NEWS & FEATURES Royal weddings It’s all-out war!
Inside the bitter crisis tearing the palace apart
Their long-held jealousies and ongoing feuds are public knowledge, but never before has Buckingham Palace seen such a tense showdown between the next generation of royal leaders.
All signs are pointing to loved-up Prince Harry officially announcing an engagement to his girlfriend Meghan Markle any day now. But on the eve of what should be a momentous occasion for the entire British royal family – and with Pippa Middleton’s wedding taking place this weekend – Woman’s Day has learnt palace aides are frantically trying to broker peace between young royals caught up in a new bitter rivalry – a race to the altar.
For most families, weddings are joyous events that bring people together, but tension over who’ll be the next to walk down the aisle in 2017 – and who’ll have the biggest and best wedding – has become so toxic it’s tearing the House of Windsor apart. And with frantic dress fittings, squabbles over guest lists and fierce competition for priceless jewels, the battle to have the most dazzling royal wedding of the year is getting vicious.
We’re told that at the centre of the rift is Princess Eugenie’s deep resentment that, as she prepares to announce her engagement to long-time partner Jack Brooksbank, she’s likely to have the limelight stolen by her cousin Harry and Meghan.
Late last year, Eugenie, 27, and Jack, 30, were thought to have asked permission from the Queen to marry – but now it looks like Harry and his beautiful girlfriend will beat them to it. Indeed, with 35-year-old Suits star Meghan cancelling her advertising commitments and shutting down her personal blog last month, royal watchers are tipping she and Harry, 32, will announce their plans to wed within weeks.
But the princess is not going down without a fight. “Eugenie would love to upstage Meghan by announcing her own engagement,” a palace aide tells Woman’s Day.
“Ideally, she’d like to rain on Meghan’s parade by getting her invites out first and getting married just a few weeks before Meghan marries Harry.”
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that both Harry and Eugenie will be pipped at the post by the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister Pippa, 33, who’ll wed stockbroker James Matthews this Saturday.
Pippa and her mum Carole’s determination to make her wedding a royal affair in its own right is only causing more tension. Desperate not to be upstaged, Pippa even initiated a “no ring, no bring” guest policy to keep Meghan away from her wedding – though she has since bowed to pressure and extended a last-minute welcome to the actress.
Eugenie and her sister Princess Beatrice feel strongly that, as she’s not even part of the royal family, it’s inappropriate for Pippa’s wedding to be overshadowing Eugenie’s engagement. Pippa, conversely, is of the opinion that first in, best dressed – she beat Harry and Eugenie fair and square.
‘Eugenie would love to upstage Meghan by announcing her own engagement’
It’s no surprise that Harry’s impending engagement is hard for Eugenie to swallow. She and Beatrice, 28, have long been resentful that they’re frequently overlooked in palace circles.
Although Beatrice is single, having split from her boyfriend of a decade Dave Clark last year, it’s said she’s determined her sister should triumphantly walk down the aisle before any other royal. “Eugenie and Beatrice spend their lives longing to be in the limelight and they loathe being upstaged by the glamorous women who are marrying into their family,” our source spills.
“It was bad enough when William married Kate but now that Harry is about to announce his engagement to a beautiful TV star, the princesses have had enough! What really upsets them is that the media and the public adore Meghan – and they couldn’t care less about Beatrice and Eugenie.”
Caught up in the tension is Kate, 35, who loves Harry and wants to celebrate his engagement joy, but is also thrilled for her sister and is doing everything she can to make Pippa’s wedding special – which includes allowing Prince George, three, and Princess Charlotte, two, to act as page boy and bridesmaid.
It’s thought the duchess initially attempted to play palace peacemaker, before resolving to stay out of the dispute.
Now, with Eugenie refusing to back down, and the countdown to Pippa’s big day in full swing, the situation at the palace is likely to get worse before it gets better.
“One thing is for sure,” adds our source. “This royal soap opera is about to boil over.”
Battle of the brides! Pippa (far left) is in the lead, to the annoyance of Eugenie and Beatrice, while Harry and Meghan (far right) are caught in the middle.