Prince William arrived at Windsor Castle with his wife Kate Middleton today as he prepares to see Prince Harry for the first time in more than a year – with the estranged brothers being reunited at their grandfather Philip’s funeral.
The princes will not stand shoulder to shoulder behind the Duke of Edinburgh‘s coffin as they walk from the castle’s quadrangle to St George’s Chapel – and will instead be either side of their cousin Peter Phillips.
When the coffin is carried into the chapel, William will move ahead of his younger brother as they take their seats separately, in an arrangement that will be seen by some as a missed opportunity to show family unity.
It had been quietly hoped that the loss of their beloved grandfather, who both men loved deeply, might start the process of rapprochement – but the brothers are unlikely to have even seen each other before the funeral.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had earlier been seen wearing face masks as they left Kensington Palace in West London in the back of a vehicle before being driven the 20 miles to Windsor for the funeral.
William, 38, and Harry, 36, are among nine members of the Royal Family who will walk behind their grandfather’s typically unique coffin this afternoon, leaving the Sovereign’s entrance at Windsor Castle at precisely 2.45pm.
Today will mark the first time Harry and William have been seen together since March 2020, when they attended a Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey with other royals and could barely look each other in the eye.
Royal aides have been ‘walking on eggshells’ as they try to navigate the rift between the brothers, sources said last night as tensions remain following Harry and Meghan’s acrimonious split from the Royal Family last year.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive at Windsor Castle this afternoon for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral service
Kate Middleton looks out of her car window as she arrives at Windsor Castle with her husband Prince William this afternoon
Cars leave Kensington Palace in London this afternoon with a police escort for Prince Philip’s funeral at Windsor Castle
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leave Kensington Palace this afternoon for Prince Philip’s funeral at Windsor Castle
Prince William is pictured this afternoon as he leaves Kensington Palace for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral at Windsor Castle
Relations were further soured by the couple’s explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey last month, in which they attacked senior royals while Philip, who died on April 9 at the age of 99, lay in hospital in London.
And today is likely to be a particularly difficult day for the brothers and evoke memories of having to walk behind their mother Princess Diana’s coffin in September 1997, when they were aged just 15 and 13.
William and Harry’s special bond with the Duke of Edinburgh
The Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex’s affection for their ‘Grandpa’ the Duke of Edinburgh was always to clear to see.
On official engagements, William and Harry were often captured side by side with Philip, usually in fits of laughter at something the duke had said.
Both enjoyed his witty and entertaining company and greatly admired his decades of dedication to duty and the loyal support he showed to the Queen.
Philip, William and Harry together at Sandhurst in April 2006
In a tribute released on Monday, William described his grandfather as a ‘extraordinary man’. He heralded his ‘mischievous sense of humour’, adding: ‘I will miss my Grandpa, but I know he would want us to get on with the job.’
William shared a poignant personal photograph taken by the Duchess of Cambridge of their eldest son Prince George, aged just two, riding in a carriage with his great grandfather in 2015. ‘I will never take for granted the special memories my children will always have of their great-grandpa coming to collect them in his carriage and seeing for themselves his infectious sense of adventure as well as his mischievous sense of humour!’ William said.
Harry described Philip as ‘a man of service, honour and great humour, adding that ‘he was my grandpa: master of the barbecue, legend of banter, and cheeky right ’til the end’. William and Harry spent their childhood summers enjoying barbecues cooked by Philip at Balmoral, as well as shooting, hunting and fishing, which was also much loved by the duke, on the Aberdeenshire estate.
The trio all shared a love of polo and outdoor life. As a royal patriarch, adored by his eight grandchildren, Philip was a larger than life character who even kept his royal relatives on their toes.
Harry said: ‘He was authentically himself, with a seriously sharp wit, and could hold the attention of any room due to his charm—and also because you never knew what he might say next.’ In a nod to Philip’s well-known impatience, Harry added: ‘While I could go on, I know that right now he would say to all of us, beer in hand, ‘Oh do get on with it!’ So, on that note, Grandpa, thank you for your service, your dedication to Granny, and for always being yourself.’
As a military man who served with distinction in the Second World War, Philip was proud of his grandsons for their own service in the armed forces. When William and Harry’s mother Diana, Princess of Wales died suddenly in a car crash when they were just 15 and 12, the brothers were staying at Balmoral with their grandparents. The duke and the Queen supported the boys during the difficult days ahead.
Philip is said to have offered William and Harry ‘gruff tenderness and outdoor activities like stalking and hiking to tire them out’. Ahead of Diana’s funeral, he is said to have told the brothers as plans were being made for them to walk behind the princess’ funeral cortege ‘If I walk, will you walk with me?’
On the day, Philip joined the princes as they made the heartbreaking procession through central London in honour of the princess. The duke could be stern and it is not known what he made of the Megxit debacle when Harry quit as a senior working royal for a new life in the US with the Duchess of Sussex. Nor is it known whether Philip was aware of or what he made of the fall out from the Sussexes’ bombshell Oprah interview in which they accused the royal family of racism.
The Duke of York told on Sunday how Philip kept calm in a crisis, adding: ‘If you had a problem, he would think about it. That’s the great thing that I always think about, that he was always somebody you could go to and he would always listen.’
In 2012, William and Harry visited Philip together in hospital while he was being treated for a bladder infection during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and they did so again as a duo after he had abdominal surgery in 2013.
Insiders have stressed that the arrangement involving the positioning of the brothers in the funeral procession should not be taken as a sign that William and Harry refused to walk alongside each other.
Asked whether arrangements for the procession reflected the royal siblings’ relationship, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said: ‘This is a funeral, we’re not going to be drawn into those perceptions of drama, or anything like that, this is a funeral.
‘The arrangements have been agreed, and they represent Her Majesty’s wishes, so we’re not going to say anything more on that.’
Sources did admit, however, that the fraternal feud has taken up ‘much thought and energy’ in the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, which is responsible for today’s arrangements.
‘Everyone is walking on eggshells so as not to exacerbate the situation,’ said one.
‘To be fair, both William and Harry have made clear that they wish to focus on mourning their grandfather and do not want anything to get in the way of that.
‘But it has made everyone doubly nervous about saying anything that could be remotely construed of being critical of the other side. It’s been a minefield.’
Sources insist the formation of those walking behind the coffin was based on ‘bloodlines and age’.
Meanwhile a source told the Daily Mirror yesterday: ‘Tensions are still obviously running high, a lot has been said and wounds are still very raw.
‘But there is a realisation that everyone does need to reach some form of resolution, if only for the Queen, who has said it is her wish that the family comes together.
‘The family has been united in grief this week and it has given a lot of people pause for thought.
‘It is certainly hoped that the period of unity from the darkness of the Duke’s passing can be used as a catalyst to come together instead of letting the passage of time deepen divisions.’
The group will be led by the duke’s two elder children, with the Prince of Wales, 72, on the right and the Princess Royal, 70, on the left.
They will be followed by the Duke of York, 61, and the Earl of Wessex, 57.
Philip’s three adult grandsons are next, with William on the ‘elder brother’ column behind Charles and Andrew, while Harry will be behind Anne and Edward.
Between them will be Anne’s son Peter, 43. Although he is older than William, he is not a direct heir to the throne.
Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence and the Earl of Snowdon will follow behind the trio, with Philip’s staff bringing up the rear.
Tensions within the family have already seen the Queen change the dress code for the occasion.
A royal ceremonial funeral normally involves honorary military uniforms – but Philip’s mourners will be wearing day dress instead.
The monarch was forced to step in over behind the scene tensions after Prince Andrew insisted on wearing an admiral’s uniform, which other members of the Royal Family did not believe he was entitled to do.
This meant Harry – who has been stripped of his titles after quitting as a working royal – would have been the only member of the family not to be wearing military dress.