The restrengthening of their brotherly bond comes following a hectic few months which saw their father, Prince Charles, battle the coronavirus, Harry move to North America with his family while stepping down from royal duties, and reported conflict between Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton.
“There have been clearly some quite major rifts in that relationship, but things have got better and I know that William and Harry are in touch on the phone,” royal expert Katie Nicholl tells ET. “They have done video calls together, they have done a lot of family birthdays and I think with Prince Charles not being well, that really forced the brothers to pick up the phone and get back in touch.”
The pair were said to have started working on mending their relationship in February. But Nicholl says with Harry feeling homesick in L.A., it has been the “right time” to reconnect with William. Furthermore, the supposed tension between Meghan and Kate has waned, according to Nicholl.
“I think there is a sense of relief on both sides that this high drama is now a thing of the past,” she says. “The Sussexes are free to get on with their new lives [and] the Cambridges can get back to their old lives without all the upset and drama that was clearly a big deal behind the scenes. I think Kate and William miss Harry and Meghan to a degree, but certainly they miss Harry [being] around and part of their lives.”
Nicholl believes it’s highly likely the royal clan took part in a group video call for Archie’s recent first birthday.
“I am quite sure there would have been communication between the Cambridges and the Prince of Wales and I am told Harry picks up the phone regularly to his grandmother, the queen,” Nicholl says. “They had that same call on her birthday. I'm sure there was a Zoom birthday call for Archie, too.”
Zoom calls aside, Harry and Meghan appear to be keeping busy with L.A. life, while relishing their newfound freedom. “They've settled into their lives in L.A. and this is the pathway for the future,” Nicholl says. “I'm told they feel a great sense of freedom and they’re really enjoying their new lives and [doing] things a bit more on their terms.”
While some royal followers had questioned how involved Harry would remain with his British charities, Nicholl says he is “very much in touch” with organizations he works with. She adds that he and Meghan “handpicked” the ones they want to continue helping. Harry also appeared on British television on Monday to highlight VE Day.
Nicholl believes staying active with his charity work is a another way for Harry to ease any feelings of homesickness.
“The idea that they would just go over to America and forget about these charities and organizations -- particularly in Harry’s case [when] they've been a part of his life for so long -- that's absolutely not the case,” Nicholl says. “Harry keeps in touch with them regularly. He probably misses some of the people that he works with. He's been patron of charities like WellChild for many, many years [so] he's forged close friendships there, so yes -- he's missing his friends and picking up the phone for them.”
While the coronavirus pandemic means that Harry’s primary form of communication has been phone calls and video conferencing, the practice has set him and Meghan up well for L.A. life, given their new distance from those they love and work with.
“[For] Meghan and Harry, this will be the way of the future,” Nicholl notes. “They will not be jumping on a plane all the time to come to Britain. COVID has given them the opportunity to road test a way of working. These conference calls [are] a way for them to communicate and touch base with people back at home. I think COVID-19 has fast-tracked what was always going to be a future way of working for them, being so far away from many of their charities.”
With Harry in California, the queen reportedly delaying her annual return from Windsor Castle to Buckingham Palace for the summer, and Prince Philip turning 99 in June, Nicholl says it’s only natural that other royals are taking on more duties. She suspects William and Charles will continue to carry out more duties to help ease the burden on the queen.
“That doesn't mean we're not going to see the queen carrying out duties that we’re used to at some point in the future,” Nicholl notes. “It's certainly her intention to continue working as much as she possibly can, but of course, no one knows how this pandemic is going to play out.”
The pandemic has created a new normal of sorts in the palace, where royals are conducting business in vastly different ways than they’re used to, and sharing more of their home lives while doing so. Nicholl gives the example of William and Kate, who have shown themselves at home with their children, sharing humorous “Instagram vs Reality” photos on social media and in William’s case, even participating in a television sketch.
“We're seeing them letting their guard down and that is a result of what we are going through,” Nicholl says. “We are a nation in the middle of a crisis and it's times like this we turn to the royal family for support, comfort and hope. And, I think the Cambridges have really stepped up to the plate providing a nice dose of entertainment for us, and of course [it’s] a real treat for royal fans seeing so much of the Cambridge children.”
“It’s uplifting for Britain, particularly for royalists, to see what the future of the royal family is going to look like,” Nicholl continues. “The royal family has gone to great lengths not to be seen to be aloof or distant or unrelatable. The queen is very aware that the role of the royal family during a national crisis like this is to be seen, to be able to support her people, and she's having to do this through a digital platform and it's quite incredible that at the age of 94, she's embracing that.”