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Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge watch a flypast to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force from the balcony of Buckingham Palace on July 10, 2018 in London, England. Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
> Royal Pages
Brothers and Wives: Inside the Private Lives of William, Kate, Harry, and Meghan
In his biography of Princes Harry and William, U.S.-based royal reporter Christopher Andersen reveals Prince Charles’ multiple affairs and who asked about Archie’s skin tone / BY Rosemary Counter / December 9th, 2021
Christopher Andersen has been reporting on the Royal Family for 50 years, since Prince Charles was a handsome, eligible bachelor – even earlier, actually, if you count a chance encounter with Princess Margaret. As the 72-year-old bestselling biographer’s 35th book, Brothers and Wives: Inside the Private Lives of William, Kate, Harry, and Meghan, hits stores, Zoomer asks the Connecticut-based journalist where he gets his juiciest palace gossip, why he’s on nobody’s team except Diana’s, and how he spotted Megxit coming a mile away.
Rosemary Counter: I know how I got obsessed with the Royals: I was four and Diana was a real-life princess. How does an American boy get into this?
Christopher Andersen: Well that makes me feel ancient! When I was a teenager, Princess Margaret made a trip to San Francisco and stayed at the Huntington Hotel. I was a brazen young reporter at the local paper who got lucky and got her on the phone for just a few minutes. She was nice enough, but not happy about it. In the late 60s and early 70s, I was reporting with People and Time, and I was at the Silver Jubilee in 1977, when the Queen was 51 and Charles was 29. We all had the buzz over who’d he marry, but Diana was still years away.
RC: Was it an exciting beat to be on then or would you have rather been in Hollywood?
CA: I was doing that too, so I didn’t feel deprived, but I admit before Diana, everyone thought the Royals were kinda drab. Diana blew it all up. Before her, it was all history and grandeur and ceremony. It wasn’t rife with scandal and sex and all that good stuff. Now we’ve got William and Harry and Megxit. It’s a lot more exciting than it used to be.
RC: Did you see any hints of Megxit before it happened?
CA: The rift between William and Harry had its seeds planted decades ago. Harry at four told the nanny, “William has to behave so he can be king, but I can do whatever I want.” The heir and the spare dynamic is doomed to failure because the spare eventually wises up that they’ll always be in the shadow. The Queen Mother used to have Harry sit in the corner and only talk to William. He took so much heat for the scandals over the years – the Nazi outfit, the trip to Vegas – while William got off scot-free.
RC: The discrepancy in the way the press treats the brothers is a big takeaway from your book. What do you do differently to get it right?
CA: First of all, in a terribly American expression, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m objective; I’m on no one’s team – except Team Diana. I’ll admit that. She got a raw deal and what Charles did was horrendous.
RC: I can’t forgive him, or Camilla. This is why I couldn’t do your job.
CA: I’ve interviewed women he had affairs with while he was having an affair with Camilla. But William and Harry are different. They seem genuinely supportive of their wives and really love them. This is actually new, too, and Diana would have loved it. But if she were alive to see this rift, to see that Harry has turned his back on his birthright, she’d be heartbroken.
RC: Do you think reconciliation for the princes is in the cards any time soon?
CA: They’ve already had a few opportunities: Phillip’s funeral, the unveiling of the new Diana statue. Both times, they smiled for the cameras, but otherwise turned their backs to each other. Their next opportunity will be next year’s Platinum Jubilee, but in the meantime, my sources say William isn’t returning Harry’s phone calls and Charles hasn’t spoken to him in over a year.
RC: Can you talk to me about sources? I love reading chapter notes to see who talked, but I suspect there are many, many, many more.
CA: I have built up so many contacts over 50 years. I can’t betray anyone or let cats out of the bag or nobody will tell me anything anymore. For example, unearthing Charles as the source of the infamous quote [about baby Archie’s complexion] came from casting a wide net to my sources and figuring out what was said and how it traveled to Harry. But I will say that – oh wait, never mind. I won’t.
RC: So what I’m hearing is that you have the Queen on standby. If you could land your dream on-the-record Royal interview, who would you pick?
CA: It would be Diana, of course, but you mean right now? I’d have to think about who would be honest with me. Here’s the thing: Often people are the last person to know the truth about their own lives. It’s much better to tell their story from eyewitnesses. But if I really got to pick someone to sit down with, it would be the Queen. Obviously.