In a rare joint statement, Prince William and Prince Harry denied on Monday that Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, were stepping back from their royal roles because of William’s “bullying.”
Hours after the British newspaper the Times published a report that claimed a source close to the Sussexes said the couple’s decision to leave was due to two years of “constantly being told their place” by William, spokespeople for the brothers released a statement calling the story “false.” The pair seemed to take issue in particular with the Times’ use of the word “bullying,” writing: “For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful.”
The denial comes the same day William and Harry are scheduled to sit down with their father and grandmother at the queen’s Sandringham estate for a “summit” to discuss the specifics of Harry and Meghan’s exit, according to a Sunday report from the Washington Post. Meghan flew back to Canada on Thursday, but may dial in to the talks.
The Sussexes’ announcement last week that they would be stepping back from their royal roles and splitting their time between North America and the U.K. clearly took the other senior members of the royal family by surprise. The queen’s office issued an unusually terse statement saying that talks with the Sussexes were “at an early stage,” and that “we understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to sort through.” Prince Charles, meanwhile, was reported to be “incandescent with rage.”
Tension appears to have been building between the Sussexes and the rest of the royal family for some time. The queen was reportedly “disappointed” by the couple’s decision to spend the holidays with Markle’s mother in California, and in October, Prince Harry addressed the rumors of a rift between him and his older brother, saying that he and William are “on different paths at the moment,” but “I love him dearly.”