Kate Middleton’s cancer diagnosis leads to major Prince Harry call

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If you really want to feel the irrevocable march of time, consider that Grace van Cutsem who, at age of three briefly overshadowed the joyous union of Prince William and Kate Middleton when she pulled a wonderfully unimpressed face on the Buckingham Palace balcony, will turn 18 next year.

April will mark the 13th anniversary of le mariage Wales, which saw these two crazy kids throw their lot in together and decide to launch a thousand new souvenir tea towel designs. In the wash-up the day after, after all the frippery about Pippa Middleton’s superb bottom, litres of newspaper ink was wasted on the subplot of Harry Gets A Sister.

Awww, the world thought. William has gotten his happily ever after without capitulating to centuries of tradition and choosing some doe-eyed aristocrat who has had the good sense bred out of her and Harry had gotten the “sister” he said he had “always wanted”.

But as any regular reader of bedtime stories knows, there is a sting in the tale. Harry and his ‘sister’ have not, by all accounts, actually spoken since in any meaningful way in years. Then came the great, shocking thunderclap of last weekend’s revelation that Kate, now the Princess of Wales, has cancer.

And just in case the 42-year-old didn’t have enough on her already overloaded, bulging plate, within hours of her announcement, Harry entered the frame.

In turn, this week has seen Team Wales send out such clear signals about their intentions regarding Harry and his wife Meghan the Duchess of Sussex the only way they could have made them clearer is if they had taken out a billboard in Piccadilly Circus and paid National Treasure Dame Judi Dench to record a public service announcement.

Within hours of the Kate news breaking last weekend, the Sussexes put out a supportive statement, though notably an economical 22-word one that eschewed Kate’s title and her husband and kids’ names. Hot on the heels of this came reports that both Harry and Meghan had reached out privately to the Prince and Princess of Wales, messages I have no doubt (if they even exist) would feature the unstinting use of the word ‘journey’.

So, would these kind gestures of Californian caring be warmly met? Could Kate’s health struggle be a pivot point in the long and winding story of The Brothers Grim and Their Good Lady Wives?

The answer is in and optimists, look away now. In recent days, not one but three reports from three immensely well-sourced publications have spelled out the painful truth.

See what you have to realise here is that in May Harry is expected to travel back to his homeland and the nation that gifted the world the chip butty to attend a service at Westminster Abbey to mark 10 years since the first Invictus Games.

For the duke, this represents a bit of a puzzler. It would be embarrassing if he tried to see Kate and had his request knocked back, a detail that I suspect would end up working its way into the press. On the other hand, given the Sussexes’ patented brand of very public caring, would Harry blanking his ailing sister-in-law be a PR mistake?

However, while Harry might be journaling on this tricky topic as we speak, back in the UK, the prince and princess have made what sounds like a hard line call.

This week the Telegraph reported that “the ‘Harry problem’ is the very last thing on [William and Kate’s] minds.

“Trust in the Sussexes has been well and truly shattered. If there was a moment they could envisage letting the Duke back into their inner sanctum, now is not the time.

“The very notion that they would have the mental capacity to face the Duke is roundly rejected by insiders, who note that the couple now have far more significant concerns requiring their full attention.”

Next, friends of the future King and Queen spoke to the Daily Beast’s Tom Sykes. Said one chum: “Catherine and William have been very clear they want peace and quiet for them and the kids. A visit from Harry, with all the drama that would bring, would be the opposite of that.”

A second friend, asked by Sykes if the Waleses had replied to those private Sussex messages or if the prince and princess were angling for an apology in the wake of Spare said, “They have bigger things to worry about.”

“They have come to terms with the estrangement from Harry, and are content to let sleeping dogs lie,” another friend told the Beast.

Let’s not leave out the Times here, who reported that Harry “has intimated to friends that he would be happy to undertake some royal duties if required. However, there are many courtiers, and indeed family members themselves, who say that this would only make matters worse.”

To which I say, all these sources should have banded together and chipped in to rent that Piccadilly electronic billboard. Easier than them all having to spend so long on the phone giving journalists quotes.

William and Kate’s firm position seems like abundant good sense. You don’t need to have slogged through six years of medical school to know that stressful situations where emotions would surely run very high are precisely not what any patient needs.

From a psychological perspective, the princess and prince not only have to manage their own mental health here but that of their three young children too.

If anything, Kate’s cancer would seem to have only cemented further and more deeply entrenched the Waleses’ uncompromising position on Harry.

The duke, it would seem, has clocked that his years worth of battering ram-style attempts to extract some sort of admission of wrongdoing by Crown Inc. have failed. This week the Telegraph reported that Harry “is understood to have dropped his demands for an apology for himself and the Duchess, recognising that his attempt to force a reaction had failed.”

And now on top of all this comes the quite literal pièce de résistance – that the Waleses are about as likely to welcome him into their Adelaide Cottage home come May as grant entry to Princess Anne when she’s in fundraising mode for her favourite donkey rescue charity. (There goes all of poor Prince George’s pocket money again …)

Harry has only one choice left here.

After his own father King Charles failed to put him up for a single night when he made a dash back after His Majesty’s own cancer revelation in February, the only power he has left now is to pick which five-star London hotel to check into come May. That and how many minibar Toblerones he might need to cheer himself up.

Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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