Charles often got the wrap for being the more serious parent. Surely that was due to being married to the out-going and seemingly fun-loving Princess Diana. She was the one that took William and Harry to school and to Disney World, even taking them with her to do charity work. In reality, Charles and Diana were just hands-on in different ways.
Next: Was Charles’ relationship with each son the same?
Closer to one son than the other?
There is a common assumption that Prince Charles is closer with his older son, William. However there is evidence that he has always tried to be present for both boys, especially when times were extra hard. Charles allegedly made an extra effort to be home on weekends that Harry was home from school, especially after Princess Diana died. (More on that a little later.)
Next: The life event that affected their dynamic.
After the divorce
One area of the William and Harry’s lives that tried their relationship with their dad was after his very public separation and divorce from Princess Diana. The princes reportedly spent more time travelling between seeing their parents then actually spending time with them. They hadn’t seen Diana for weeks just before her tragic death because of the divorce and her busy charity schedule. Charles also reportedly didn’t want to talk about her, which likely added strain to his relationship with his sons.
Next: The real story behind grieving their loss.
After Diana’s passing
The public largely laid blame on Charles when the People’s Princess lost her life in a terrible car crash. But as Prince Harry revealed in a BBC interview in 2017, Charles remained supportive the whole time, and did everything in his power to aid his kids. “He was the one out of two left and he tried to do his best to make sure that we were protected and looked after. But you know, he was going through the same grieving process as well.”
Next: Life after Diana.
Life as a single dad
Following Diana’s death, Prince Charles became an even more hands-on parent. He took William and Harry on trips with him, and made it a point of doing things with them away from the public eye, like fishing and shooting. As the boys got older, Charles began engaging in more activities with William and Harry on a one-on-one basis.
Next: Was there any type of ‘motherly’ influence for the boys?
The queen’s role
Suddenly becoming a single parent, Prince Charles needed help right after Diana died. That’s where Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth, stepped in to help protect her grandsons from public attention and scrutiny. “my grandmother wanted to protect her two grandsons,” Prince William said in an interview. In addition to keeping a watchful eye on them, the queen acted as a disciplinarian as her grandsons got older.
Next: And then, there was the other woman in Charles’ life.
When the princes met Camilla
One area of contention between Prince Charles and his sons did occur when it came to introducing them to his mistress, Camilla. Charles reportedly put his personal life on hold right after Diana died, but wanted to his sons to be aware that Camilla was going to be part of his life. William and Harry allegedly refused to meet Camilla for some time, although now they maintain a cordial relationship.
Next: How the bond evolved as the princes got older.
Following in dad’s footsteps
Prince William and Prince Harry mirrored their father when they chose their careers after school. Both entered branches of the royal military, and maintain charitable endeavors that give back to the armed forces. More interestingly, Prince William has followed in Prince Charles’ footsteps by writing to ministers when he wants to help the public but cannot because of political implications.
Next: Of course, William and Harry have done a lot on their own.
… then making their own mark
For all the things they learned from their father, Prince William and Prince Harry have also branched out and put their own signatures on their endeavors. Instead of taking part in their father’s charity foundation, The Prince’s Foundation, they went and established their own hub. While The Royal Foundation supports many of the same causes, it is unique to the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
Next: How Charles’ role has evolved.
Charles’ as an in-law, and a grandfather
Sure, there were whispers that Prince Charles was unhappy with the public spectacle his son William and his wife, Kate Middleton, put on in their first tour as newlyweds. But any of those hard feelings have apparently gone by the wayside as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have grown their family. According to reports, Charles is a wonderful grandfather to Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
Next: But could family strain be on the horizon?
Is Charles giving up the throne?
One factor that could bring Prince Charles and Prince William’s relationship into question is who will take the throne after Queen Elizabeth. Charles is the heir apparent, and apparently already has plans for how the monarchy will be stacked under his reign. However, there are rumors that he may step aside and let William and Kate rule. It remains to be seen how this family business unravels.
Next: And how Harry has an effect on this family matter.
Did Harry’s comments leave a burn?
It is unclear if Prince Harry’s comments about the state of the monarchy sat well with his father. In a 2017 interview, Harry commented that the monarchy is outdated and that no one in the coming generation actually wants to be king or queen. He later retracted the statement, leaving us to wonder if his comments got him into trouble with his father and the rest of the family.
Next: At the end of the day …
There is still so much mystery
Even with the tidbits and secrets that we know, there is still some mystery shrouding Prince Charles’ relationship with Princes William and Harry. The royal family, particularly the older generations, prefer to keep their close family matters very private. And it is largely recognized that Charles’ role as a parent has been overshadowed by Princess Diana’s legacy. There are probably still pieces of Charles’ relationship with his sons that we’ll never know.
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