For William, Knauf’s allegations also clarified something that the prince had long believed – that Meghan was fundamentally hostile towards the royal system, which she failed to understand as an outsider.
William wondered if she had not wanted to leave from the very start – even dreaming, perhaps, that she could whisk Harry back with her to North America.
But in a statement issued to The Times early in March 2021, Meghan’s lawyers and PR representatives denied all allegations of bullying as inaccurate and the product of what they described as a “smear campaign”.
The moment the prince heard the bullying allegations, he related to this friend, he got straight on the phone to talk to Harry – and when Harry flared up in furious defence of his wife, the elder brother persisted. Harry shut off his phone angrily, so William went to speak to him personally.
The prince was horrified by what he had just been told about Meghan’s alleged behaviour, and he wanted to hear what Harry had to say.
The showdown between the two siblings was fierce and bitter.
William believed Meghan was following a plan – “agenda” was the word he used to his friend – and the accusations he had just heard were alarming. Kate, he said, had been wary of her from the start.
Meghan was undermining some precious principles of the monarchy, if she really was treating her staff in this way, and William was upset that she seemed to be stealing his beloved brother away from him.
William felt deeply wounded. “Hurt” and “betrayed” were the two feelings that he described to his friend. The elder brother had always felt so protective.
He had seen it as his job to look out for Harry, but this was the moment the protection had to stop.
At the end of the day, the British crown and all it stood for with its ancient traditions, styles and values – the mission of the monarchy – had to matter more to William than his brother did.
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Harry, for his part, was equally furious that William should give credence to the accusations against Meghan, and he was fiercely combative in his wife’s defence.
Some sources maintain that in the heat of the argument Harry actually accused someone in the family of concepts that were “racist”.
But it must be stressed that neither brother has ever confirmed that the hateful R-word was used face to face.
Where could the two brothers go after such painful and damning notions had
been thrown into their debate?
Harry and Meghan appeared to be the ones who visibly departed after the row.
William, for his part, felt just as strongly about Meghan and the need for her subversive “agenda” to be removed from the operations of the British monarchy, which she did not appear to understand or respect.
He certainly wanted Meghan removed, for a start, from the hitherto harmonious joint household that he and his brother had operated together for the best part of a decade.
William simply did not want her or Harry around anymore.
When accounts of the rift started seeping out through the winter months that followed, it was generally assumed that the volatile Harry must have set the pace in the splitting up of the joint Kensington Palace household.
He was the brother who visibly departed, stalking off to set up a new home in Windsor, with offices for himself and Meghan in Buckingham Palace.
But the reverse was the case. It was William who made the decisive move.
Following his furious confrontation with his younger brother in the autumn of 2018, the prince instructed his private secretary, Simon Case, to start the process of dividing their two households immediately.
William wished to be separated from Meghan on a day-to-day basis – and that meant being separated from his brother as well.
“William,” says a friend, “threw Harry out.”
This is an edited extract from Battle of Brothers by Robert Lacey, published by HarperCollins.