Prince William and Prince Harry Jointly Deny U.K. Newspaper Bullying Rumor Amid Escalating Royal Drama

Princes William and Harry have issued a strongly worded, albeit rare, joint denial of rumors of bullying within the royal family as Harry and wife Meghan prepare to step back from their roles as "senior" members of the monarchy.

The statement issued Monday on behalf of the princes comes after a U.K. newspaper claimed Monday that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle feel they have been bullied by Prince William.

The joint statement said: "Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a U.K. newspaper today speculating about the relationship between The Duke of Sussex and The Duke of Cambridge.

"For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful."

On Monday, the U.K.'s Times newspaper, citing anonymous sources, reported that tensions have escalated between brothers William, 37, and Harry, 35, over the past couple of years due to Meghan. The report claimed Harry felt his elder brother was "insufficiently welcoming towards Meghan" when they began dating.

Monday's statement on behalf of the princes is the first public comment from Buckingham Palace since the royal family announced they were in discussions with Harry and Meghan about their desire to step back as "senior" royals last week.

In a statement on January 8, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they plan to split their time between the U.K. and North America and become financially independent of the monarchy. They will still honor their numerous patronages and support Queen Elizabeth II through various royal engagements, they said.

The statement said: "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.

"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."

In response, Buckingham Palace said: "Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through."

According to U.K. media reports, the queen, Prince Charles, William and Harry will meet on Monday at the queen's Sandringham estate in Norfolk, east England, to discuss Harry and Meghan's future within the royal family.

Prince William and Prince Harry
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attend the annual Remembrance Sunday service at The Cenotaph on November 10, 2019 in London, England. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty