The Duke of Cambridge hopes that his brother’s final departure from royal duties will help to mend the rift between them, The Times understands.

Relations between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the rest of the family remain fragile after Buckingham Palace released a statement on Friday confirming that the couple were permanently stepping down from official duties and would be stripped of their royal patronages.

A swift response from Harry and Meghan, insisting that they would still be living “a life of service”, was described by once source close to the Queen as “petulant”.

However, sources close to Prince William, 38, believe that if issues over official duties are no longer a source of contention, it will help the brothers to repair their fractured relationship.

According to The Sunday Times, William is “really sad and genuinely shocked” by his brother’s behaviour towards the Queen. Sources close to William said he believed Harry, 36, and Meghan, 39, had been “insulting and disrespectful”, and he was “very upset by what has happened”. The couple have recorded an interview with Oprah Winfrey to be broadcast on March 7.

However, another source told The Times that William’s reaction was less one of shock than resignation. “I don’t think anyone was surprised,” the source said, adding: “Removing work as the thing to cause tension between them will hopefully allow a relationship of brothers to rebuild. But there’s a long way to go. This interview coming up will hopefully not make it harder.”

The brothers’ relationship had recently started to improve. “Over the last few months there have been more and more discussions, normal check-ins, that sort of stuff,” the source said. “Both of them seem to have been making an effort for some time.”

The interview with Winfrey, which is reported to have been recorded last week, is causing nervousness within royal circles. Some observers believe that the duchess may refrain from direct criticism of the royal family, particularly the Queen, reserving her harshest words for the so-called men in grey suits, but aides will not be able to rest easy until it has been broadcast.

A source told The Times: “Everyone wishes they could focus on their future and be happy. The worry is that the Oprah interview is a sign that they are struggling to move on.”

Piers Bracher, a brand expert at the public relations company Four Communications, said that while the Sussexes seemed to be losing the battle for public sympathy in Britain, their most valuable target was controlling the way their story was told in America. He said that they would use Winfrey’s reach to define themselves in the US, where their commercial interests lie and where they can most effectively persuade philanthropists to fund good causes.

Martyn Compton, a friend of Harry’s from the Household Cavalry, told The Sun on Sunday that he hoped Harry would not live to regret the loss of his military titles.

“For someone who has done so much for veterans and soldiers, I hope it’s not a decision he comes to bitterly regret,” he said. “I know how much being in the military means to Prince Harry as he did his time, he earned his right to be an officer, and he earned the respect of others through doing all that he did — not just because of who he was.”

The Duke of Edinburgh remained in hospital over the weekend. Philip, 99, was admitted to King Edward VII’s Hospital in London on Tuesday as a precautionary measure after feeling unwell. He spent a sixth night there last night. The Prince of Wales saw his father on Saturday, making a 180-mile round-trip from Highgrove, his home in Gloucestershire. Charles, 72, was one of the few visitors allowed under hospital rules that “visitors will only be considered in exceptional circumstances” during the pandemic.