Watch CBS News

As U.K. royals mourn Prince Philip, could his passing offer Prince Harry an opportunity for "reconciliation"?

U.K. mourns ahead of Prince Philip funeral
Prince Philip funeral to be held Saturday in Windsor; Queen says his death leaves "huge void" 03:49

Windsor, England — The U.K. was in a period of national mourning on Monday, remembering the life of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Queen Elizabeth II's husband of more than 70 years died last week at the age of 99. As CBS News' Holly Williams reports, the funeral will be held at Windsor Castle's St. George's Chapel on Saturday.

It will be a small, private service, owing to COVID-19 restrictions limiting gatherings to 30 people, and per the late duke's own wishes. But as one former royal correspondent told CBS News, it may still offer an opportunity to help heal a rift between two key members of the royal family's younger generation and the loved ones from whom they felt the need to seek some distance. 

Prince Harry was back in England on Monday, self-isolating for the mandatory five days under U.K. coronavirus rules, to be able to attend the funeral.

For decades, Philip was regarded by some as the power behind the throne, but historian and long-time BBC royal correspondent Wesley Kerr told CBS News that a generational shift had already taken place within the monarchy.

"The queen has been doing quite a lot less anyway, even pre-COVID," Kerr said. "All the big foreign tours are now done by [Princes] Charles and William. That's been happening for some time."

Tributes pour in as Prince Philip is mourned across the globe 02:20

The younger members of the House of Windsor are a more complicated set than the monarch and her late husband, who appeared happily married for 73 years.  

Prince Andrew paid tribute to his father — the first time he'd been heard from since the Jeffrey Epstein scandal put an end to his public role as a royal — describing his mother as stoical in the face of her loss, which he said had left "a huge void in her life."

"I feel very sorry, and supportive of my mother, who's, I think, feeling it probably more than everybody else," Andrew said on Sunday.

While Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex's pregnancy will keep her away from the funeral, her husband Prince Harry will be there to honor his grandfather. The service this weekend will come just weeks after Meghan and Harry's bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, during which they made allegations of racism within the royal family.

Gayle King: Prince Harry glad to have started a conversation with his father and brother 02:55

"I think he will be greeted as a very close family member by his granny, by his father, by his brother and his cousins," predicted Kerr. "I think they'll be absolutely delighted to see him."

"He and his wife have got off their chest whatever their beefs were," said Kerr, noting that, according to the queen herself, "recollections differ" within the royal family as to some of the claims made by the young royals, and some of their assertions — having been married quietly three days prior to their wedding, for instance — have been flatly rejected.

Now, Kerr said the time may be right to try to sooth any emotional damage done.

"I think togetherness, especially at the funeral of a great patriarch, I think is going to be the key thing," he said. "In the end, this is Harry's family. I know Meghan has got a family but, really, this is his family as well as Meghan, and I think that reconciliation will be the theme… reconciliation is always a very, very powerful theme at a funeral."

Kerr, no stranger to the British public's or the British press' consideration of the royals, said he didn't expect to see a significant backlash against Harry over the interview with Oprah.

"I think that there'll be commentary in newspapers and then in the comments below, just as there has been for several weeks," he said. "He and the duchess chose to give the interview and they chose to put their views out there. So inevitably, there's going to be comments on that, some favorable, some less so." 

Royals Report: As Harry and Meghan move on, royal family considers appointing "diversity chief" 05:37

"To me, what's key really is the queen, Prince Charles, William — that's the future. That's the key future of the institution. But Harry continues to be an important member of the royal family," Kerr said, suggesting that he and Meghan had become something of a "North American branch" of the family that the queen herself apparently calls "The Firm."

While Kerr noted that the duke and duchess were clearly focused on their new, independent ventures as non-working royals, "he's definitely still a member of the royal family — he's definitely Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. She's definitely the Duchess of Sussex. So, I think the point is that they're still very much members of the royal family."

Kerr said it was possible that Harry and Meghan could return at some point to being more visible members of that family, and that he'd personally be "delighted" to see that.

He also noted that another opportunity was looming not far on the horizon to build on any reconciliation that comes this week as the royal family mourns the loss of their patriarch.

"I think he'll be back on July the 1st, if it doesn't coincide with the birth of the child, to unveil the new statue to Diana," Kerr said, referring to Prince Harry's expected attendance at the official ceremony to unveil a statue of his late mother this summer.

"So I think, you know, in a family there are disputes, but there's also reconciliation."

Members Of The Royal Family Attend St Mary Magdalene Church In Sandringham
(L-R) Prince William, Duke of Cambridge; Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on December 25, 2017 in King's Lynn, England. Chris Jackson/Getty

On Monday, from his self-isolation at Frogmore Cottage on the royal estate in Windsor, Prince Harry  issued a statement lauding his late grandfather as "a man of service, honour and great humour," whom he said was, to him, first and foremost, "grandpa: master of the barbecue, legend of banter, and cheeky right 'til the end."

"He was authentically himself, with a seriously sharp wit, and could hold the attention of any room due to his charm — and also because you never knew what he might say next," said Harry, adding: "Meghan, Archie, and I (as well as your future great-granddaughter) will always hold a special place for you in our hearts."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.