Had they been resolved?
“We don’t know,” William said, seemingly jokingly.
The high- profile appearance was the first time the two couples publicly joined forces – and it may be the last.
A partnership that started off full of promise – the forum summed up the whole idea of the family working together, Royal Foundation CEO Lorraine Heggessey commented at the time – has since crumbled.
Today the quartet don’t even share an office – or an Instagram page.
The split culminated with Meghan and Harry moving to Frogmore Cottage – some 40km away from the palace home they once shared with William, 36, and Kate, 37 – and marks the end of an era for the brothers, who were exceedingly close.
Palace insiders brush off the shake-up as a natural progression of adult siblings and a chance for Harry, 34, and Meghan, 37, to escape the “claustrophobic” life of the palace.
“It’s very important for Harry and Meghan to flower and create a new direction,” says royal historian Robert Lacey.
As William focuses on his role as the future king – Queen Elizabeth turns 93 on April 21 and Prince Charles is 70 – he and Harry are inherently set upon diverging roads. “This is a future-proofing exercise,” a member of their team says about dividing the Sussex and Cambridge “courts.”
But multiple sources tell WHO there’s more to it, and that there have been deep tensions – stretching back to when Harry first told his family he wanted to marry Meghan after less than a year of dating.
William cautioned his brother that things were moving too quickly, a source says, leaving Harry angry and hurt. (The idea that William and Kate were unfriendly to Meghan, though, doesn’t “sound like them,” says a friend of both brothers.)
What has now become clear is that tensions had been building for some time. For Kate, coping with newborn Louis caused some strain, just as Meghan was adjusting to the confines of royal life.
And Meghan’s frustrations have been evident to insiders. “Harry is very protective – and quite rightly so,” says one household source.
“The royal household can be like that. It must be a real culture shock for her.”
The brothers still attend formal events together – most recently April 4, when they joined Charles to support their shared passion for conservation at the premiere of the Netflix documentary Our Planet.
But outside of such appearances, they don’t spend much time together.
“They are at very different situations in their lives,” says a family friend.
For those who remember the brothers’ bond as children – and in the wake of the 1997 death of Princess Diana – the current distance between them is heartbreaking.
“They got great comfort from each other when their mother died,” says the family friend. In the two decades since, William has gravitated towards his grandmother for lessons in how to conduct himself publicly as monarch- in-waiting.
Most recently, he made headlines for a brief undercover stint with UK spy agencies.
Harry, who leads with his instincts, sees his older brother as being hemmed in by protocol and a path that is preset, say sources. But despite their very different roles, longtime palace courtiers had the “homogenous idea” of the two princes working in tandem. “It was only going to work until they married – and it went on a while longer than perhaps was originally thought,” one now concedes.
But they have lost something by dividing. “It’s a shame,” says the source. “There was power in that unity and great strength in the foursome, but I see why it is happening. There is always that tension: trying to do the PR thing and then realising that they are just real people. They want their own place and their own things.”
Still, those who know the brothers well say the current distance between them will not last forever. “There is never any doubt that they will be there for each other 100 per cent and support each other when it matters,” says one insider.
As life continues to evolve for both William and Harry – marriage, children, work – so too will their own relationship. “Maybe they’ll come back together a little later,” says the source close to the royal household.
“It’s another stage in the growing up. Sometimes you have to break away in order to come back.”
For more on our exclusive look into the Royals, be sure to pick the new issue of WHO.