The Duke of Sussex raced to Balmoral to be at his beloved grandmother’s bedside, but arrived more than an hour after Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen had died, aged 96.
Prince Harry flew to Scotland separately from the rest of the Royal family and without his wife Meghan, despite sources close to the couple saying both planned to make the journey to Royal Deeside earlier in the day.
As news broke of the 96-year-old monarch’s deteriorating health, it was announced at around 2pm that the Sussexes would travel together to her home in the Scottish highlands.
But at the last minute it emerged that the Duchess of Sussex would not be accompanying her husband.
He finally arrived at Balmoral Castle just before 8pm, 90 minutes after the statement of the Queen’s death was made at 6.30pm.
The last-minute decision for Meghan not to accompany Harry follows ongoing tensions between the Sussexes and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge after they gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey, the US chat show host, in March last year, accusing an unnamed member of the Royal family of making a racist remark about their son Archie, three.
It was only 10 days ago that Meghan, 41, again hit the headlines over her relationship with her in-laws after she gave a 6,500-word interview to The Cut magazine, an offshoot of New York magazine, in which she claimed that “just by existing” she and Harry “were upsetting the dynamic of the hierarchy”.
She also suggested her husband had “lost” his father in the “Megxit” process and spoke of her relief at being “able to tell [my] own story” before issuing what some interpreted as a message to the royals whens she warned that she was free to “say anything” and said it was taking “a lot of effort” to forgive them and her estranged family.
The comments were greeted with anger and dismay behind palace gates, where aides were already growing increasingly concerned about Harry’s forthcoming autobiography, due to be published by Penguin in the coming months.
The Sussexes, who arrived in the UK from the US on Saturday for two engagements in Britain and one in Germany, had initially declined an offer to see the Queen in Scotland “for security reasons” amid a continuing row over their police protection.
But after Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen was under medical supervision following doctors’ concerns, a source close to the couple confirmed at around 2pm that they would be travelling up to Scotland to be at her bedside.
The source later said the Sussexes would be making the journey separately to the rest of the family, but that plans had been coordinated with the other royal households. But then, at 4.40pm, the source clarified that the Duchess would not, in fact, be “travelling today”.
The decision came after Prince William, 40, landed at Aberdeen airport in one of the Dassault Falcon 900LX jets that convened Boris Johnson and Liz Truss to Balmoral on Tuesday for the prime ministerial handover.
He was accompanied by the Duke of York and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. Prince Charles arrived at Balmoral by helicopter from Dumfries House at around noon, closely followed by Princess Anne, who travelled by car from nearby Blairgowrie, where she had been carrying out an engagement as the president of the Riding for the Disabled Association.
The Duchess of Cambridge, 40, remained at the couple’s new home, Adelaide Cottage in Windsor, to collect Prince George, nine, Princess Charlotte, seven and four-year-old Prince Louis after their first day at their new school, Lambrook Prep in Berkshire.
Despite staying just a stone’s throw from Adelaide Cottage at Frogmore Cottage, their Windsor home, the Sussexes were said to have “no plans” to see William and Kate this week.
Sources have previously told The Telegraph that William and Kate believe Harry and Meghan “crossed a line” with their comments to Oprah and aren’t just waiting for an apology from the couple but also “an acknowledgement of the hurt it caused”.
News of Harry’s autobiography has caused mounting alarm, not least because it is thought the palace will not have advance sight of the book before it is published.
The manuscript for the “definitive account” of the Duke’s “experiences, adventures, losses and life lessons” has reportedly been completed and signed off by lawyers after being submitted by its ghostwriter, JR Moehringer, earlier this summer.
It was due to hit bookshelves in the autumn but has been delayed until later this year, landing in time for the Thanksgiving and Christmas gift market. Whether the publication will still go ahead as scheduled remains to be seen.
Harry, 37, who will donate the proceeds to charity, said in a statement that the book would be “a first-hand account of my life that’s accurate and wholly truthful.”
He added: ‘I’ve worn many hats over the years, both literally and figuratively, and my hope is that in telling my story – the highs and lows, the mistakes, the lessons learned – I can help show that, no matter where we come from, we have more in common than we think.”
Relations between the royal brothers reached rock bottom following the Oprah interview, in which Meghan accused Kate of making her cry during a bridesmaids’ dress fitting and Harry claimed his father and brother felt “trapped” in the monarchy.
Although William and Harry were reunited a month later for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, and again in July last year for the unveiling of the statue of Diana, Princess of Wales, there was no interaction between the Cambridges and the Sussexes during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend in June.
Harry and Meghan brought Archie and one-year-old Lilibet to meet the Queen for the first time, they did not see their cousins George, Charlotte and Louis during the four-day celebrations.
There is a perception within the House of Windsor that Harry and Meghan’s revelations caused unnecessary upset to the Queen when Prince Philip was ill and a general suspicion around the couple’s attempts to maintain a relationship with her but not the rest of the family.
Eyebrows were raised when the couple – who have signed multi-million dollar deal to make a fly on the wall documentary for Netflix – requested to bring their own photographer to capture the first meeting between the sovereign, whose family nickname is Lilibet, and her great-granddaughter ahead of the Platinum Jubilee weekend.
The Queen personally intervened to prevent an official image being taken, apparently advising Harry and Meghan that she had a bloodshot eye and did not want to feature in any pictures for public consumption.
It came after aides had expressed fears that publicising a private meeting could set a dangerous precedent, not least if any photographs were shared with US television networks or the online streaming giant.
Despite all that has been said and done since the Sussexes stepped down from public duties in March 2020, the Queen has always insisted – both publicly and privately – that Harry and Meghan “remain much-loved members of the family”.
Nothing would have made her happier than for her warring grandsons to have finally put their differences aside in her hour of need.