There are a lot of things it would have been handy to know in 2019: Stock up on loo paper. Resist the urge to panic-buy rice when the pandemic hits. (You will be eating it for, quite literally, years afterwards.)
And the royal family? That eternally entertaining bunch of HRHs with that thrilling new hire Meghan, Duchess of Sussex? Well, it will never look the same again.
As the royal house has been doing since 1760, in early June in 2019 the Queen and her extended family enjoyed a day of rare British sunshine to mark her official birthday with Trooping the Colour. (We can thank George III for this tradition of marking the sovereign’s big day with a big military parade.)
There all 39 of Her Majesty’s nearest and let’s assume dearest gathered for some jolly marching and saluting. Tally ho then!
The photos from the day were just another series in a long line of instances of the extended house of Windsor gathering to do a spot of waving to the masses.
However, now it has emerged that we may never see a sight like this again with drastic changes being considered about who is, and who isn’t, welcome to be a part of this iconic royal tradition.
A new report has alleged that the number of approved attendees has been rigorously whittled down, leaving a number of the biggest names mortifyingly off the guest list.
For the last two years, Trooping the Colour has essentially been shelved, with only a select few red-coated military personnel chosen to march around the Windsor Castle lawn to mark the Queen’s birthday for what was a lonely, dramatically diminished outing.
We are now less than 90 days until Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, which will take place across a four-day long weekend in the UK in early June, and which will see the Trooping the Colour military spectacular return to the Mall.
For months now, there has been near-constant speculation about whether Harry and Meghan will show up. It has been two years since the duchess stepped foot on British soil and her husband has only returned for the briefest of visits, for his grandfather Prince Philip’s funeral and for the unveiling of the state he co-commissioned of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales in early July.
Now it turns out that, no matter whether the Sussexes do decide to zip across the pond (ready the private jet Jeeves!) they might not be welcome on the Buckingham Palace balcony for the big moment.
The Daily Beast’s impeccably connected Tom Sykes has reported this week that “sources have consistently” told the publication that “only those in the direct line of succession — Charles and William and their spouses — will be invited onto the Buckingham Palace balcony for the climactic moment of the celebrations, a fly-past of Buck House by the Royal Air Force aerobatics team, the Red Arrows.”
No Harry. No Meghan. And no Archie and Lilibet.
For the Sussexes, the possibility of flying to London only to face the humiliation and embarrassment of being cut from the frontline line-up now joins the list of reasons why they might skip the event.
Currently, Harry is embroiled in a legal stoush with the Home Office, having applied for a judicial review of the decision for the family’s official police protection to be cut off. (He has also filed a libel suit against the Mail on Sunday over it’s coverage of this matter bringing the number of court cases he is pursuing to … I’ve lost count.)
Last month, Shaheed Fatima QC, who is representing the California-based duke, told the court that the UK “will always be his home” and that “it goes without saying that he does want to come back to see family and friends.”
Even leaving aside this headache, there is the question of le grand family reunion. Since Harry and Meghan harrumphed off into the sunset, they have used their highest-profile media outings to lob hand grenades at the house of Windsor, charging the palace with institutional racism, cruelty and pretty poor parenting.
The reception the Sussexes could face, from his family, the British press and the public, may very well be a decidedly frosty one.
“It’s very clear to those that know William that the rift with his brother is not something that he can just forget about,” Duncan Larcombe, the author of Harry: The Inside Story, this week said during an interview with a British magazine. “It’s very much, as you can imagine, a constant strain. It is for Harry as well, they’re both as stubborn as mules.”
With the wounds of the last two years and all of the Sussexes’ truth-telling still reportedly festering, Harry and Meghan’s return to London seems hardly likely to be all warm hugs and hot cups of Horlicks.
The duke has also previously said that returning to London “is a trigger because of what happened to my mum”.
During an episode of the Apple+ TV series he co-produced The Me You Can’t See he revealed: “For most of my life I always felt worried, concerned, a little bit tense and uptight whenever I fly back into the UK, whenever I fly back into London. I was like ‘Why do I feel so uncomfortable?'”
Lastly, there is the fact that the former army officer is currently hard at work on his memoir, which is set to be released later this year. A friend of the royal’s speaking to the Mirror recently claimed the book “will shake the monarchy to the core” and will reveal how the 36-year-old really feels about his stepmother, and future Queen, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
Could he – or would he – go back to Blighty and face his family if he is about to indulge in a fresh round of potentially devastating revelations about his family?
And now we get this balcony situation on top of everything.
Harry and Meghan have both repeatedly said how much they respect Her Majesty and it would make sense if they wanted to be there to celebrate her historic milestone of 70 years on the throne. But, being unceremoniously dumped from the first-string players and left literally and figuratively in the background would have to be a serious blow to even the most robust of egos.
The source has told the Daily Beast of the couple: “They have no formal role in it and are not expected to be on the (Buckingham Palace) balcony. It’s not ruled out, but the assumption now is that [Harry] won’t come because the people who would need to know have not been told he is.”
Still, we could still see the duo finally introduce their daughter Lili to her namesake great-grandmother in the next month. The source has pointed out that duke will be in Europe for the Invictus Games next month, saying that “The theory is that he could easily stop in and pay his respects to his grandmother in this jubilee year then.”
As a senior palace aide has told veteran royal biographer Robert Hardman: “Harry adores [Her Majesty]. She is the one who has kept the relationship going. He talks to her a lot, not unlike the way Prince Charles used to turn to the Queen Mother.”
Never mind the big group Buckingham Palace shot then. The photo the world needs so badly right is one of the Queen cradling her great-granddaughter Lili. No matter the hurt feelings or the interview salvos, no matter what has gone down in Montecito and London, or in the British or UK press, in that tender moment, all the smiles would be absolutely genuine.
• Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of leading media titles.
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