Prince Harry’s brutal attack on his dad’s parenting ability in a US podcast this week has many royal watchers speculating that relations between Prince Charles and the Sussexes have hit rock bottom.
But the heir to the throne remains determined to find a way back into the royal fold for his wayward son and wife Meghan Markle – even if it takes years to broker a rapprochement.
Allies of the Prince of Wales concede the father/son relationship is currently ‘strained to say the least’, but they insist Charles is focussed on finding a long-term solution, not Harry’s regular verbal missiles.
A royal source with insight of Charles’ position tells me: ‘The Prince of Wales knows he didn’t always succeed as a father, but he tried his absolute best.
‘Harry has been hurting since he was a little boy. It’s not an easy situation. But Prince Charles would much rather his son be by his side.
‘Of course, there is disappointment and sadness about the Oprah interview, and the relationship with Harry is strained to say the least.
The Prince of Wales during a visit to BCB International, a supplier of protective, medical and defence equipment, in Cardiff today
Oprah Winfrey interviews Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on March 7
‘But Prince Charles, as the new patriarch of the Royal Family, is very aware of his future role and the need to protect the monarchy.
‘An ongoing battle with Harry and Meghan in California is not conducive to that. At the end of the day, above everything else, family always comes first.
‘The Prince of Wales would like to find a way to make Harry and Meghan included again, even though that is likely to take many years.’
This week’s announcement of the shock departure of Jason Knauf as boss of Prince William and Kate’s charity foundation at the end of the year has provided a further glimmer of hope.
It’s not often the exit of a senior royal courtier causes such a public stir.
But when the man in question is a close ally of the Cambridges who had accused Meghan Markle of bullying staff members, the ramifications are significant indeed.
Royal Foundation chairman Jason Knauf, the former communications secretary to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, attends the couple’s wedding at Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018
While there is nothing at all sinister about Knauf’s decision to leave at the end of the year – his husband is believed to be taking a diplomatic post overseas – my sources say it provides opportunities for future king Charles.
A royal insider explains: ‘Prince Charles and senior royal courtiers are very aware of the bitterness between Harry and Meghan and many of the senior staff who were in post during their time in the Family after their wedding.
‘Jason was particularly a lightning rod because he was also the communications secretary to Harry and Meghan, but then wrote the infamous letter accusing her of bullying staff that was leaked to The Times newspaper in the days before the Oprah interview.
It’s not often the exit of a senior royal courtier causes such a public stir, writes DAN WOOTTON
‘It was impossible to imagine any sort of rapprochement while he remained in a senior role at William and Kate’s foundation and one of their key advisers.’
Royal sources tell me Harry and Meghan will likely be satisfied with Knauf’s departure.
Another insider explains: ‘Things turned very sour between the Sussexes and Knauf once their operations were split with the Cambridges. They felt they could no longer trust him.
‘The hope is that bridges will also be easier to rebuild bridges between William and Harry next year with a new team in place.
‘That’s what Charles wants them to do. He would like there to be a more pleasant atmosphere at family events in the medium-term.
‘But once Charles is king, in an ideal world, he would like to think there is a role for Harry.’
It is intriguing to note there has now been a changing of the guard in all the senior communications posts from the height of the media battle between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the rest of the Royal Family.
Prince Charles and Prince William’s communications secretaries Julian Payne and Christian Jones have both left.
Prince William and Kate are pictured together at Kensington Palace in London last month
Clarence House and Kensington Palace have hired NHS staff to lead their media operations in what is seen as a sea change from the more combative Harry and Meghan era.
Simon Enright will next week join to run Charles’ public relations after leaving as communications director for NHS England where he played an essential role throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Running the media operations for William and Kate at Kensington Palace is Victoria O’Byrne, who was director of communications for NHS Test and Trace.
They will be hoping for an easier time than Knauf who in October 2018, while communications secretary for the Sussexes, sent an email raising concerns about Meghan’s alleged bullying of staff.
The note to Prince William’s then private secretary Simon Case read in part: ‘I am very concerned that the Duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year. The treatment of X* was totally unacceptable.’
‘The Duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights. She is bullying Y and seeking to undermine her confidence. We have had report after report from people who have witnessed unacceptable behaviour towards Y.’
A Buckingham Palace investigation into the alleged bullying – which the Sussexes have dismissed as a smear campaign – remains ongoing.
But my royal source adds: ‘The view is that Jason leaving at the end of the year will take some heat out of the situation.’
Something that would please the Queen and Prince Charles after a dramatic and testing few weeks.