In the end they stood shoulder by shoulder, and a world of royal watchers breathed a sigh of relief.
After a long, lonely, and at times deeply difficult year marked by rifts, anger, and resentment, Prince William and Prince Harry were finally reunited at the funeral for their grandfather Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
As they walked solemnly behind their grandfather’s coffin on Saturday, in one of the most poignant and emotional processions in royal history, it was hard not to think back to the walk they made 24 years ago during the funeral for their mother, Princess Diana. And as the spring sunshine lit up Windsor Castle in all its glory, one imagined that Princess Diana would have been happy that her beloved boys were together again.
It has not been an easy reunion, and for Prince Harry, who flew in from California for the funeral a week ago so that he could adhere to the strict Covid quarantine rules, it was not the homecoming anyone had wanted. Although not entirely unexpected—Philip was 99 and had spent a month in the hospital in the weeks leading up to his death—his passing was sudden. Grief was etched on every one of the royal family’s faces on Saturday, but there was a silver lining in an otherwise very sad day— two brothers who once shared an unbreakable bond were reunited even if it was just briefly.
For the Queen, who cut a lonely figure as she sat by herself in St George’s Chapel, the instructions to William and Harry had been clear: bury the hatchet for the day, and thankfully they did. That made it possible for the focus of the funeral and the hours of commentary and pages of newspaper coverage to quite rightly center on the Duke’s great life, his remarkable achievements, and the incredible legacy he leaves behind. Philip was said to be deeply upset that his grandsons had fallen out, and no doubt he would have been pleased that, even if it was just for the sake of appearances, William and Harry put their differences aside on such an important day.
Knowing it would potentially be a tense reunion, a plan was in place to keep William and Harry apart during the procession. Their cousin Peter Phillips stood between them as they followed the cortege from State Entrance at Windsor Castle to the quadrangle at St George’s Chapel, but as the procession stepped off solemnly behind Prince Philip’s bespoke Land Rover hearse, Peter (Princess Anne’s oldest son) stepped back and allowed the princes to walk side by side.
Once inside the chapel you could feel their grief. William, his jaw clenched as it often is at intensely difficult times sat directly opposite Harry who was seated alone. Sources close to Harry say he was nervous about coming home and attending the funeral, the emotion of the day and what it would be like finally seeing William. There were signs of that nervousness, the way he tapped his order of service anxiously against his leg and stared into the distance not quite knowing where to look, seeming almost worried to meet William’s eye across the aisle.
Unsurprisingly it was Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, who has previously acted as a peacemaker between the brothers, who instigated the much longed for truce after the service. As William chatted to the Dean of Westminster outside the chapel, she engaged Harry in conversation. In their masks it was impossible to know what was said, but somehow Kate managed to defuse a deeply tense and difficult moment.
Much has been made of this reunion and no one quite knew how it would pan out. For the past week, while his pregnant wife Meghan Markle was forced to stay home on the advice of her doctor, Harry has been in self isolation in Windsor. He is said to have seen his grandmother across the lawns of the garden of Frogmore Cottage on Friday, while the Queen was walking her new puppies, but the reunion with William didn’t happen until Saturday morning, before the funeral.