The final arena of the sibling feud between Prince William and Prince Harry is not an American memoir or TV show, but the National Portrait Gallery in London.

When the museum reopens to the public later this month after a multi-million dollar renovation, it will do so without displaying a portrait of the two princes together. Nick Phillips did the job in the heyday of 2010, when the two were friends and Prince William still had a full head of hair. It projects a charming scene: two brothers lying in front of a door, white gloves in hand.

This omission inevitably caused an uproar in the UK following Oprah’s interview of Harry and his wife Meghan Markle and tell it all (sort of) Netflix docu-seriesthe deepening of the royal divide has led some British media to speculate that something sinister is at play with the removal of the royal painting.

It is believed that William’s wife, Kate Middleton, one of the royal patrons of the National Portrait Gallery, used his position of power to lobby for a preservation decision. There is no evidence on this. (That would be a royal masterclass in passive-aggressive interior design, though.)

Britain’s Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge passes a painting of her husband Prince William and brother-in-law Prince Harry. Photo by Toby Melville/AFP via Getty Images

Nevertheless, the TimeRoyal correspondent Valentine Low believes the artwork has poignant resonance for Kate Middleton. “The painting could be seen as a painful reminder of the split at the heart of the royal family,” Low wrote in a column. “One that has special resonance for the gallery’s patron, the Princess of Wales.”

For its part, the National Portrait Gallery said Philipps’ painting had not been on display since August 2018 (it closed for renovations in 2020) and is regularly mounted and dismantled like the other 250,000 works in his collection. No. Nothing to see here.

“We can only display a small percentage in our building,” the gallery said in a statement sent to Artnet News. “We regularly loan and tour our works, both nationally and internationally. This portrait of Nicky Philipps was included in a traveling exhibit – Tudors to Windsors – which traveled between 2018 and 2021.”

It’s a compelling and plausible explanation, but it probably won’t do much to quell speculation.

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