"Meghan has her life, Kate has hers,” a source tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story

By Erin Hill and Monique Jessen
November 21, 2019 09:00 AM

Amid shifts in power, past hurts and ongoing strain, Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, Prince William and Kate Middleton are on “different paths now,” a source tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story.

Despite “some competitiveness” between William and Harry, sources insist there is no competition between their wives.

“Meghan is very aware that Kate will be Queen; their roles are very clear,” the source says. However, there is also little common ground. “Meghan doesn’t fit the mold, while Kate was groomed for this,” says the source, who adds that Meghan was a “fully formed person” when she joined the royal family, while Kate was still in college when she met fellow student William.

“What’s challenging is when they are pitted against each other,” says the source. “That’s been challenging to both of them. Meghan has her life, Kate has hers.”

Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle
Stephen Pond/Getty Images

For both royal mothers, life revolves around their children.

“It’s very much still about taking care of him and putting family first,” a friend says of Meghan, Harry and their 6-month-old son Archie. Meanwhile, Kate and William are busy parenting Prince George, 6, Princess Charlotte, 4, and 1 1⁄2-year-old Prince Louis. But even there the difference in styles is evident.

Archie, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Toby Melville/Getty Images
Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Louis, Prince George and Princess Charlotte

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“William and Kate toe the line, maybe because they have to, but Harry and Meghan are saying no—no to releasing the names of Archie’s godparents, no to saying where Meghan gave birth,” says the friend. “They are trying to carve out a different sort of public life and reset the rules.”