Prince Harry ‘Cut Off’ Close Friends During Meghan Markle’s Pregnancy

A well-connected source tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story that the Queen’s grandson, 35, “cut off” many of his close pals “about six months into” Meghan Markle‘s pregnancy with son Archie, born May 6.

“Most no longer even have his cell number,” says the insider. “They totally understand that men often drift from their friends after marriage, but there’s still a lot of resentment because they had been so close for so long.”

One exception is Charlie van Straubenzee. The pals met at Ludgrove Prep School and have remained close ever since — in fact, they were all smiles attending each other’s weddings just months apart in 2018. Van Staubenzee is also a godfather to Archie.

Meghan, 38, remains close to many of her friends from her pre-royal days. It is believed that Archie stayed in Canada with Meghan’s longtime pal Jessica Mulroney, whose three children served as page boys and a flower girl in the couple’s royal wedding in May 2018, while the Duke and Duchess of Sussex returned to London last week for engagements. In addition, Meghan’s Suits costar Abigail Spencer was spotted with the couple during a New Year’s Day hike. Both women also attended Meghan’s baby shower in Feb. 2019, held in New York City.

A fracture between Prince Harry and Prince William began when the older sibling voiced concern that Harry and Meghan were moving too fast — and the split widened as the newlyweds increasingly felt ostracized from the rest of the family.

Those close to Prince Charles deny reports that the heir sought to slim-down the monarchy by squeezing out his younger son and daughter-in-law.

“Charles has always envisioned working with both of his sons and their families in the future,” says a close source. The leaner monarchy that has been proposed by Charles for cost-cutting purposes “included Harry and whoever he married,” adds a palace insider.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a statement last week announcing their intent to “carve out a progressive new role within this institution” — however, the public announcement came with little formal warning and left senior royals “hurt,” a royal source says.

But in this week’s cover story, a family friend tells PEOPLE that the couple felt they had no choice but to manage things the way they did, even as they went against the family’s “never complain, never explain” mantra.

“This is not how they wanted to handle this, but Meghan and Harry’s hand was forced,” says the friend. “There is so much bad blood in that family — it’s toxic.”

The friend adds, “If relationships had been better, things would have been different.”

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“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.” – The Duke and Duchess of Sussex For more information, please visit sussexroyal.com (link in bio) Image © PA

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