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Prince Edward discusses royal rift between Harry and Meghan, the Queen and his father’s legacy

Edward, Earl of Wessex, pops his head around the door of the room in St James’s Palace and chuckles at the numerous cameras set up for the interview. “Do you have enough?” he laughs.

The Queen’s youngest child, 57, seems to be in good spirits on this glorious summer day in London despite the occasion. Thursday would have been the 100th birthday of Edward’s father, Prince Philip, and he is marking the date by reflecting on the Duke of Edinburgh’s legacy and his eponymous Award program.

But there is an elephant in the room. Hours before CNN’s US exclusive sit-down with the Earl, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were forced to deny a report in the British media that they had not consulted the Queen about using her childhood nickname of Lilibet for their newborn daughter.

Headlines probing the relationship between the Sussexes and the rest of the family have been frequent since the couple relinquished their roles as working royals last year and relocated to California. Responding to a question about current family tensions, the Earl says the situation is “very sad.”

Prince Edward discusses royal family rift with Harry and Meghan Credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage

“Listen, weirdly we’ve all been there before – we’ve all had excessive intrusion and attention in our lives. And we’ve all dealt with it in slightly different ways, and listen, we wish them the very best of luck. It’s a really hard decision,” Edward says.

Harry and Meghan have often spoken about the pressures of royal life and being constantly scrutinized by the media. In a bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in March, the Duke said the relentless scrutiny was one of the deciding factors in the family’s move to the United States. In her discussion with Winfrey, the Duchess also revealed she had contemplated suicide during her first pregnancy and that there had been questions over the skin color of their then-unborn son, Archie.

Edward says he hopes the couple are happy before returning to the subject of the rift, suggesting disagreements happen in every family.

“It’s difficult for everyone but that’s families for you,” he says.

For several reasons, it’s been a challenging few months for Britain’s royal family, who are still mourning the loss of their patriarch in April. Due to Covid-19 measures at the time, the funeral arrangements were considerably scaled back by royal standards, and the number of attendees limited to just 30 people.

“It was an experience that so many other families have had to go through during this past year or 18 months and so in that sense, it was particularly poignant,” says Edward. “There are an awful lot of people who haven’t been able to express the respect that they would like to have done. I think many people would have liked to have been there to support the Queen.”

The Queen carries on

Following the Queen’s lead, as always, senior royal family members have since returned to their duties and are once again fulfilling a busy schedule of video calls and in-person engagements.

Asked how the 95-year-old monarch is faring following the loss of her husband of 73 years, Edward responds that she is “actually doing remarkably well.”

“I think that it was a fantastic partnership, but over the last couple of weeks, life has got considerably busier. Things are beginning to open up more, there are more activities so weirdly that sort of fills any particular void,” he said.

“I think there are going to be other times further along the year where I think that it will become a bit more poignant and a bit harder. But at the moment, thank you very much indeed for asking, I think that everybody’s in pretty good shape really, and just working rather too hard.”

Harry and Meghan have often spoken about the pressures of royal life and being constantly scrutinized by the media.
Harry and Meghan have often spoken about the pressures of royal life and being constantly scrutinized by the media. Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

“Rather too hard” may be something of an understatement. The monarch — despite her advancing age — has consistently maintained a demanding diary in recent years. Even before the coronavirus upended life in the UK last March, she had conducted 296 engagements between 2019 and 2020.

Unable to do everything herself, the monarch leans on several generations of close family members to complete more than 3,000 engagements both at home and abroad each year.

President Biden and Queen Elizabeth to meet

Edward and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, are increasingly playing a more active role in supporting the Queen following Harry and Meghan’s relocation to California, as well as Prince Andrew’s withdrawal from public duties over his association with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

“Trying to be there as a friendly ear at times is, absolutely, is really important,” Edward says.

One important meeting on the Queen’s books this week is her first face-to-face with US President Joe Biden, who is in Britain for the latest G7 summit. Their meeting on Sunday will be the first between the two leaders since Biden took office in January – and he will be the 14th US commander-in-chief with whom she’s met.

Edward says the get-together is a “perfect opportunity” for the pair to meet.

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