Prince Harry's visit with King Charles III, absence of Prince William sparks reconciliation questions

Harry described tensions with his father and brother in his memoir "Spare."

February 8, 2024, 5:35 PM

The news that Prince Harry -- now living in California -- quickly boarded a flight to London to see his father King Charles III after he was diagnosed with cancer has sparked immediate hopes of a reconciliation for many royal watchers.

Harry, 39, had not seen his 75-year-old father in nearly one year, since the king's coronation last May at Westminster Abbey.

His trip last year to the United Kingdom was a short one for Harry, who did not participate in his father's coronation ceremony and who was not seen interacting publicly with either Charles or his older brother Prince William, the heir to the throne.

Harry's trip to the U.K. this week proved to be a short one as well.

Harry reportedly met with his father privately for less than an hour before Charles and his wife Queen Camilla left London to travel to Sandringham, the royal residence in Norfolk, England.

Harry himself flew out of London just over 24 hours after arriving, reportedly staying in a hotel overnight and leaving on Wednesday out of Heathrow Airport.

Though the visit was brief, ABC News royal contributor Robert Jobson noted it was a "heartfelt decision" by Harry to reach out to his father.

"Harry and the king, I think they were always very close," Jobson said. "So deep down, I'm sure he's quite relieved that Harry has reached out to him."

In this Sept. 10, 2022 file photo, Prince William and Prince Harry are seen on the long Walk at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England.
Chris Jackson/POOL/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

During his time in London, Harry did not meet with William, who is coping with not only their father's cancer diagnosis but also the recent hospitalization of his wife Kate, the Princess of Wales, following abdominal surgery.

William stepped in for his father Wednesday at Windsor Castle, leading an investiture ceremony, and later attended a charity fundraising gala held at a London hotel.

In his remarks at the gala, William thanked people for the "kind messages of support" for his wife -- who is now recovering at home -- and father, and made no reference to Harry.

The last time the public saw the two brothers -- the only children of Charles and the late Princess Diana -- closely together was in 2022, at the funeral for their beloved grandmother, the late Queen Elizabeth II. At the funeral, Harry and William, along with other royal family members, were part of the procession that followed behind the queen's coffin.

PHOTO: In this Sept. 14, 2022 file photo, (L-R) Peter Phillips, Prince Harry, Prince William and Edward, Earl of Wessex follow the bearer carrying the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II into Westminster Hall ahead of her funeral in London.
In this Sept. 14, 2022 file photo, (L-R) Peter Phillips, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Prince William, Prince of Wales and Edward, Earl of Wessex follow the bearer party carrying the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II into Westminster Hall ahead of her funeral in London.
Jacob King/WPA Pool/Getty Images, FILE

Over the past four years, since Harry's departure from his role as a senior working royal, those few formal and brief glimpses of William and Harry are all the public has seen of the once publicly bonded brothers.

When Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, left their royal roles in 2020, they moved to California, where they now live full-time with their two young children, Archie and Lilibet.

William and Kate live in Windsor, England, with their three children, Princes George and Louis and Princess Charlotte.

The thousands of miles physically separating the brothers seem to exist on a personal level too.

Harry laid bare the rift between himself and William in his memoir "Spare," in which he refers to William as his "beloved brother and arch nemesis" and recalls verbal and even physical disputes between them.

He also wrote of a fractured relationship with Charles, telling "Good Morning America" co-anchor Michael Strahan last year that he did not believe the details shared in "Spare" could make things any worse with his family.

"I don't think that we can ever have peace with my family unless the truth is out there," Harry told Strahan last January, just before "Spare" was released. "There's a lot that I can forgive, but there needs to be conversations in order for reconciliation, and part of that has to be accountability."

In this April 9, 2017 file photo, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry attend the commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge in Lille, France.
Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage via Getty Images, FILE

Neither Kensington Palace -- William and Kate's office -- nor Buckingham Palace, the office of Charles and Queen Camilla, have commented on the claims Harry made in "Spare."

The absence felt by Harry's departure from his senior royal role has been seen most recently with both Kate and Charles temporarily out of the public eye due to their health issues. In their absence, and without Harry and his wife Meghan to take on official engagements, it has fallen to William and Camilla, along with Charles' siblings, to be the public faces of the royal family.

When William eventually becomes king, the monarchy will be even slimmer, but Jobson said he does not anticipate a reconciliation between William and Harry.

"I think the relationship is already so bad that I don't believe that as king or as regent he would reach out to Harry for support," Jobson said. "I think that as far as he's concerned, Harry's made his bed and he has to lie in it."