Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s emotionally wrenching ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, which was filmed during their royal tour in Africa, did little to quell rumors of tension within the royal family. In fact, when Harry acknowledged that he and Prince William are “certainly on different paths at the moment”—it became clear that the unity of the “Fab Four” (Harry, Meghan, William and Kate Middleton) was always more fairy tale than reality.
Those close to the couple say both Meghan, 38, and Harry, 35, struggle with ongoing feelings of isolation from the rest of the family, with Harry’s friend Tom Bradby—who interviewed the couple for the documentary—describing them as “bruised and vulnerable.”
Following their candid revelations in the October special, in which Meghan bared her pain at being a new mom in the spotlight and Harry admitted his desperation to protect his family from constant tabloid scrutiny, a source says “eyes are open” about their emotional distress, but the relationship between the couple and the rest of the royal family has not grown any closer as a result.
“There hasn’t been this complete 180,” a source tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “Nothing has changed. They don’t speak, no one is checking in, no one is texting.”
Meghan also revealed in the documentary that not many people have asked if she’s “okay.”
“Any woman, especially when they’re pregnant, you’re really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging. So you add [media attention] on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed … Not many people have asked if I’m okay, but it’s a very real thing to be going through,” she said. When Bradby asked if it “would be fair” to say that she’s “not really okay, as in it’s really been a struggle,” Meghan paused before replying, “Yes.”
Tension between the brothers has also added to Harry’s feelings of isolation, say insiders. For Meghan, who is raising her son in a new country far from her L.A. home, the distance from both of their families is a strain.
Notably, Harry’s statement in early October attacking the British tabloid press for the “ruthless” treatment of his wife received no public support from the senior royal family members.
“It is a strange family and not one that has supported one another very well,” royal biographer Penny Junor previously told PEOPLE. “They don’t praise one another and never call each other up just to say, ‘That was a great speech.’”
Multiple sources told PEOPLE that strain between the brothers deepened back when Harry first told his family he wanted to marry Meghan after less than a year of dating.
The insider said William — who dated Kate, his college sweetheart, for about eight years before tying the knot — cautioned Harry that things were moving too quickly, leaving Harry angry and hurt.
A royal source emphasizes that any change in the brothers’ relationship is a result of the new chapters in their lives. “As is often the case in any family, when one of your siblings gets married, there’s always a period of readjustment,” says the source. “People have new priorities and different focuses.”
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As they head into the holiday season, Harry and Meghan are taking a rare six-week break to regroup amid the family stress. They have also decided to skip Christmas with the royal family this year to spend it as a new family, along with Meghan’s mom Doria Ragland.
“Just on a human level, if you take everything else out of the equation, I don’t think they’re in very good shape to deal with anything right now,” says the friend. “Everyone is hoping that they will come back from this break stronger than ever, and maybe with some time out of the spotlight, they can figure out what path to take next.”