Prince William + Harry: This decision will ultimately divide them

Prince William and Prince Harry haven’t had anything to say to each other for a long time. An ocean separates them, but also a mountain full of bitter emotions. Ultimately, however, the estranged brothers were held together by a shared passion project. But this – like their sisterly affection – is now just history.

It was a personal tragedy for both brothers: When their close friend Henry von Straubenzee, †18, died in an accident in 2002, a world collapsed for Prince William, 41, and Prince Harry, 39. The tragic accidental death of her mother Princess Diana, †36, was only five years ago at the time. The unexpected end of a young life opened up old wounds and hurt deeply in the souls of the royal siblings. More than two decades have now passed since the accident. But even after the hardest battles between the king’s sons, it was their beloved friend who united them in at least one thing to this day.

Prince William and Prince Harry have to say goodbye to a matter of the heart

The last delicate bond between William and Harry is severed. The siblings have been patrons of the since 2009 Henry van Straubenzee Memorial Fund. The fund in memory of her friend, who died far too early, invested millions of dollars in schools in Uganda. According to the organization’s official website, more than 35,000 children in the country are said to have been helped every year. Over 50 schools were supported with the money collected. The foundation was laid by a one-off donation of 3,000 pounds (around 3,500 euros).

But now it’s over. Henry’s memorial fund is in the process of being liquidated. According to the Sunday Times, his family decided to end their work after their last trip together to Uganda in February 2024. “It feels right to stop while you still can,” said Henry’s mother Claire, explaining what was probably not a very easy step. Over the past decades, we have put all our strength into this common cause of the heart.

Painful memories

And William and Harry were also there with full commitment. The loss of her friend still affects her today. In his memoirs entitled “Spare” (German title: “Reserve”), published in January 2023, the younger remembers the tragedy that took Henry, whom they affectionately called “Henners”, away from them forever on a Sunday morning before Christmas: “The message must have reached me over the phone,” he writes. “Henners and another boy had crashed into a tree near Ludgrove after a party. Although the memory of the call is hazy, I still remember exactly how I reacted. Exactly how I had reacted when Pa told me told me about Mummy.”

Harry was in shock, believing his friend was in the hospital and asking if he was “okay” again. But it was already too late. While the driver’s life was in danger at this point, Henry was already dead.

“Willy and I went to the funeral. A small parish church on the street where Henners grew up,” Harry recalls the images of the funeral service in his mind’s eye in his memoirs. He can still hear the whispers of the mourners today. “It was foggy, you know (…) They were at a party and the music system was broken! So they went to get a new one (…) They wanted to borrow a CD player from a friend. Very close, you know… They didn’t even fasten their seatbelts…” For Royal, who was also 18 at the time, it was a horror scenario that immediately reminded him of his worst loss to date. “Just like Mummy.”

Henry was an indispensable companion for Harry during their school days together: “When I wasn’t roaming the hallways, I was roaming around the school grounds, usually with my best friend Henners. Like me, Henners was actually called Henry, but I always called him Henner and he called me Haz.” Henner is still omnipresent in his mind today – especially in one situation. The friend duo enjoyed raiding a pick-your-own farm together. “As soon as I bite into a strawberry, I’m back there, in those furrows, with Henners.”

The Royal brothers unite in memory of Henry

At an event shortly after the Henry van Straubenzee Memorial Fund was founded, the sons of King Charles, 75, also took to the microphone. “As some of you know, Henry was one of my best friends and his death was really shocking to a lot of people,” Harry explained at the time. “Henry would be so proud of his family and what they are doing in his name in Uganda. The way they preserve his memory is remarkable.” And William also found moving words: “This is the first charity that we have both sponsored and it couldn’t have been a better choice as Henry was such a close friend of ours and we believe so much in the need to end poverty to alleviate and support development in African countries.”

And although the relationship between William and Harry had already suffered a deep break at that point, they went public with a joint statement in 2022 on the 20th anniversary of their friend’s death. In it they spoke of his family, “whom we all love and adore.” They called the Straubennzees’ efforts “nothing short of extraordinary” and said: “Henry’s legacy will live on through the incredible achievements achieved by his mother and father over the years.”

The joint effort on behalf of their valued friend now comes to an end. Can he still have a healing influence on the relationship between the quarreling brothers? It would certainly be a final act of love for his earthly comrades that he would be happy to do to them with all his heart.

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