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Prince Harry returns to UK to be at King Charles’ side, in rare moment of unity amid family rift

<i>Shutterstock</i><br/>Prince Harry
Prince Harry

By Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Max Foster, CNN

London (CNN) — Prince Harry has flown back to the United Kingdom to see his father, according to media reports, after the shock announcement on Monday from Buckingham Palace that King Charles III has cancer.

Harry, who arrived in London Tuesday afternoon from California, has been involved in a long-running, public falling out with his family in the years since he and wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, stepped back from royal duties, though the duke did make a brief visit to the UK for Charles’ coronation last year.

The Duke of Sussex was photographed being driven into the gates of Clarence House, the King’s London residence, at around 2.45 p.m. (9.45 a.m. ET). Harry was seen in the photograph seated in the back of a black SUV. Harry took an 11-hour flight from Los Angeles to London overnight landing at about 12.30 p.m., British media reported.

The reunion didn’t appear to last long – around 45 minutes – with King Charles and Queen Camilla departing London for his country estate in Sandringham by helicopter shortly afterwards.

Harry appeared to be heading home to the United States a day later, according to multiple British media outlets. The 39-year-old royal was reportedly seen arriving at Heathrow Airport in London on Wednesday but the departure flight and time was unclear.

The brief father-son meeting has sparked speculation of reconciliation between Harry and his family, after years of estrangement. However, a royal source said there were no plans for Harry to meet his brother Prince William while he’s in London.

It was revealed on Monday evening that Charles, 75, was recently diagnosed while being treated separately for an enlarged prostate. A royal source told CNN that the form of cancer detected was not prostate cancer, but did not specify further.

While Charles’ troubling health update stunned the nation, the British monarch called Harry before the palace issued its announcement. William and the King’s siblings – Princess Anne and Princes Edward and Andrew – similarly were informed personally.

It appeared that Meghan and the couple’s two children — Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet — did not make the last-minute journey with Harry. The Sussexes emigrated to the United States after stepping away from royal duties in 2020.

The King’s younger son visited the UK on several occasions last year — most recently jetting over in September for a brief visit to attend the WellChild Awards, a charity he has been patron of for more than a decade.

The fifth-in-line to the throne did not see his immediate family before flying out to Germany for the start of his Invictus Games in Dusseldorf. He also traveled to London as his legal proceedings against UK publishers continued.

It was also not immediately clear where Harry will stay while in Britain. The Sussexes last year vacated their official residence at Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, which is around an hour’s drive from London. When he visited last year, he reportedly stayed in a hotel in the capital.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Tuesday he was thankful the King’s condition was “caught early” in what appeared to be off-the-cuff remarks during a radio interview with the BBC.

Harry’s ties with his family has been strained since he and Meghan stepped back in 2020 shortly after they relocated to California. The couple sat down with Oprah Winfrey for an incendiary interview that ignited a royal racism controversy. The relationship was further put under pressure by the release of the couple’s six-part Netflix series and Harry’s memoir.

The bad blood between William and Harry was compounded after “Spare” was published. In the autobiography, Harry claimed his elder brother had physically attacked him.

While the royal family are an institution, they are also a family. And many will be hoping that Harry’s return will bring a rapprochement with his the rest of the Windsors. For now, he appears willing to put other things aside.

The last time the pair reunited was when King Charles was crowned at Westminster Abbey in May. It was another brief visit with the duke staying long enough for the ceremony but leaving immediately after.

CNN understood at the time that that Prince Harry did not receive an invitation to join the family on the Buckingham Palace balcony following the historic service. Meghan did not join her husband in London, instead remaining in California to mark Prince Archie’s fourth birthday.

CNN royal historian Kate Williams says it’s “significant” Harry has flown back. “We haven’t seen him since the coronation, he is rushing over a reason. This is a family – it is a business and family. It is a moment of reconciliation,” she explained.

There have been signals of an improvement in relations between father and son, which at one point were so low that Harry once said Charles stopped taking his calls. But there has been little to suggest that the tensions between the brothers have softened.

Prince William is returning to public duties this week after taking time off to support his wife, Catherine, in her own recovery from abdominal surgery, Kensington Palace announced on Monday.

But as the direct heir to the British throne, he’ll likely be needed to help cover official duties and engagements, as Charles handles the daily red boxes and keeps across state business during his treatment.

The cancer diagnosis only 17 months into Charles’ reign has also become a moment of unity for the royal family.

While the number of working royals these days has dropped more than anticipated in recent years, and just two are under the age of 50, they will be keen to support the King during his treatment.

Queen Camilla had been front and center in his absence, carrying out a full program of engagements – which is set to continue. Meanwhile, other working members of the family are continuing their public engagements and CNN understands they could also pick up some additional duties on Charles’ behalf if needed.

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CNN’s Jessie Gretener contributed reporting.

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