King Charles says he wants ‘to express my love for Harry and Meghan’ as he extends olive branch
King Charles III extended an olive branch to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in his first address to Britain and the world as monarch.
The new Sovereign, who became King the moment that his mother Queen Elizabeth II passed away yesterday afternoon at Balmoral Castle aged 96, said he wished to ‘express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas’ – in a move likely to be regarded by royal commentators as a bid to finally draw a line under the tumult of recent years.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex plunged the monarchy into crisis during the twilight years of the Queen’s reign after sensationally quitting frontline royal duties and moving to California two years ago – a saga which precipitated the rift between Harry and his brother William, allegations of racism against the royals and claims the Firm failed to help a suicidal Meghan.
After their bombshell interview with US talk show host Oprah Winfrey, Harry appeared to suggest, in a mental health podcast, that his father and the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had all failed as parents – while the family was still mourning Prince Philip’s death last year.
The Duke of Sussex had grief etched on his face as he was swept into the grounds of Windsor Castle this afternoon after losing a race against time to get to his grandmother’s bedside before she died yesterday.
King Charles III went to Buckingham Palace to meet fellow mourners this afternoon where he shook hands and accepted their condolences to cries of ‘God save the King’ and impromptu renditions of the national anthem. One woman kissed him on the cheek. He also inspected flowers and tributes left for his late mother at the gates before entering the palace.
Harry landed at Heathrow this lunchtime after jumping on an early morning BA flight where he comforted an airport worker with a reassuring hand on her shoulder after she gave him her condolences.
He left Balmoral after 12 hours mourning his grandmother with his father and brother – but despite the brevity of the visit, the Sussexes are not expected to return to California until after the state funeral, currently expected to be ten days from now on Monday, September 19.
The Duke of Sussex was the last royal to arrive at the Aberdeenshire castle last night and the first to leave this morning.
King Charles III extended an olive branch to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in his first address as monarch
Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex at St Paul’s Cathedral in June 2022
Onlookers shouted three cheers for Charles as he spoke to countless onlookers who had gathered to mourn his mother
The new king thanked people for their good wishes, shaking countless hands after stepping from his state Bentley
Charles III’s speech in full
‘I speak to you today with feelings of profound sorrow. Throughout her life, Her Majesty The Queen – my beloved Mother – was an inspiration and example to me and to all my family, and we owe her the most heartfelt debt any family can owe to their mother; for her love, affection, guidance, understanding and example.
‘Queen Elizabeth was a life well lived; a promise with destiny kept and she is mourned most deeply in her passing. That promise of lifelong service I renew to you all today.
‘Alongside the personal grief that all my family are feeling, we also share with so many of you in the United Kingdom, in all the countries where The Queen was Head of State, in the Commonwealth and across the world, a deep sense of gratitude for the more than 70 years in which my Mother, as Queen, served the people of so many nations.
‘In 1947, on her 21st birthday, she pledged in a broadcast from Cape Town to the Commonwealth to devote her life, whether it be short or long, to the service of her peoples. That was more than a promise: it was a profound personal commitment which defined her whole life. She made sacrifices for duty.
‘Her dedication and devotion as Sovereign never waivered, through times of change and progress, through times of joy and celebration, and through times of sadness and loss.
‘In her life of service we saw that abiding love of tradition, together with that fearless embrace of progress, which make us great as Nations. The affection, admiration and respect she inspired became the hallmark of her reign.
‘And, as every member of my family can testify, she combined these qualities with warmth, humour and an unerring ability always to see the best in people.
‘I pay tribute to my Mother’s memory and I honour her life of service. I know that her death brings great sadness to so many of you and I share that sense of loss, beyond measure, with you all.
‘When The Queen came to the throne, Britain and the world were still coping with the privations and aftermath of the Second World War, and still living by the conventions of earlier times. In the course of the last 70 years we have seen our society become one of many cultures and many faiths.
‘The institutions of the State have changed in turn. But, through all changes and challenges, our nation and the wider family of Realms – of whose talents, traditions and achievements I am so inexpressibly proud – have prospered and flourished. Our values have remained, and must remain, constant.
‘The role and the duties of Monarchy also remain, as does the Sovereign’s particular relationship and responsibility towards the Church of England – the Church in which my own faith is so deeply rooted.
‘In that faith, and the values it inspires, I have been brought up to cherish a sense of duty to others, and to hold in the greatest respect the precious traditions, freedoms and responsibilities of our unique history and our system of parliamentary government.
‘As The Queen herself did with such unswerving devotion, I too now solemnly pledge myself, throughout the remaining time God grants me, to uphold the Constitutional principles at the heart of our nation.
‘And wherever you may live in the United Kingdom, or in the Realms and territories across the world, and whatever may be your background or beliefs, I shall endeavour to serve you with loyalty, respect and love, as I have throughout my life. My life will of course change as I take up my new responsibilities.
‘It will no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energies to the charities and issues for which I care so deeply. But I know this important work will go on in the trusted hands of others.
‘This is also a time of change for my family. I count on the loving help of my darling wife, Camilla. In recognition of her own loyal public service since our marriage 17 years ago, she becomes my Queen Consort.
‘I know she will bring to the demands of her new role the steadfast devotion to duty on which I have come to rely so much. As my Heir, William now assumes the Scottish titles which have meant so much to me.
‘He succeeds me as Duke of Cornwall and takes on the responsibilities for the Duchy of Cornwall which I have undertaken for more than five decades. Today, I am proud to create him Prince of Wales, Tywysog Cymru, the country whose title I have been so greatly privileged to bear during so much of my life and duty.
‘With Catherine beside him, our new Prince and Princess of Wales will, I know, continue to inspire and lead our national conversations, helping to bring the marginal to the centre ground where vital help can be given. I want also to express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas.
‘In a little over a week’s time we will come together as a nation, as a Commonwealth and indeed a global community, to lay my beloved mother to rest. In our sorrow, let us remember and draw strength from the light of her example.
‘On behalf of all my family, I can only offer the most sincere and heartfelt thanks for your condolences and support. They mean more to me than I can ever possibly express.
‘And to my darling Mama, as you begin your last great journey to join my dear late Papa, I want simply to say this: thank you.
‘Thank you for your love and devotion to our family and to the family of nations you have served so diligently all these years. May ‘flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest’.’
Harry and Meghan’s titles have not changed, and, although the duke has moved up from sixth to fifth in line to the throne, he is still too far down the line of succession to ever be expected to be king. The Sussexes’ children, Archie and Lili, are now, as the grandchildren of a monarch, a prince and a princess. But it is not known whether they will use the titles, which they were not entitled to when they were born.
Following the death of the Queen, Harry and Meghan are left with Charles as King and head of The Firm, and William elevated to the key role of heir apparent.
While Harry and Meghan appeared to have invested their time developing their bond with the Queen, their relationship with Charles and William has been greatly troubled.
In April 2022, Harry, after meeting the Queen face to face for the first time in two years, told US network NBC he was making sure she was ‘protected’ and had the ‘right people around her’. He sidestepped a question about whether he missed Charles and William, having met his father for just 15 minutes while briefly back in the UK.
In the Oprah interview in 2021, Harry said he felt let down by Charles and that ‘there’s a lot of hurt that’s happened’, and said his father stopped taking his calls in the build-up to their Megxit announcement.
In a move likely to have enraged William, Meghan accused the Duchess of Cambridge of making her cry in the run-up to her wedding, and the palace of failing to correct reports that it had been the other way round.
In 2019 Harry laid bare his rift with William, telling an ITV documentary crew that he and William were on ‘different paths’ and had good and bad days. He went on to tell Oprah that he loved his brother but their relationship was ‘space at the moment’, adding ‘time heals all things, hopefully’.
The royals are also bracing themselves for Harry’s memoirs, due out later in 2022, amid fears they could reopen old wounds and spark a new crisis.
Harry travelled to Balmoral to join his father, brother and family at the Queen’s bedside, but Meghan remained down south.
Harry headed back to Meghan at 8.28am, where he was sat alone in the rear of a Range Rover as he was driven out of the Royal Family’s Scottish home, where he had arrived at 7.52pm last night. He was swept into Aberdeen airport at 9.20am, led by five police outriders, and boarded a flight to London leaving at 10am.
Harry wore a black suit and carried a shoulder bag as he walked towards the steps of the plane. An airport worker offered her sympathies as the Prince was about to walk up the steps of a British Airways aircraft.
The woman, who was dressed in a high- visibility yellow jacket, addressed Prince Harry. The royal smiled and patted her gently in the shoulder before boarding the aircraft for London’s Heathrow Airport.
Grief was written on the duke’s face after he landed in Scotland yesterday – 15 minutes after Her Majesty’s death was announced to the world. He had his head bowed and partially covered his face as he was driven out of Aberdeen airport, arriving at Balmoral after dark. He left 12 hours later.
Prince William had flown up on a RAF jet with Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and his wife Sophie. But it is understood that they did not reach the estate before she passed. Initial reports had said his younger brother would also be on board.
But instead Harry was in mid air when Buckingham Palace announced the death of his beloved grandmother. He flew by private jet from Luton Airport, arriving at Balmoral an hour and a half after the historic statement.
Courtiers issued the declaration at 6.30pm – just over an hour after Prince William and other senior royals had arrived to join Prince Charles at the Queen’s residence. Liz Truss was told at around 4.30pm, Downing Street said.
But when the world was being told the saddest of news, Harry’s Cessna was still in the air, making its approach to Aberdeen Airport.
The Duke of Sussex’s flight had been due to land at 6.29pm, a minute before the statement. But it was 20 minutes late taking off from London’s Luton Airport – with flight data showing it departed at 5.35pm. It took one hour and 11 minutes to reach Aberdeen.
By the time he landed, at 6.46pm, it was 16 minutes after the palace had made the announcement.
Harry then faced a lonely drive to the castle, finally arriving at 7.52pm where he joined other members of the Royal Family in mourning the Queen’s death.
He looked ashen-faced on the back seat of the Range Rover as it swept into the Balmoral estate. As well as losing a beloved grandmother, he may have been reflecting on his future without her as monarch. She remained fond of him, in spite of recent challenges, and he was said to have retained an ability to make her laugh.
By the time he arrived, his and Meghan’s Archewell website homepage had been replaced with a respectful blackedout page with the words: ‘In loving memory of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 1926-2022.’
Earlier in the day there had been confusion over whether Meghan was also on her way to Scotland.
The duke, grieving for his grandmother, will be expected to attend the Queen’s funeral, with Meghan also likely to join him. She missed Philip’s funeral in 2021 while heavily pregnant with daughter Lili.
An absentee duchess would be seen as a snub and disrespectful, but a public appearance with Harry alongside the rest of the royal family could prove immensely difficult.
When King George VI died, his brother, the former Edward VIII, returned for the funeral, but his American wife, the Duchess of Windsor, formerly Wallis Simpson, for whom he gave up the throne, was absent. She remained in the United States, where they were living at the time.
Former Suits actress Meghan was the first American divorcee to marry a senior royal since Mrs Simpson, and both she and Harry moved across the Atlantic to California after quitting as senior working royals in March 2020.
Harry could seize the chance to reunite with his family amid their shared grief and heartache for the loss of the Queen.
As the new head of the Windsors, Charles could, if he sees fit, offer to welcome Harry and Meghan back as part-time working royals – although this could conflict with their Netflix and Spotify commercial deals and new life away from the monarchy.
The aftermath of the Queen’s death could be a time to build bridges, but it remains to be seen whether those have long since been burned.