Princess Anne's Relationship With Nephews William And Harry Explained

Even those completely disinterested in the British royal family have doubtlessly heard of its key players: the late Queen Elizabeth II, her husband the late Prince Philip, their son the new King Charles III, his long-deceased former wife Princess Diana, their sons Princes William and Harry, and so on. Beyond such general, common knowledge things get murky and complex, especially if we start digging back in time. Thankfully, Business Insider has a helpful set of family charts for the House of Windsor — the current inheritors of the British throne — to help keep things straight. Right there near King Charles III, we find his sister Princess Anne, the one and only daughter born to Queen Elizabeth II. This makes Anne aunt to Princes William and Harry.

Part of the reason that the reader might not have heard very much about Princess Anne is that she generally keeps to herself. As Vanity Fair says, she supports over 300 charities and military organizations, is extremely down-to-earth, no-nonsense, utterly practical, doesn't engage in self-promotion, and is known for having inherited the "sharp tongue and waspish wit" of her father, Prince Philip. An associate of the royal family describes Anne as, "A gem. Truly one of the nicest and most hardworking of them all." In other words, Anne is the family glue. She bridges the gap between royals and keeps a level head when others don't, including when it comes to keeping the peace between siblings like William and Harry.

A steady, stable family figure

While we don't have a tremendous amount of information regarding the ins and outs of Princess Anne's relationship with Princes William and Harry, we know enough to have a general portrait. After all, the royal family is, at its core, a family like any other. There are factions, allies, entanglements, and more. This article, however, will stick to facts and not devolve into gossip and rumormongering.

By all accounts, Princess Anne was been a steady figure in the lives of her nephews William and Harry. Express tells us that she felt particularly protective of her younger nephew, Harry, after he and William's mother Princess Diana died. At the time, Anne supported her own mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in the queen's decision to live in the same household as William and Harry and act like a surrogate mother. "They [William and Harry] had that structure, they had people around them who could understand, give them the time, little time that they had, which was never going to be very much, to try and come — even in a fleeting sense — to terms with what had happened." 

Such words are characteristic of Anne's clear-mindedness, and indicate that she herself represented a steady, stable figure in her nephews' lives. Good to Know has a picture that gives us a glimpse into the bond between Anne and Harry, specifically. The two can be seen red-faced and crying with laughter in 2016 during Elizabeth's 90th birthday party. 

Advice for the next generation

There's no information about Princess Anne's involvement with Princes William and Harry until the princes' recent falling out in 2018. As Cosmopolitan outlines, the brothers' relationship came under strain when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married in 2018, a topic much-publicized in media circles. Harry and Meghan renounced their royal His/Her Royal Highness (HRH) titles, per British Heritage, spoke with Oprah Winfrey in 2021 about alleged racism amongst the royals against Markle (per Oprah Daily), starred in the 2022 Netflix show "Harry and Meghan" where they extrapolated on the ups and downs of royaL life, and then Harry told his full life story in his 2023 book, "Spare." As The Guardian recounts, "Spare" even describes a 2019 physical altercation between Harry and William, where Harry says William "parrot[ed] the press narrative" and slandered Markle.

While the precise, current state of William and Harry's relationship remains their business, sites like Good to Know suggest that their aunt, Princess Anne, could play a key role in bringing them back together and keeping their family whole. Vanity Fair describes Anne's very direct and no-frills advice to younger royals regarding their role in England's longstanding constitutional monarchy. "Nowadays, they're much more looking for, 'Oh let's do it a new way' ... "Please do not reinvent that particular wheel. We've been there, done that. Some of these things don't work. You may need to go back to basics."

Bringing brothers back together

As Express explains, the current status of Princess Anne's relationship with Princes William and Harry is unknown. There may or may be not further complications among the royals because of fallout from Harry's book, "Spare," but that too remains unknown. 

On Express, "royal commentator" Neil Sean hints at a potential fracture in the solidity of Anne and Harry's longstanding relationship. He suggests that Anne felt similarly to William about Meghan Markle, and implied that Markle didn't have a realistic impression of her role within the royal family. Being a royal, Anne is summarized as saying, "was a job, you turn up on time, you do your research, and do the duty." In the end, "Meghan Markle failed to warm to Princess Anne." For Anne's part, a direct statement — the kind of statement that she prefers — Good to Know describes her as not giving credence to any talk of implied slights that she's made against anyone. If needs be, she said, she'll simply "get in touch" with her nephew Harry to clear the air.

At present, Cosmopolitan cites William and Harry's relationship as a "toxic stalemate," with neither brother being willing to apologize or concede their perspective or position. It's uncertain whether or not Anne is willing to wade into William and Harry's divide to try and stitch things back together, or if she even believes that's her right or responsibility. But if anyone is in a position to do so, it's her.