The British royal family maintains an annual tradition of visits to their country estate of Balmoral where they engage in outings where they hunt and shoot birds and other animals, a “blood sport” tradition that was handed down to Prince Charles by his favorite uncle, Lord Mountbatten, and that Charles passed along to his own son, Prince William, as The Daily Mail recounted this week.
“I have been having great fun shooting lately,” an excited Charles wrote as an 11-year-old boy, in 1959. “Yesterday I got 23 pheasants and today I got 10 and a partridge, a moorhen and a hare.”
Charles’ younger son, Prince Harry, has taken part in the hunting expeditions for 21 years, since the age of 12. But according to Britain’s Daily Mirror newspaper, Harry took a pass on the bird-shoot this year — even though Harry and new wife Meghan Markle were present at Balmoral when other members of the Windsor clan went out on the bird-killing trips over the past weekend.
Now royal watchers are speculating that Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, may be the reason that Harry sat out the bird hunt. Harry also boycotted the family’s Boxing Day shoot last December 26 at their Sandringham estate — but he did take part in a hunt of boar in 2017, at a time when he was apart from his then-fiancé who was filming a TV show in Canada, according to The Sun newspaper.
“Meghan is a keen animal rights campaigner and doesn’t like hunting in any form,” a “royal insider” told The Sun. “Harry loves it and has always been out there on Boxing Day. But if it means breaking with long-standing royal traditions to avoid upsetting her, so be it. It’s fair to say that there are some pretty stunned faces around here.”
Markle herself refuses to wear fur, according to the Independent, and has boasted of wearing “vegan” clothing while filming her television series Suits.
The royal hunting outings have become increasingly controversial. Prince William took his own 5-year-old son, Prince George, on the boy’s first bird-hunting expedition last weekend; many royal watchers — and animal lovers — reacted with outrage.
“I just read a news article that said Prince George was taken to his first grouse shoot while staying a Balmoral. If that’s the case, it make [sic] me feel sad & angry that he’s going to grow up without any empathy for animals,” wrote one on Twitter.
“Prince William, in October of last year, made a speech warning us that ‘global wildlife populations have halved in his lifetime,'” noted another, also on Twitter. “Today, we learn he took his son, Prince George, on his first grouse shoot.”