Shared grief over the death of the Duke of Edinburgh is an “ideal opportunity” to mend rifts within the royal family, former prime minister Sir John Major has said.

The Duke of Sussex laid bare a rift with members of his family during an interview with Oprah Winfrey last month.

Asked during an appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme if he agreed with Mr Nichols, Sir John said: “I’m sure he is right, I hope he’s right, I believe he is right and I certainly hope so.

Members of the royal family pictured in 2018

“The friction that we are told has arisen is a friction better ended as speedily as possible, and a shared emotion, a shared grief, at the present time because of the death of their father, their grandfather, I think is an ideal opportunity.

“I hope very much that it is possible to mend any rifts that may exist.”

Speaking on Times Radio on Saturday, Mr Nichols said “many a family gather and get over tension and broken relationships at the time of a funeral”.

“Something very profound unites them all again. And that would be true for this family, I’m sure,” he said.

“Obviously the whole ceremony will be watched by everybody, but you think of the complexities of the dynamics in that family and we have to think of Harry, so far away. I’m sure he’ll come but not being, the whole time, in the public eye might just help.”

The Duchess of Sussex accused some members of the royal family of racism while speaking to Winfrey during the bombshell broadcast in March, and also said the institution failed to help her when she had suicidal thoughts.

Harry, who has not returned to the UK since stepping down as a senior royal just over a year ago, told the chat show host he felt let down by his father, the Prince of Wales, and wanted to heal the relationship but “there’s a lot of hurt that’s happened”.

He described his relationship with the Duke of Cambridge as “space” but said he loved him and “time heals all things, hopefully”.

The brothers’ rift stretches back to before the Sussexes’ wedding, when Harry was reportedly angered by what he perceived as his brother’s “snobbish” attitude to Meghan, after William questioned whether he should rush into things with the ex-actress.

Following the Winfrey interview, the Queen issued a statement saying “while some recollections may vary”, the issues raised would be taken “very seriously” but dealt with privately as a family.