"I’m sure [the King] misses him," a source close to the royal household tells PEOPLE exclusively
As the late monarch often brought her family together, Prince Harry's rift with the royals seems wider than ever. Fissures within the family came to the fore when King Charles’ younger son and his wife, Meghan Markle, left the U.K. for the U.S. in 2020, and relations have remained strained since.
“I’m sure [the King] misses him. Harry is entertaining, warm and very loving as well. And they had a great relationship,” a source close to the royal household tells PEOPLE in this week's exclusive cover story.
King Charles “leans toward the compassionate rather than the disciplinarian style of family leadership,” adds royal biographer and Queen of Our Times author Robert Hardman, implying hope for the future.
If he’s looking for a way forward, the King, 74, could examine the way his mother negotiated public scandals, political upheavals and family drama during her history-making 70-year reign.
“[The Queen] managed to navigate these choppy waters, and that’s why she was always admired and loved — because she got the family through,” says the source close to the royal household. “[Charles] will have to show that he can do that.”
Queen Elizabeth was “especially important [to Harry],” a friend tells PEOPLE, and the anniversary of her death will surely be top of mind on Friday. The Queen died at Balmoral Castle at age 96 on Sept. 8, 2022, and King Charles’ accession sparked a year of change for the royal family.
Although Prince Harry, 38, made plans to stop in London to attend the WellChild charity awards on Sept. 7 before heading to the Invictus Games in Germany, which begin Saturday, sources say that there is no chance of a reunion with his brother or father anytime soon. Prince William feels betrayed by Harry’s claims in his memoir, Spare, and the Netflix docuseries Harry & Meghan, but he is dealing with his feelings privately, insiders say. A source who knows both brothers says the public drama “has quieted down a bit.”
In matters both personal and professional, “there is an enormous loss,” says a source close to the royal household, “as [the Queen] played a very important part in all of their lives. But I’m impressed at how smoothly things are moving forward given all the little hiccups that there are in the background.”
The biggest “hiccup” of all, of course, has been the ongoing estrangement of Harry and Meghan from the rest of the royal family. Queen Elizabeth — despite being someone with whom Harry had “his own rapport,” as Hardman puts it — was tough with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex when she felt she had to be, ruling they couldn’t be half in, half out of the royal family as they’d hoped.
When it comes to the royal way of doing things, “There’s no [hemming] and hawing,” Hardman tells PEOPLE. “It’s like, ‘Here are your options, and can we have an answer by Friday?’ ”
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On the surface, King Charles has followed the same signposts that have dotted the royal road for decades. Along with continuing the annual Balmoral tradition, the King has hosted Christmas at Sandringham just as his mother did and carried on with royal events like Trooping the Colour and the ancient Order of the Garter ceremony. He and Queen Camilla head to France on Sept. 20 for a state visit — and although it might go undetected beneath the pomp and pageantry, insiders say there is a different mood on royal outings.
Queen Elizabeth, reflecting her generation, greeted the public at a distance and through a gloved hand, while King Charles takes a less formal approach.
“His ability to engage with everybody is a real plus. It has proven he is the right man for the right moment,” royals author Ingrid Seward exclusively tells PEOPLE. A palace source adds, “He’s always very warm with people and is curious about their lives.”
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