As King Charles celebrates his birthday 75th today he will no doubt want to be surrounded by his nearest and dearest.
But one special person who won’t be there to wish him ‘Happy Birthday’ in person is his youngest son Prince Harry. The pair have had an incredibly turbulent relationship over the years, with contact between the monarch and the prince, who now lives in California, said to be at a minimum. Over the years, the Duke of Sussex has accused his dad of cutting him off financially, criticised his parenting – and even accused him of being a liar. But with a reported birthday phone call on the horizon for the King from his youngest son, could things be looking up for the pair? Here we look at the flashpoints of their bond and how they got to their current situation….
Harry is the second son of Charles and his late ex-wife Princess Diana. Speaking in 1994, Charles told a documentary, he tried to spend as much time as he could with his young sons. However, royal biographer Penny Junor once claimed that Charles had been a “remote figure”.
She told the Daily Beast : “It is a slightly tricky relationship because Charles has always been quite a remote figure, he has always been consumed by work. That’s not a product of a lack of love. It’s a product of the fact he is so focused on his work, and the need to make a difference in the world that, like many people who are seeking to make a difference in the world, he has sometimes overlooked friends and loved ones beside him.”
As a young boy, Harry saw the breakdown of his parent’s marriage, which played out in the full media spotlight. In 1997 – a year after Charles and Diana’s divorce was finalised – Diana died following a horrific car crash in Paris, leaving her two sons grief-stricken.
Both William and Harry were staying at Balmoral with Charles at the time, and it was down to their dad to break the terrible news to them. In 2017, Harry praised Charles for the way he looked after both him and William in the wake of their tragic mother’s death.
In a BBC documentary, Harry said: “One of the hardest things for a parent to have to do is to tell your children that your other parent has died. How you deal with that, I don’t know. But, you know, he was there for us. He was the one out of two left and he tried to do his best to make sure that we were protected and looked after.
“But you know, he was going through the same grieving process as well.” In his memoir Spare, however, Harry recalled how when his father told him of his mother’s death, he didn’t hug him and admits Charles wasn’t cut out to be a single parent.
Closer than William
In 2017, Harry guest-edited The Today programme on BBC Radio 4, where he interviewed Charles – affectionately calling him ‘Pa’. In the interview, Harry revealed how he values his father’s opinion saying: “I do end up picking your brains more now than I ever have done.” Speaking last year, royal expert and author Robert Jobson even remarked how Harry had been closer to his father than William.
In 2016, Harry started dating his now-wife Meghan with the pair tying the knot at St George’s Chapel in Windsor in May 2018. In the lead-up to the wedding, it was revealed that Meghan’s father Thomas would not be attending – prompting Charles to step in and walk Meghan part-way down the aisle.
Speaking about the moment, Harry told a 2018 BBC documentary: “I asked him to and I think he knew it was coming, and he immediately said ‘yes, of course, I’ll do whatever Meghan needs and I’m here to support you.’ For him, that’s a fantastic opportunity to step up and be that support, and you know he’s our father so of course he’s going to be there for us.”
However, after just over a year as working royals, Harry and Meghan decided they wanted to quit the Firm and step down from their roles. A summit was held at Sandringham between the Queen, Harry, Charles and William to thrash out a deal – and Harry and Meghan eventually settled in California with their young son Archie.
It was then that cracks started to appear in the bond between Harry and his father as well as with his brother William. Harry recounted what happened behind the scenes when the late Queen summoned Charles, William and Harry to Sandringham in his and Meghan’s Netflix series and accused Charles of saying things that “were not true”.
Oprah fallout and money rows
In March 2021, both Harry and Meghan sat down for a tell-all chat with Oprah Winfrey, which proved explosive. During the bombshell interview, Harry accused his dad of cutting him off financially and claimed he had stopped taking his calls. “My family literally cut me off financially,” Harry said in March 2021.
“I’ve got what my mum left me, and without that, we would not have been able to do this. I think she saw it coming,” Harry said, adding that it was the inspiration behind Harry and Meghan seeking to land a Netflix deal. Harry also said he felt “really let down” by his father, saying: “He knows what pain feels like. Of course I will always love him but there’s a lot of hurt that’s happened and I will continue to make it one of my priorities to try and heal that.”
Meanwhile in his book King Charles III: Our King, author Robert Jobson claims the late Queen told Harry to go directly to his father when he started complaining about money. He writes: “Prince Charles simply stopped taking Harry’s calls after his son swore at him and repeatedly asked for funds. When the Queen asked Charles why he hadn’t given in, he told her that he wasn’t a bank.”
Just weeks after the bombshell Oprah chat, Harry was back on UK shores in April 2021 to attend the funeral of his grandfather Prince Philip. Here he came face to face with his dad and William for the first time since – and the trio attempted peace talks after the service.
And in Spare, Harry says his older brother lunged at him with a slanging match ensuing and Charles telling his two sons: “Please, boys – don’t make my final years a misery.”
After the confrontation, the next time Harry saw his father was on a secret visit to the UK a year later along with Meghan, which has been described as cordial yet awkward and in a subsequent interview, he refused to say if he missed his dad. The couple also attended the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, but in a chat with a magazine, just days before the former monarch’s death, Meghan cryptically said Harry told her “I lost my dad in this process”.
The next flashpoint in father-son relations came when the late Queen was in her final hours at her beloved Scottish Highlands home Balmoral. Harry and Meghan just happened to be in the UK on a charity visit when it emerged the former monarch’s health had taken a turn for the worse and royals raced to be with her.
Among them were William, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, who took a flight from London to Scotland. Harry took a separate private jet and wrote in his memoir Spare how he was told wife Meghan shouldn’t come with him as Kate, the now Princess of Wales and wife of William, wasn’t going either.
He writes his father told him he was welcome at Balmoral “but he didn’t want… her”. He explains: “He started to lay out his reason, which was nonsensical, and disrespectful, and I wasn’t having it. Don’t ever speak about my wife that way. He stammered, apologetic, saying he simply didn’t want a lot of people around. No other wives were coming, Kate wasn’t coming, he said, therefore Meg shouldn’t.”
Days later, when Charles addressed the nation for the first time as King, he expressed his love for Harry and Meghan, but when his younger son came back to the UK last month to attend a legal hearing, the monarch was “too busy” to see him.
‘Phone call olive branch’
In April of this year, as the Coronation approached, Harry confirmed he would attend the historic spectacle but his wife Meghan, 41, would be staying at home with their children Prince Archie, whose birthday was on the same day as the Coronation, and Princess Lilibet.
However, it was a flying visit for Harry who didn’t appear to privately meet with his father, Queen Camilla or the Prince and Princess of Wales. Harry has since been back to the UK several times since, most notably on the first anniversary of the late Queen’s death – but still no meeting with Charles was forthcoming.
In addition, Harry and Meghan were asked to “vacate” their UK home just weeks after Harry’s damning book Spare was released. Reports at the time claimed the move was sanctioned by the King and the decision removed their remaining foothold in the UK and further weakened ties with the royal family.
But the King will be wished happy birthday by Harry today as he turns 75, it has been reported. Charles will be spending his birthday attending two royal events but at some point during the day his son Harry is expected to phone his father, according to an online BBC report.