ROBERT JOBSON: It was a well meaning gesture. But I’m told Harry ‘took it upon himself’ to fly over… and Charles was left kicking his heels until he arrived

It’s easy to forget that the bond between King Charles and Harry, his ‘darling boy’, was once a source of love, was not only a source of love but also of joy – a relationship even warmer than that between Charles and William, perhaps.

The distance between them has now grown so much that their conversations, where there are any conversations, have become mere echoes of the past.

We saw this poignantly in the last few days when Harry, upon learning of his father’s shock cancer diagnosis, jumped on a plane and flew 5,500 miles to see him.

It was widely reported that Charles was ‘touched’ by the gesture. Maybe he was.

Yet I am told that the reality is more complex and more worrying – that Harry has caused some turmoil by ‘taking it upon himself’ to fly over uninvited and at such short notice.

Prince Harry arrives at Clarence House yesterday to visit his father, King Charles, after hearing of his shock cancer diagnosis

Prince Harry arrives at Clarence House yesterday to visit his father, King Charles, after hearing of his shock cancer diagnosis

King Charles and Queen Camilla leave Clarence House yesterday, the day after his cancer diagnosis was announced

King Charles and Queen Camilla leave Clarence House yesterday, the day after his cancer diagnosis was announced

To put it bluntly, the King was unhappy about what amounted to a fait accompli served by an emotional but well-meaning boy.

Charles just needs some peace and quiet at the moment and had planned to fly to the tranquility of Norfolk with his wife, the Queen, much earlier on Tuesday.

But thanks to Harry’s intervention, their majesties were left kicking their heels at Clarence House, their main home in London, while they waited for the errant younger son to appear.

It is notable that Harry was not invited to stay at Clarence House or, indeed, at any other royal residence. So at the last minute the decision to fly was that he had to book a hotel room for the night.

And if the Prince was expecting to spend some ‘quality time’ at Sandringham House perhaps talking about the good old days, or rebuilding the paternal bond, he would have been disappointed.

To put it bluntly, the King was unhappy about what amounted to a fait accompli served by an emotional but well-meaning boy.

What was actually said between them only Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Sussex know, but half an hour (it is said to have been a 30 minute meeting, not even 45) was hardly enough time to cover the many bridges rebuilt reduced to cinders.

Not after all that disdain from the royal family, all the misrepresentation pouring out of Montecito for a fistful of dollars.

After barely time for a kiss goodbye and maybe a hug, the king and the queen were on their way to Buckingham Palace to board the monarch’s Sikorsky S-76C helicopter.

I can’t blame Harry for flying over. Whatever soothing noises may come from the courtiers of the palace, his father’s diagnosis is a serious matter.

However, the prince must also spend time reflecting on the strain he has caused the king, not least when dealing with the loss of his own father, Prince Philip, and then, of course, his late mother, the Queen.

Who could be surprised if Harry was welcomed with something short of open arms?

This impromptu visit, although well-intentioned, served as a sad reminder of the ongoing rift within the family, a burden Charles cannot afford in his current state when all his energies must be focused on the challenge of his health .

There is also an issue of trust or, rather, the lack of it.

The Prince finds himself in a position where even the royals closest to him will be on their guard. Inevitably so.

It’s as if everything ever said between father and son, especially in the painful later years, has been made public – first in Harry and Meghan’s painful-to-watch Netflix show, and then his excruciating memoir, Spare.

Today, as Prince Harry flies back to California, those lavish celebrations of his 2018 wedding to Meghan Markle seem a million miles away.

One of the most touching moments came when Charles stood in for Meghan’s father, Thomas, who was in hospital after suffering a suspected heart attack.

The Duke of Sussex is waiting at Heathrow Airport today for his flight back to the US after seeing the King

The Duke of Sussex is waiting at Heathrow Airport today for his flight back to the US after seeing the King

Millions of viewers still remember how Charles – immaculate in a buttonhole-adorned gray Anderson & Sheppard morning suit from the garden of his Highgrove estate – smiled at Meghan and gently placed her arm under his as she approached the cathedral in St George’s Chapel .

Charles was delighted to welcome Meghan into his family. A moment that could have been awkward was magical. Almost shaking with tension, Harry turned to his father and whispered, ‘Thanks, Dad’ – a sign of the untouched love between the two.

That evening, the guests headed outside to watch a spectacular fireworks display light up the darkness above Windsor Castle.

“Who pays for it?” asked Charles half-jokingly to one of the guests of the Royal Household, who replied: ‘I believe you are, sir.’

He just laughed.

Four days later, we saw the warmth between father and son play out again – in even more sincere terms.

It was the occasion of ‘The Prince of Wales’ 70th Birthday Patronage Celebration’ at Buckingham Palace, with around 6,000 guests drawn from Charles’ around 400 patrons and military associations.

The photographers inevitably focused on the new Duchess of Sussex, immaculate in a silk crepe pencil dress and a Philip Treacy top hat. This was her first official engagement since her marriage.

However, Harry also played his part, delivering a speech of rare self-deprecation and heartfelt warmth towards his father.

“Dad,” he said, “while I know you asked that today not be about you, you must forgive me if I don’t listen to you. Much like when I was younger.

Instead, I ask everyone here to say a big thank you for your incredible work over nearly 50 years.’

He continued: ‘It’s your selfless drive to bring about change, whether it’s to improve the lives of those who are on the wrong path… or to protect a particular species that is under threat, from which I and William draws inspiration every day.’

This seems to be the height of love between Charles and Harry.

Then came the rulings against the royal family, which took their toll on Charles and the late Queen, who found the experience tiring.

Yet, amidst the chaos, there remain a few glimmers of hope. For example, I am sure that the King still has a soft spot for his younger son, with whom he would once spend hours discussing, among other things, the environment and sustainability.

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Despite his own trials, and perhaps against his better judgment, Charles has extended olive branches abundantly and will continue to do so.

His generosity knew no bounds, even though his efforts seemed to fall on deaf ears. Until now.

Perhaps Harry is beginning to see more clearly: after all, his father is only human, a man who has always been there for his son and who will not be there forever.

And William? The fact that his brother accused him of bullying is bad enough, but I know he views the attacks on his wife by both Meghan and Harry as unforgivable.

Genuine, raw emotions have fanned the flames of discord on both sides, while the recent health struggles of Catherine, Princess of Wales, have only further complicated matters.

Yet, with their father undergoing cancer treatment, the onus is now surely on the brothers to make things right – and perhaps one brother in particular. Because I believe it’s William who may hold the key to a solution.

Although it is no easy feat to swallow one’s pride – and I accept that the Prince of Wales may find it more difficult than most – some generosity on the older brother’s part may be the only way be forward, for the sake of both his family and the nation.

Perhaps, with hope and persistence, the broken bonds can still be mended and harmony restored.

In his ghostwritten memoir, Spare, Harry recalls one moment after Prince Philip’s funeral at Windsor Castle in March 2021.

It was then that Charles stood between his blushing sons and said, “Boys please. Don’t make my last years a misery.’

Surely it is time for the princes to heed these words.

After all that King Charles has done for them both, you might think it’s the least they could do for their father – in this hour of need.

Robert Jobson is the author of the bestseller, ‘Our King: Charles III – The Man and The Monarch Revealed’.