King Charles loves Harry. That is a given. No, more than a given, actually.
I remember the look of genuine pride on his face when he joined Harry at his inaugural Invictus Games in London in 2014, visibly marvelling at what a feat his often under-estimated younger son had managed to pull off. ‘My dear boy…’ he beamed adoringly, as he clapped him on the back.
But Charles is not just a father, he is a king.
And I know from numerous conversations with royal insiders in recent months that he feels he owes it to his country to act as a monarch, regardless of the repetitive family drama.
Which is why, as I understand it, he has backed bold moves to ‘evict’ his son and his family from their Frogmore Cottage home.
King Charles loves Harry. That is a given. No, more than a given, actually. But Charles is not just a father, he is a king
As I understand it, [Charles] has backed bold moves to ‘evict’ his son and his family from their Frogmore Cottage home (Pictured: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Frogmore Cottage)
It is a risky decision and one that the Sussexes’ coterie of media defenders have already seized upon in their efforts to paint the duke and duchess as victims of a protectionist and remorseless institution (although how they square this with the fact the pontificating couple have made clear they see their future in the US, thereby leaving an entire house empty for more than 11 months of the year, is anyone’s guess).
There is no doubt that the timing of the move – days after the publication of Harry’s controversial and damning memoir, Spare – appears to suggest it was an act of retribution.
And there are certainly many in the royal household who will smile with satisfaction at seeing the back of the ‘disloyal duo’, as some refer to them.
Indeed, as I reported on Saturday there is still a great deal of ill will ‘boiling over’ at Buckingham Palace at the couple’s behaviour in recent months and neither the King nor the Prince of Wales are in any mood to pander to Harry’s tantrums.
But Charles is not a vindictive man and despite being deeply hurt at much of what he understands his son had said about him and his wife (he still hasn’t read Harry’s memoir and has no intention of doing so), I am told that this move was a while in the planning.
The Royal Family, you see, have something of a housing crisis.
Not the kind of crisis faced by so many of the king’s subjects, it has to be said.
More the fact that they have a surfeit of grand houses and not enough people to justify their existence as lavish private homes – except, oddly, for Windsor, which is proving to be a bit of a bottleneck.
The problem has been sparked by the Prince and Princess of Wales’s decision to move their family out of their substantial Kensington Palace apartment and onto the Royal Family’s Berkshire estate.
If the Crown Estate’s decision to pull the plug on Harry and Meghan’s lease at Frogmore Cottage (pictured) is both a practical and financial one, it is also a move that could seriously backfire
For now they are in Adelaide Cottage, a not immodest residence by anyone’s standards but with just four bedrooms (not even one for the nanny) they are living cheek-by-jowl.
As one familiar with their situation tells me: ‘The kids go to playdates at houses far bigger and grander than theirs.’
A first-world problem admittedly, but one that would be solved if, say, a 30-room, seven-bedroom property such as Prince Andrew’s Royal Lodge became free.
If, of course, he could be persuaded to ‘downgrade’ to five-bedroom Frogmore Cottage instead, a move he is said to be fiercely resisting. Who knows where this merry-go-round of mansions will end?
But if the Crown Estate’s decision to pull the plug on Harry and Meghan’s lease is both a practical and financial one, it is also a move that could seriously backfire.
Not only will it add another log onto Harry and Meghan’s pyre of alleged injustices against them (and surely enough beef for another chapter of any forthcoming book) it severs, once and for all, any physical ties the couple have with the UK.
And because they will no longer benefit from the ring-fence of security that Windsor affords them, the duke and duchess will inevitably argue – no doubt through court cases and ‘friends’ briefing the media – that any future visits to Britain for them and their children are infinitely more complex now.
They could stay with family or friends but, let’s be honest, they have fallen out with so many people that this isn’t even a realistic option on the table.
It begs the question as to whether Charles will ever see his grandchildren again?
More immediately, it also now gives Harry and Meghan the perfect excuse not to attend the coronation.
For while they have apparently been given until early summer to pack up their stuff and move out, it’s not as if the welcome mat is being dusted off.