With his lips pursed in fury and his usually animated blue eyes looking sunken and sad, Prince Harry must have been wondering how on earth his life has descended into such extraordinary chaos.
This time last year, Charles’ youngest son was putting the finishing touches on plans to marry stunning American actress Meghan Markle, the woman who stole his heart after years of romantic turmoil.
But 12 months on, with a much longed-for baby on the way and at a time where he should be happier than ever, the big-hearted 34-year-old appears to be a broken man.
When the couple arrived at an event at London’s Natural History Museum last week, the Duchess of Sussex, 37, plastered a megawatt smile on her face and eagerly marched towards waiting fans. Meanwhile, Harry tried his best to be warm and engaging, but onlookers say he was far from convincing.
“He was there in body but not in spirit,” says an onlooker. “He wasn’t as tactile as he usually is with Meghan, which was a surprise given they’re usually hand-in-hand at all times. He’s even stopped laughing and joking with photographers like he used to as well. Harry seems distant, like he has a lot on his mind.”
And a lot on his mind is an understatement. Woman’s Day is told that the late Princess Diana’s son is struggling to handle the never-ending farce his marriage has become in recent months, which reached boiling point two weeks ago when it was revealed his wife had spoken to US magazine People through friends, despite the royal family’s usual “say nothing” rule – especially when it comes to gossip.
“Meghan couldn’t stand being gagged by the palace press machine when she used to be in charge of her own PR when she was a celebrity – and did a very good job of it too, she might add,” spills a well-placed royal source. “No one is under any illusion that the five ‘friends’ who spoke anonymously to the publication about what a fantastic person she is, was orchestrated by Meghan herself.”
It’s not known if Harry was aware Meghan’s desperate attempt for a positive headline – at a time when she’s being vilified by Fleet Street press and among the palace staff – was coming, but friends say there’s no way he’d have endorsed it.
“Harry has allowed Meghan the space to craft her own role within the royal family. He accepts they’re from different backgrounds, but unashamedly ignoring centuries’ worth of palace protocol is taking it too far,” explains our source.
“Using an American celebrity magazine as a mouthpiece is so far below the royal family. Meghan, of course, doesn’t see it that way. This is probably the first time they’ve had an out and out disagreement, and Harry’s not coping well.”
The publicity firestorm surrounding Harry and Meghan’s marriage was further stoked last week, when her father Thomas Markle, in response to claims made about him in the now-infamous People interview, published a personal letter from his daughter in the UK’s Mail On Sunday newspaper.
In Meghan’s letter, addressed to “Daddy” in her trademark calligraphic script, she begged him to stop telling lies about her through the media, and accused him of collaborating with her hateful half-sister Samantha, whom she insists “I barely know”.
In the letter, Meghan wrote that Thomas, 74, who pulled out of her wedding at the eleventh hour, is breaking “my heart into a million pieces”. She pleaded with him to “please allow us to live our lives in peace”. And this letter, say close friends, has angered Harry even further.
WATCH: Thomas Markle speaks out on daughter Meghan, claims she ‘ghosted’ him. Post continues after video…
“He knew deep down the letter was a bad idea. Thomas hasn’t managed to keep his mouth shut for almost a year – that letter was never going to be kept private for long,” reveals our source. “But Meghan insisted on doing it her way… and now their dirty laundry has been aired once again for all to see.”
In what could be a testament to her acting, Meghan appears unconcerned by the dramas she’s causing within the regal fold.
“She’s been offered the opportunity to step back from royal engagements. Everyone would understand – she’s almost eight months pregnant and must be under a lot of stress,” says a palace insider.
“But Meghan seems determined to be centrestage, and will not be denied her shining moments, in which she can show off her baby bump. It’s the role she feels she was born to play.”
It’s not only Meghan’s friends and family who are out of control – the couple’s celebrity hangers-on have also thrown caution and sensitivity to the wind, much to Harry’s horror.
Last week, George Clooney told a reporter that Meghan was being unfairly pursued and targeted – and added an ominous warning that it reminded him of how Harry’s late mother was treated, saying, “We’ve seen how that ends.”
Meanwhile, Meghan’s former London-based friend, journalist and outspoken columnist Piers Morgan, has slammed the duchess for being anything but Diana, and instead accused her of being a social climber who abandoned her family and her pre-royal friends.
“It’s hard to disagree with Piers. Diana herself did play the media in a similar way to what Meghan’s now doing, but don’t forget at the time Diana had felt trapped in a loveless marriage [to Charles] for years and saw no way out,” our source explains.
“Meghan seems to want to control the situation, whereas Diana was venting about years of mistreatment.” Now, it’s Harry who royal watchers fear is trapped.
“Harry never expected this absolute circus to unfold and it would be no surprise if he was wondering if this wasn’t all just one big mistake.
“No one would blame him if he cracked and decided he can’t do it anymore.
The honeymoon period is over, that’s for sure.
“No doubt the only thing stopping him from losing it completely – with his wife, the London press and his own media office, is the knowledge that he is about to become a father.”
Taking the situation from very bad to even worse for Harry is the fact that he no longer has the strong support of his brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
“He distanced himself from them long ago because they voiced their concerns that marrying a headstrong celebrity with a shady family background might cause the exact problems we’re seeing now,” adds a source.
“At the time, Harry was lovesick and furious at the suggestion that Meghan could be anything but perfect. Now, he has to see that they had a good point.
“Of course William and Catherine still care, but they’ve had their own fingers burnt by stories about them involving Meghan. Harry’s brotherly bond with William isn’t what it once was, and may never be again.”
Indeed, when William was asked in February if they’ve had “disagreements” working as a foursome, he promptly responded, “Oh yes!”
Watch the awkward moment below. Post continues after video…
No one to trust
“The cracks started to show months ago between Harry and William, and now it’s come to this,” our source adds.
“At this point, with his wife talking to the press and his brother barely on speaking terms, Harry feels unloved and like he can’t trust anyone, which must be awful for him. He should be excited about the fact he’s about to become a father.”