LONDON — Britain's Princes Harry and William on Monday blasted a newspaper article that claimed William's "bullying" of Harry and his wife, Meghan, was partly responsible for royal rift.

The rare and remarkable joint statement came as the two brothers and their father, Prince Charles, were gathering at Queen Elizabeth II’s request at her estate in Sandringham to hash out new roles for Harry and Meghan — who announced their intention to “step back” from the work of senior royals, become “financially independent” and live a bicontinental life between Britain and North America.

Harry, formally the Duke of Sussex, and William, the Duke of Cambridge, said: “Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a U.K. newspaper today speculating about the relationship between the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Cambridge. 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.”

Queen Elizabeth II announced Jan. 13 that Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, will be in a period of transition between the United Kingdom and Canada. (The Washington Post)

Although the brothers didn’t specify which story they were referring to, the Times of London had published a front-page article Monday headlined “Princes ‘fell out because William wasn’t friendly towards Meghan.’ ”

The article quoted an unnamed person, said to be close to royals, claiming that Harry and Meghan saw themselves as having been pushed away by William’s “bullying” and two years of “constantly being told their place.”

The Times reported, “The rift is said to date to before Harry and Meghan’s wedding. According to repeated reports, Harry felt that William was insufficiently welcoming towards Meghan when they first started dating. Their relationship has apparently not recovered.”

Harry and William have both spoken out on mental health issues, including their own inner lives in the aftermath of their mother Princess Diana’s death.

The two royals launched a “Heads Together” mental health campaign, led by William’s wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, in 2016.

The brothers have also spoken out against Internet bullying, and Harry is collaborating with Oprah Winfrey on an upcoming Apple TV+ documentary series on mental health.

Prince Harry described the series as being about the “human spirit fighting back from the darkest places,” according to the Daily Mail.

Two years ago, Harry told the Telegraph newspaper that he would often feel angry at royal engagements, “on the verge of punching someone,” as a “fight or flight” sensation overwhelmed him.

Harry has said he blames aggressive paparazzi photographers for his mother Princess Diana’s death in a car crash in a Paris tunnel in 1997. He has said he does not want to subject his wife and child to such intrusions.

“I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years,” Harry said in 2017. “It has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well.”

After announcing plans to “step back” from royal duties Jan. 8, Britons gave their takes on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s future plans. (Karla Adam/The Washington Post)

Tom Bradby, an ITV broadcaster who is close to Harry and Meghan, warned in a separate article in the Sunday Times of a possible “protracted war” between the royal houses, which could undercut the monarchy.

In an October ITV documentary, when Bradby asked about a rift, Harry said he and his brother were “on different paths” and saw each other less frequently than they used to because they were both so busy.

In the documentary, Harry said he loved his brother “dearly,” but added, “as brothers, you have good days, you have bad days.”

Initially, Harry and Meghan and William and Catherine were dubbed the “Fab Four” by the British press. In February 2018, they came together in support of the Royal Foundation, a charity set up by Harry and William.

Bradby wrote in the Sunday Times that things began to go south around the time of Harry and Meghan’s May 2018 wedding, when “really damaging things were said and done.”

He suggested that William tried to patch things up, to no avail. “My understanding is that William did try, but the impression I have, for the moment at least, is that things have gone too far to be retrieved,” he wrote.

Last spring, Harry and Meghan moved from an apartment in London’s Kensington Palace, where William and Catherine live with their three children, to Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, about 25 miles west of London. Harry and Meghan also set up their own Instagram account, moving away from the @kensingtonroyal account they shared with William and Catherine.

A few months later, palace officials announced that Harry and Meghan would be leaving the Royal Foundation partnership to focus on their own charitable work.

Taken together, many wondered if there was a growing chasm between the households.

Photos of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, out and about

Jan. 7, 2020 | Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, visit Canada House in London, in thanks for the warm Canadian hospitality and support they received during their recent stay in the North American country. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/Pool/AP)