Prince Harry and King Charles Have Taken 'Baby Steps' Toward Mending Relationship, Source Says (Exclusive)

The Duke of Sussex's short trip to see his father in the U.K. last month was "a step in the right direction"

<p>Jeff J Mitchell - WPA Pool/Getty</p> King Charles and Prince Harry at Queen Elizabeth

Jeff J Mitchell - WPA Pool/Getty

King Charles and Prince Harry at Queen Elizabeth's lying-in-state procession on Sept. 14, 2022

When King Charles revealed his cancer diagnosis, Prince Harry immediately hopped on a plane from California to the U.K. to see his father — a positive sign after years of strain between the Duke of Sussex and the royal family.

A palace insider tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week's cover story that both the father and son have taken "baby steps" toward mending their fractured relationship.

"I'm sure it was emotionally draining for both of them, but it was a step in the right direction. It was a positive move," the source adds of their brief visit. Having flown overnight from Los Angeles, Prince Harry would have liked to have had more than the 30 minutes or so that was allotted before returning to California the following day, but he was "grateful to be able to speak directly to his father and show his support for him," says a source. 

Prince Harry, 39, spoke about his reunion with King Charles, 75, on Good Morning America's Will Reeve last month during his trip to Canada for the one-year countdown to the next Invictus Games.

When asked how he first learned about his father's cancer diagnosis, Harry replied, "I spoke to him. I jumped on a plane and went to go see him as soon as I could."

"Look, I love my family. The fact that I was able to get on a plane and go and see him and spend any time with him, I’m grateful for that," Harry said in the interview.

People cover March 18, 2024
People cover March 18, 2024

Related: Royal Family in Turmoil as Demands Mount for More Transparency: 'There Is Too Much Uncertainty' (Exclusive)

As for whether King Charles' diagnosis could have a "reunifying effect" on the royal family, Harry referenced connecting with Invictus Games competitors and their families: "Absolutely. Yeah, I'm sure. Throughout all these families, I see it on a day-to-day basis, the strength of the family unit coming together."

But while there are signs of reconciliation between Prince Harry and his father, his trip to the U.K. did not include a visit with his brother, Prince William, although the Duke of Sussex is thought to have reached out to the Prince of Wales, 41. A former courtier suggests that the Prince of Wales' “principal concern is his wife" Kate Middleton during her recovery from abdominal surgery.

"It would be the normal run of things to go and see your sister-in-law who's had a serious operation and also see your niece and nephews. But it isn't normal. It's terribly sad,” a source close to the royal household tells PEOPLE.

YUI MOK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images Prince William and Prince Harry unveil a statue of Princess Diana on July 1, 2021
YUI MOK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images Prince William and Prince Harry unveil a statue of Princess Diana on July 1, 2021

Trust continues to be a concern following the Duke of Sussex’s memoir, Spare, and the revealing Netflix docuseries with his wife, Meghan Markle. During Harry’s visit with his father, Queen Camilla made a deliberate effort to be in the room.

"This is all to do with William’s wish to protect the institution of the monarchy, which he feels Harry can’t be trusted with. I don’t think William will ever agree to readmission of Harry into the family unless he clearly apologizes and moves forward,” royal author Robert Lacey tells PEOPLE.

Prince Harry, who shared on Good Morning America that he has more trips to his home country planned where he hopes to "see my family as much as I can," may have another opportunity to reconnect with his family in May when he’s expected to visit the U.K. for the 10th anniversary of the Invictus Games.

Related: Prince William Was 'Surprised' by Success of Prince Harry's Invictus Games: 'A Degree of Jealousy'

Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage King Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry
Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage King Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry

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However, a reconciliation with his older brother remains unlikely, and it’s even more doubtful that King Charles will mediate healing between his two sons.

“Of course he would like Harry to be the prodigal son and come back and would be much happier if William and Harry were friends again. But he realizes that is just not about to happen,” says royal biographer Ingrid Seward, author of My Mother and I.

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