Why are people so obsessed with Prince Harry’s paternity?

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are preparing to drop their bombshell Netflix documentary series, Harry & Meghan.

The full trailer for the forthcoming series was released on Monday (5 December), with the first volume of episodes due to air on Thursday (8 December).

In the trailer, Prince Harry criticised the “pain and suffering of women marrying into this institution”, including his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, his sister-in-law Kate Middleton, and his wife, Meghan Markle.

He described a “feeding frenzy” of stories, both “leaked” and “planted”, about these women to the media.

Referring to why he and Meghan stepped down as senior members of the royal family and relocated to California, Harry alluded to his mother’s tragic death as he said: “I didn’t want history to repeat itself.”

Diana died on 31 August 1997 in a car crash that killed two other people, her partner Dodi Fayed and chauffeur, Henri Paul. Harry was just 12 years old when she passed away.

In anticipation for the docuseries, which is expected to widen the rift between the Sussexes and the rest of the royal family, many people have expressed interest in dissecting conspiracy theories behind Harry’s paternity.

Harry is the second and youngest child of Diana and King Charles III, who was the Prince of Wales at the time of their marriage.

Charles and Diana had an unhappy and tumultuous marriage. She gave birth to Prince William in 1982 and Harry in 1984.

But some conspiracy theorists have speculated for years that Harry is not Charles’ biological son due to some aspects of his appearance, including his ginger hair.

The duke has long been compared to James Hewitt, a former cavalry officer in the British Army who famously had an affair with Diana in the mid-Nineties.

Hewitt became Diana’s riding instructor after meeting at a party, and later became romantically involved. Hewitt wrote in his book Princess In Love that the affair lasted for five years while Diana was still married to Charles – who had been conducting his own years-long affair with Camilla, who is now Queen Consort.

James Hewitt (left) and Diana, Princess of Wales (Getty)
James Hewitt (left) and Diana, Princess of Wales (Getty)

Those who believe that Hewitt is Harry’s real father usually point out that both men have red hair and some similar facial features. Meanwhile, William has dirty blonde hair that can be pinpointed somewhere between Charles’s brown hair and Diana’s blonde hair.

However, Hewitt has categorically denied he may be the father of the sixth royal in line to the throne. After all, he did not meet the princess until two years after Harry was born.

In 2002, he spoke out against the persistent rumours and said: “There really is no possibility whatsoever that I am Harry’s father. I can absolutely assure you that I am not.”

He told the Sunday Mirror at the time that Harry was “already walking” by the time his relationship with Diana began.

“Admittedly the red hair is similar to mine and people say we look alike,” Hewitt conceded, but continued: “I have never encouraged these comparisons and although I was with Diana for a long time, I must state once and for all that I’m not Harry’s father.”

Prince Charles poses with Prince William and Prince Harry during their holidays in Klosters, Switzerland, 31 March 2005 (AFP via Getty Images)
Prince Charles poses with Prince William and Prince Harry during their holidays in Klosters, Switzerland, 31 March 2005 (AFP via Getty Images)

It has also been pointed out that, in the Spencer family on Diana’s side, the red hair gene is common. Her brother, Earl Spencer, and sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, are both redheads.

Besides, Harry is not the only redhead in his family. His cousin, Princess Beatrice, also has red hair. Her parents are Charles’ brother, the Duke of York, and Sarah Ferguson. Other members of the royal family have also historically had red hair, including King George V, who was Queen Elizabeth II’s grandfather.

As having red hair is a recessive gene that requires both parents to pass the gene to their child, it is clear that both Charles and Diana both had the necessary genes to produced a red-headed child.

So why do the rumours persist even today? In light of Harry and Meghan’s forthcoming documentary, the speculation may be once again rearing its head to discredit the duke as a royal and divert attention away from the revelations that could emerge from the series.

Whatever the reason, Harry & Meghan is expected to cause huge waves among the royal family. On the day the last episode will be released, the King and Queen, as well as William and Kate, are expected to put on a united front by attending the princess’s carol concert at Westminster Abbey.