Prince William and Prince Harry called a London newspaper report about alleged bullying behavior by William "offensive" on Monday ahead of a meeting of the British royal family to discuss the future roles of Harry and the former Meghan Markle.
A story in The Times of London cites an unnamed source saying Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, have been pushed away from the royal family by "a bullying attitude" by William. It also cited a source saying Harry and Meghan want to step away from their royal duties after "constantly being told their place."
The brothers denounced the story in a joint statement issued Monday to NBC News.
"Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a UK newspaper today speculating about the relationship between The Duke of Sussex and The Duke of Cambridge," the statement said. "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."
A separate story in The Sunday Times cited an unnamed friend of Prince William saying the Duke of Cambridge feels sorrow that the royal family is no longer a "team" because he and his brother are now "separate entities."
"I’ve put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can’t do that any more; we’re separate entities,” Prince William told the friend. "I’m sad about that. All we can do, and all I can do, is try and support them and hope that the time comes when we’re all singing from the same page. I want everyone to play on the team."
Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and William are to meet with Harry at the queen’s Sandringham Estate on Monday in the wake of last week's bombshell in which the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they are taking a "step back" from being senior members of the royal family. The former Meghan Markle, who is now in Canada, may join in on the phone.
Roya Nikkhah, the royal correspondent for The Sunday Times who wrote the story about the brothers' relationship, spoke to NBC News about where they stand right now.
"Well there's obviously been a very sad breakdown between William and Harry," she said. "They were once the closest of brothers and now unfortunately they've taken very different paths in life. They're not as close as they were.
"I think there's been a lot of tension in both camps for a while, and at the moment things are quite broken, but from what I'm told William is very keen to see if he can try and support Harry and Meghan in their new lifestyle, in the new path that they take, and everyone is hopeful that at some point down the line they'll reconcile."
Prince Harry addressed the tension between the brothers in an October documentary by London's ITV.
"Part of this role and part of this job and this family being under the pressure that it's under, stuff happens, but we're brothers,'' he said. "We'll always be brothers. We're certainly on different paths at the moment, but I'll always be there for him and as I know he'll always be there for me."
In their statement last week, Harry and Meghan also noted they are seeking "financial independence" and indicate they may split their time living in Britain and North America, presumably Canada.
The meeting on Monday will also reportedly focus on whether they will still receive financial support from the royal family, what kind of commercial deals they will be able to make after becoming financially independent, the extent of the royal duties they will still perform on behalf of the queen, and whether they will keep their royal titles.
"We're told by the palace that the queen wants to resolve this in days, not weeks,'' Nikkhah said. "So we are expecting some kind of more formal announcement about changes and agreements that have been made within the next few days this week."