The bond between father and son is a powerful one, and that is no less true for members of the royal family. While Prince Charles has never seemed like what you would call a doting father, he has always appeared to care for his children, Prince William and Prince Harry, deeply. Prince Harry’s childhood was a tumultuous one, and he weathered first his parents’ separation and divorce and then the tragic death of his mother, Princess Diana, when he was still a little boy. This left Prince Charles as the sole parent to his young sons, ostensibly drawing them closer together.
But what really goes on when the royals aren’t in public? Is Prince Harry truly close to his father? Or has his status as the younger son and the “spare” meant that he has taken a backseat to his older brother, the future king of England? Here’s what the bond between Prince Charles and Prince Harry is really like.
Prince Harry was named after Prince Charles
While it doesn’t seem like Prince Harry’s name is linked to his father’s, if you look at his full name, the fact that he was named after Prince Charles becomes quite clear. Per Vogue, Prince Harry’s actual name is Henry Charles Albert David.
Royal biographer Andrew Morton quoted Princess Diana in his book Diana: Her True Story as saying that it was Charles who decided to name his second child after himself. “I chose William and Harry, but Charles did the rest,” she revealed (via PopSugar). She added that her husband had wanted to name their younger son Arthur, but she shot it down saying it sounded “too old.”
Charles is popular name among the royal family, noted Good Housekeeping. In addition to Prince Charles and Prince Harry, Prince William’s son, Prince Louis, has Charles as one of his given names. His daughter, Princess Charlotte, also bears a feminine variation of the moniker.
Prince Charles was reportedly disappointed that Prince Harry wasn't a girl
After Prince Harry was born, Prince Charles was reportedly upset by the sex of his second child. “Charles always wanted a girl,” royal biographer Andrew Morton quoted Princess Diana as saying in Diana: Her True Story, as noted by PopSugar. “Harry was a boy. His first comment was, ‘Oh God, it’s a boy.'” But it wasn’t only Harry’s sex with which Charles seemed to take issue. Morton wrote that Diana was upset by her husband’s reaction to Harry’s appearance, saying, “And he’s even got red hair.” The joke apparently didn’t sit well with Diana who, according to Morton, “was extremely hurt and offended,” as her siblings also had red hair.
While the comment about Harry’s hair color may have been tongue-in-cheek, Prince Charles wasn’t joking around about wanting a daughter. “What’s worse, at Harry’s christening in December, Charles reportedly told Diana’s mother, ‘We were so disappointed — we thought it would be a girl,'” wrote Morton.
Decades later, Charles made it clear he still wanted more girls in the family. “We’re hoping for a granddaughter!” he said, as reported by People, when Prince William’s wife, Kate Middleton, was expecting her second child.
Prince Harry struggled in the aftermath of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's separation
Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s rocky marriage made headlines in the ’90s, and the couple finally announced that they were separating in 1992.
The separation meant that Prince Harry was shuffled around a lot between two households, leaving him feeling like he and Prince William “never saw our mother enough or we never saw our father enough,” as he said in the 2017 documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy (via Closer Weekly).
According to royal biographer Robert Lacey, author of Battle of Brothers: William and Harry: The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult, the dissolution of his parents’ marriage, whose divorce was finalized in 1996, had a lasting impact on Harry. “His attitude was: ‘Well, I’m not going to make the same mistake as my parents,'” he told Page Six. ”’I’m marrying for love.'” According to Lacey, it has been this “impulse” that “has guided him” in his love life, notably in his whirlwind courtship and marriage to Meghan Markle.
Prince Charles was reportedly "remote" when Prince Harry was growing up
While Prince Harry hasn’t publicly criticized his upbringing by Prince Charles, biographer Penny Junor told the Daily Beast that the father and son have “a slightly tricky relationship,” explaining that “Charles has always been quite a remote figure.” Junor described the elder royal as “consumed by work,” leading to a bit of distance from his children.
Junor said that Charles was never a neglectful father and always saw to his children’s physical needs, but hinted that some of their emotional needs may have been unmet. According to Junor, Prince Charles “has sometimes overlooked friends and loved ones beside him.”
Prince Charles’ parenting style was a stark contrast from Princess Diana’s. While Charles prioritized his duty to the monarchy, Prince Harry told Newsweek that his “mother took a huge part in showing me an ordinary life.” In a speech on the anniversary of Diana’s death in 2007, Harry called his mother his “guardian, friend, and protector,” describing her as someone who “never once allowed her unfaltering love for us to go unspoken or undemonstrated.”
Prince Charles shielded Prince Harry following Princess Diana's death
Princess Diana’s death in 1997 crushed Prince Harry. He and his brother were spending their summer break with Prince Charles when the news broke that Diana had been in a fatal car accident, and it fell to Charles to convey the devastating news to his sons. Harry opened up about the traumatic event in the 2017 documentary Diana, 7 Days, as reported by People.
Prince Harry, who was just 12 at the time, recounted feeling a sense of “disbelief” in the aftermath of his mother’s death, and he credited his father with making sure his sons “were protected and looked after” in spite of the fact that “he was going through the same grieving process.”
Somewhat controversially in the eyes of the public, the boys were kept secluded in the countryside in the days leading to Princess Diana’s funeral, where they were shielded from the press. According to Prince William, this was a decision made by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, who wanted the boys to have “space and the peace to be with the family and not be immersed or having to deal with serious decision or worries straightaway.”
Prince Charles once made Prince Harry visit a rehab center
Following the death of Princess Diana, Prince Harry did his best to ignore his emotions, telling The Telegraph in 2017 that he didn’t seek help in processing his grief until his late 20s. While Harry appeared stoic, there were signs that he was hurting, and the royal developed quite the wild reputation.
His bad behavior resulted in Prince Charles sending him to rehab when he was 17, noted The Irish Times, although he was only there for a day and wasn’t actually admitted to a treatment program. Instead, the stint seems to have been more to scare Prince Harry into straightening out his act following news reports that he had been drinking underage and smoking marijuana.
Royal biographer Penny Junor wrote in The Duchess, however, that Charles’ decision to have his son visit a rehab facility may have been a calculated PR move. “Harry had in fact once visited a rehab centre, but … not because his father was worried about him,” she wrote (via Express). According to Junor, “Harry bitterly resented being made to look bad so his father could look good.”
Prince Harry inherited this trait from Prince Charles
While Prince Harry’s desire to live out of the spotlight and his charity work have often drawn comparisons to his mother, Princess Diana, there’s at least one major way in which he takes after his dad. Prince Charles is so committed to sustainability that he will have his clothes repaired and “even patched” rather than buy something new if he can help it, telling British Vogue, “I can’t bear any waste, including food waste; I’d much rather find another use.”
Just like Charles, Prince Harry is eco-conscious. In the documentary Prince, Son And Heir: Charles At 70 (via Her), Prince William revealed that Charles would take his sons “out litter picking” when they were boys. This spurred Harry to do the same at school where, as he said in the documentary, he was teased “for just picking up rubbish.”
In the same documentary (via Marie Claire), Prince Harry observed that his dad is “a stickler for turning lights off,” which the younger royal is “obsessed with as well.”
Prince Charles supported Prince Harry financially for years
Prince Harry has quite a fortune, estimated by Celebrity Net Worth to be in the ballpark of $50 million. A large part of that came from his inheritance from his mother, Princess Diana, but his fortune was able to grow even larger as his father bankrolled him for years.
As noted on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s website, for some time, most of Prince Harry’s income was “allocated by HRH The Prince of Wales, generated through the Duchy of Cornwall” and had been ever since he and his brother “first established their offices in support of” his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth. While Harry received 5 percent of his income as a working royal from the Sovereign Grant — which, per BBC, is funded by taxpayers — the rest was from his dad.
After Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, made the decision to step down as senior royals, the couple stopped drawing money from the Sovereign Grant. Harry also revealed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, as reported by People, that the royals “literally cut me off financially” shortly afterwards, leaving him to rely on his inheritance to set up his new life in California.
Prince Charles seems to approve of Prince Harry's wife, Meghan Markle
Prince Harry’s relationship with Meghan Markle moved at warp speed, which reportedly had some royals uneasy. Sources told People that Prince William in particular was concerned when Harry said he was ready to get married after just a few months of dating.
Still, it seems that Prince Charles approved of the match, and he even gave Meghan away at the wedding, as her own father did not attend the ceremony. “I asked him to … and he immediately said, ‘Yes, of course, I’ll do whatever Meghan needs, and I’m here to support you,'” revealed Prince Harry in the documentary Prince, Son, and Heir: Charles at 70 (via Vogue).
Prince Charles keeps a memento of that special day on display in his home. In 2020, the Mirror noted that royal watchers had noticed that Prince Charles had a family photo from the royal wedding by the fireplace at Clarence House. Royal biographers Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand wrote in Finding Freedom (via the Independent) that the heir to the throne also keeps a “framed black-and-white photo of himself escorting his daughter-in-law at his Clarence House residence.”
Prince Harry revealed that Prince Charles stopped taking his phone calls after Megxit
After Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced they were going to step away from the royal family and would start a new life in the U.S. in 2020, Prince Charles and Harry’s relationship reportedly grew rocky. While there were plenty of rumors about the alleged tension between them, noted the Mirror, nothing was confirmed for a year until Harry revealed that things were, indeed, rough between father and son for a while.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey (via Entertainment Tonight), Prince Harry admitted that his father was upset by his decision to step down as a working royal and that “he stopped taking my calls.” According to Harry, Charles didn’t like that his son “took matters into [his] own hands.”
While Prince Harry and Prince Charles are now on speaking terms again, Harry said their relationship isn’t quite the same. “There’s a lot to work through there, you know?” he said.
Prince Harry thinks Prince Charles is "trapped" in the royal family
Prince Harry admitted in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he was disappointed by his father’s reaction to his decision to distance himself from the royal family, as Entertainment Tonight reported. “I feel really let down,” he said. It wasn’t just the lack of support that had him feeling that way, though, but also the fact that his father had “been through something similar.”
Harry was referring to what had happened to his mother, Princess Diana, decades earlier. One of the biggest reasons Harry decided to break away from being a senior royal was because he remembered the toll royal life and negative press took on his mother. “My biggest concern was history repeating itself,” he told Winfrey (via Marie Claire).
Prince Harry confessed that he has conflicting emotions, though. While he wishes he’d had more support, he also acknowledged that leaving the royal family isn’t necessarily easy — especially when you’re the heir to the throne. “My father and my brother they are all trapped,” he said (via ET). “They don’t get to leave. And I have huge compassion for that.”
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