The Daily Telegraph

A long and lonely royal journey home

As Prince Harry returns solo to the UK for his grandfathe­r’s funeral, Anna Pasternak explains how his situation closely mirrors that of the Duke of Windsor, almost 70 years

- The American Duchess by Anna Pasternak (RRP £9.99). Buy now for £8.99 at books.telegraph.co.uk or call 0844 871 1514

As Prince Harry boarded a plane from Los Angeles to London at the weekend, we can only imagine the inner turmoil he must have felt as he prepared for the long and lonely journey home.

His adored grandfathe­r had died at a time of unpreceden­ted familial discord, with the Royal family still reeling from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s corrosive, finger-pointing Oprah Winfrey interview last month.

Prince Philip’s death may have prompted an outpouring of national gratitude and affection, but the question now is whether it can cement the deep fissures within the House of Windsor itself.

How will Harry be welcomed by Princes William and Charles, after accusing his family of racism? Not to mention following reports, via Gayle King, a US news anchor and friend of Meghan, that private telephone calls between the California-based prince and his father and brother had been “unproducti­ve” – disclosure­s said to have gone down badly at the Palace.

That Harry had not seen his grandfathe­r for more than a year, after he whisked his wife and son, Archie, to the other side of the world to escape being “trapped” by the monarchy, can only add to the Duke of Sussex’s inevitable feelings of wretchedne­ss and grief. His sense of isolation will likely have been compounded by the fact that Meghan, heavily pregnant with their second child, hasn’t been able to accompany him.

The echoes of history here are uncanny, as nearly 70 years ago, a similar scenario played out.

Another once-beloved member of the Royal family had to leave his American wife behind in the United States to make the solitary journey home for a royal funeral, where he had to face frosty relations, saddened that he had quit monarchica­l life.

In 1952, when King George VI died, his brother Edward, the Duke of Windsor – exiled to France after the abdication – was staying in New York with his wife, Wallis Simpson.

Edward and Bertie’s relationsh­ip had been further strained by the antipathy between the royal sisters-in-law, Wallis and Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother. Just as Meghan made clear in her Oprah confession­al that her relationsh­ip with Kate Middleton has been far from sisterly and cosy.

The tragedy for Edward was that no rifts had been healed before the King died. While Harry has not seen his family for over a year, Edward had not seen his relatives for fifteen years, after he left Britain in 1936.

Just as one imagines poor Harry receiving a jolting call in the middle of the night last week at his Montecito mansion, telling him that the Duke of Edinburgh had died, the Windsors had a distressin­g phone conversati­on in their six-room apartment on the 28th floor of the Waldorf Towers on February 6 1952.

For the Duke of Windsor, it came as a dreadful shock. Even though his rancour towards his family was – as Harry’s seems to be – mired in resentful fury that his wife had been mistreated, he was blindsided by the news of his brother’s death.

Just as for Harry, immediate arrangemen­ts were made for Edward to return home. Yet unlike Meghan, for whom an invitation for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral would have been

de rigueur, the Duke of Windsor was bluntly told by Buckingham Palace – even before his niece, the new Queen Elizabeth had returned from Kenya where she was on tour with Prince Philip – that there could be no question of Wallis accompanyi­ng him.

This was a source of endless anguish for Edward, whose lifelong wish was that his family would accept his wife.

On the evening of February 7, he held a press conference from the Veranda Grill of the Queen Mary. It was, an observer noted: “the most macabre setting in which British Royalty can ever have appeared,” as

amid the gum-chewing reporters, acrobats and ballet dancers leapt, accompanie­d by the bizarre presence of a witch with her cauldron and cat.

The Duke, with a black mourning band on one sleeve, read out a prepared statement: “This voyage, upon which I am embarking aboard the Queen Mary tonight is indeed sad – and it is all the sadder for me because I am undertakin­g it alone. The Duchess is remaining here to await my return.” That formal tone contrasts with the conversati­onal tribute put out by Prince Harry yesterday, in which he called his grandfathe­r “master of the barbecue, legend of banter, and cheeky right ‘til the end”. He also thanked Prince Philip for his “dedication to Granny” – something that was noticeably absent from the Duke of Windsor’s words in 1952. He offered his comfort and support to Queen Mary – “Her Majesty, my mother” – but omitted to refer to the one person who would feel the king’s loss most keenly; his widow, Elizabeth.

His sister-in-law, after all, had led the charge against Wallis, calling her “that woman” and ensuring she never received the coveted HRH title that Edward craved so keenly for his wife.

Yet, in spite of her exclusion by the Royal family – unlike Meghan who was warmly welcomed – Wallis kept her agonies private. She never once spoke out against her in-laws. Instead, perspicaci­ous to the potential familial tensions ahead, she sent her husband off to England with the sage advice: “Do not mention or ask for anything regarding recognitio­n of me.” Many will find it hard to imagine Meghan offering Harry such selfless instructio­n.

The prince’s flight from LAX to London was just shy of 11 hours. Seven decades ago, it took the Duke of Windsor six long and lonely days to dock at Southampto­n and arrive at his mother’s London residence, Marlboroug­h House, where he stayed for the funeral.

That afternoon, he went to Buckingham Palace for tea with the Queen Mother and his niece Princess Elizabeth, the new sovereign. Queen Mary had sent a letter to the Queen Mother requesting that she “and the girls” see the duke and “bury the hatchet after 15 whole years”.

Sadly, any attempt at true reconcilia­tion was perfunctor­y. The Queen Mother gave no quarter. Edward noted in a letter to Wallis that “Cookie [the Windsors’ nickname for her] listened without comment and closed on the note that it was nice to be able to talk about Bertie with someone who had known him so well.”

Queen Mary was over-optimistic about the meeting: “so that feud is over, I hope, a great relief to me,” she wrote to a friend.

The Queen must feel similarly about William and Harry, hoping that they can lay their resentment­s aside to mourn their grandfathe­r. The family has reportedly called for a “truce” to allow the brothers to focus on Prince Philip, and apparently sees this as the best chance for reconcilia­tion since the Sussexes split from the family.

Yet grief is an unruly beast. In the throes of loss, our closest loved ones can offer reassuring solace. Sadly though, heightened emotion at funerals often triggers further acrimony.

In the case of the Duke of Windsor, too much regret and heartbreak had occurred for the family to let the past go. Hopefully, Harry can learn from the suffering of his great uncle’s separation and make amends while he still has time.

Nothing would honour the Duke of Edinburgh, or have delighted him, more.

‘The tragedy for Edward was that no rifts were healed before the King died’

‘The Queen must be hoping William and Harry can lay their resentment­s aside’

 ??  ?? Duty: Duke of Windsor, right, and Duke of Edinburgh, far left, at George VI’S funeral
Duty: Duke of Windsor, right, and Duke of Edinburgh, far left, at George VI’S funeral

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