The Truth About King Charles And Prince Harry's Relationship

The bond between father and son is a powerful one, and that is no less true for members of the royal family. While King Charles III 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 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 King Charles and Prince Harry is really like.

Prince Harry was named after King 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 King 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 King 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.

King Charles was reportedly disappointed that Prince Harry wasn't a girl

After Prince Harry was born, King 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, King 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.

Harry struggled in the aftermath of King Charles and Princess Diana's separation

King 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.

King Charles was reportedly remote when Prince Harry was growing up

While Prince Harry hasn't publicly criticized his upbringing by King 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, King Charles "has sometimes overlooked friends and loved ones beside him."

King 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."

King 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 King 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 King 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."

King 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 King 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 King 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. King 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."

King Charles supported Prince Harry financially for years

Prince Harry has quite a fortune, estimated by Celebrity Net Worth to be in the ballpark of $60 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 Peoplethat the royals "literally cut me off financially" shortly afterwards, leaving him to rely on his inheritance to set up his new life in California.

King 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 King 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).

King Charles keeps a memento of that special day on display in his home. In 2020, the Mirror noted that royal watchers had noticed that King 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 King 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, King 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 King 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 King 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."

King Charles reportedly thought Meghan had too much power over Harry

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are a power couple who seem to love and support each other genuinely. While King Charles has seemingly approved of Meghan — reportedly nicknaming her "Tungsten" due to the "strength and the backbone she gives Harry," according to the Daily Mail — the former "Suits" star took the royal family by storm. Charles may not have been ready for his son to exhibit quite so much "backbone."

"Harry was sensitive and Charles knew he would need a strong woman," royal expert Ingrid Seward told the Mirror in 2022. "He liked Meghan when she came along."

However, Seward said things took a turn for the worse, with Charles allegedly blaming Meghan for Harry's estrangement from him and the rest of the royal family. "Charles was unprepared for her to take over Harry the way she did and turn him against everything he knew and loved, including his own family," she claimed.

Harry reportedly blamed his dad for how he handled the aftermath of Princess Diana's death

Speaking with the Mirror in 2022, royal biographer Ingrid Seward alleged that at least part of the tension between Prince Harry and his father might be due to how King Charles reportedly handled things after Princess Diana's death. According to Seward, Charles stepped up and became both mother and father to Harry and William but rarely discussed Diana. "Charles thought that was the right thing to do," she said. "It wasn't until much later that Harry revealed he had hidden his private emotions so deeply."

Seward claimed that Harry harbored a lot of resentment. "He felt that Charles should have explained to both he and William exactly how and why the accident had occurred," she said. "Years passed and Harry complained he still didn't understand if his mother had been the victim of an assassination attempt or if it was just a tragic accident."

It didn't help that Charles later married Camilla Parker Bowles, the woman with whom he cheated on Diana. The relationship between Camilla and Harry is believed to be rocky, with a source telling The Daily Beast in 2022 that "the perception is that Harry has never given Camilla the slightest chance and is still refusing to." A source told Page Six that Harry views Camila as having usurped Diana, saying, "his mother was meant to be queen, and Camilla will always be the woman who led to his parents' divorce."

Meghan Markle revealed Prince Harry's heartbreak over his relationship with his dad

Since Meghan and Harry stepped down as senior royals, they've been distanced from the rest of the royal family. A royal insider told Us Weekly in 2021 that the rift between father and son may never heal, saying, "With the way things are going, Charles may never forgive Harry." They added that Charles hadn't yet "forgiven Harry for dragging his name through the mud" in his controversial interview with Oprah Winfrey.

In a 2022 interview with The Cut, Meghan opened up about where things stood between her husband and father-in-law — and it was heartbreaking. Meghan — estranged from her father, Thomas Markle — revealed how leaving the royal family had impacted Harry's relationship with Charles. "Harry said to me, 'I lost my dad in this process,'" she said. "It doesn't have to be the same for them as it was for [my father and] me, but that's his decision."

Prince Harry acknowledged his father's new role as king

Prince Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, died on September 8, 2022, at 96, as noted by NPR. With her death, Prince Charles became King Charles III. Prince Harry commented on both of these huge events in a statement. "Granny, while this final parting brings us great sadness, I am forever grateful for all of our first meetings — from my earliest childhood memories with you, to meeting you for the first time as my Commander-in-Chief, to the first moment you met my darling wife and hugged your beloved great-grandchildren," the Duke of Sussex wrote (via CBS News). He continued to speak of his love for his grandmother and how much he would miss her before bringing the topic to his father, the new king. "And as it comes to first meetings, we now honour my father in his new role as King Charles III," he added.

While it's hard to say how Charles being king will impact his relationship with Harry, he addressed their bond in his first royal address as King Charles the day after his mother's death. "I want also to express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas," he said (via Reuters).

The show of respect from both parties bodes well for the father and son, but only time will tell if it is enough to mend the rift between them.

Could King Charles grant Harry's wish?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shocked the world when they stepped down as senior royals. The couple was initially reported to have asked about the possibility of simply lessening their royal duties. "The preference of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex was to continue to represent and support Her Majesty The Queen albeit in a more limited capacity, while not drawing on the Sovereign Grant," read a statement on their website in 2020.

The plan for them to be part-time working royals was shot down, but now that Charles is king, he could grant Harry and Meghan's wish. "I hope Charles considers bringing them both back into the Firm the way they originally wanted: half in, half out, and earning their own salaries doing their own outside work," royal expert Kristen Meinzer told Newsweek.

Whether or not Harry and Meghan return to the royal family fold remains to be seen, but it seems their children will at least be made royal following Charles' ascension to the throne. The Sun reported that King Charles would grant Harry's children Archie and Lilibet the titles of "prince" and princess," although they may not be able to style themselves as "His/Her Royal Highness" unless their parents return to working royal status.