An established British princess, envied for her posh style and dedication to children’s causes and the American upstart making a play for her crown. Not the actual one, of course. As Prince William‘s wife, Kate Middleton is destined for a future as queen consort while Meghan Markle will always be a rung below in the pecking order with Prince Harry currently sixth in line for the throne and set to slide down as his niece and nephews begin families of their own. But the California-bred former actress has challenged her sister-in-law for more than a few titles: Most Intriguing Duchess, Biggest Royal Influencer, Best Use of Designer Fashions, Bounciest Blowout…
So of course they would be placed at odds with one another. At least, by those on the outside looking in.
“Women, in particular, are constantly pitted against and compared with each other in a way that reminds me of how people tried to portray Diana and me all the time as rivals, which is something neither of us ever really felt,” Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, wrote in a February essay published by Hello!
The difference here, though, is that while Fergie and Princess Diana did have some dark periods—”It is true that our friendship was periodically strained,” Fergie wrote in her 2011 book Finding Sarah. “Sadly, at the end, we hadn’t spoken for a year,”—Meghan and Kate haven’t so much as looked cross with one another in public. The whole of their supposed feud can be broken down to a lot of assumptions (surely Kate bristled at the idea of being upstaged by a new, charismatic, designer label-wearing royal) and rumors of shouting matches that have been shot down by the palace.
And to hear royal insiders tell it, not only is the rivalry not real, it’s muffling the true issues between the Cambridges and the Sussexes, which are largely more interesting than the fiction. As filmmaker Nick Bullen recently revealed it was the actually the brothers who have been having a bit of a squabble of late as siblings are wont to do from time to time.
“That’s the story, that wasn’t coming out because it was a sort of, to be frank, sexier media story to have two princesses at war rather than royal brothers,” Bullen, who’s worked with many a royal producing documentaries over the years, told E! News, “and to be able to pit English rose against American actress was, in many ways, the stronger story.”
Not that chatter of a brotherly blowup isn’t interesting it’s just, perhaps, less palatable to royal watchers who love the charming tale of two close-in-age siblings brought even closer by the tragic death of their beloved mom. “I think people don’t want to think about that with these two boys,” Bullen admitted to Fox News. “These are two boys who lost their mother at a really early age, and the fairy tale is that they are closer than ever, and need each other, and I think that’s probably true, but equally they are two grown men in their 30s, starting their own families, different wives, they are moving to different parts of the country, different duties.”
“William had not been perfect during that period either. He was also drinking when he shouldn’t have been, but because he was the heir, he got away with it, and Harry was the one who took the flak,” Nicholl wrote. “It took one of their aides to actually coax Harry into speaking to William again, because Harry was so angry.”
The siblings eventually mended fences, of course, and when William finally decided to wed his longtime college sweetheart, “two became three,” Nicholl noted. “They were the royal trio, joking that Harry was the spare wheel, but actually, they fit very comfortably as a trio. I think it was the hope and expectation that three would become four and we would have this fab foursome. It was a perfect headline for the press.”
“During the early stages of the relationship, ahead of the engagement announcement, William did speak to Harry, just wanting to make sure Harry knew what he was getting himself into,” Nicholl told Vanity Fair. “He voiced some concerns that things were moving too quickly…I was told when Harry first brought Meghan back to the palace, he was desperate for Kate’s approval. He so wanted Kate and Meghan to become firm friends and allies. I don’t think it ever crossed his mind that he perhaps wouldn’t get it unconditionally from his brother.”
Or, as Nicholl put it to Vanity Fair, the ginger prince was crushed: “I think Harry felt that he didn’t have the backing from the one person he really wanted it from.”
Enter Dad. Equally fond of both Kate (“As the mother of his grandchildren, of course the prince dotes on her,” a source told Britain’s Telegraph) and Meghan (the pair are said to have bonded over shared interests in art, music and architecture), Prince Charles found himself in the role of mediator, instructing his boys to knock off any quarreling and make nice. His suggestion to William that he make more of an effort reportedly led to he and Kate extending an invite to the newly affianced pair to spend Christmas with them at their Norfolk home.