For a moment it was a glimpse of what might have been: Harry and Meghan strolling hand in hand down the aisle of St Paul’s, the eyes of the world on every step.
However, when they arrived at their assigned seats, they didn’t turn to the box office seats in the front, instead shuffling to a second row with the royal family’s also-rans.
There they waited and exchanged chat with Harry’s cousins when the real stars of the show arrived, William and Kate accompanying Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.
As a play, it was compelling. But while this was the public reality of Harry’s descent into the royal pecking order, it was overshadowed by the one thing the watching millions yearned for – a sign, however simple, that two brothers who were once so close they could finish each other’s sentences. fill differences. Unfortunately, that sign never came.
Perhaps a service of national thanksgiving would never be the most appropriate place. But if not, when?
If sheer physical distance precluded a handshake, hug, or the shortest of chats, then a nod or a smile or even a thumbs up certainly wouldn’t have been impossible. Prince Charles gave ample demonstration of what could be achieved when he blew a loving kiss on daughter-in-law Kate.
The tragedy of it all was that separately, and with their wives, Harry and William radiated goodwill—two Prince Charmings who were charming to everyone, it seemed, but to each other.
It’s been over two years since Harry and Meghan’s last appearance as frontline royals at a Commonwealth service at Westminster Abbey, when the depth of the rift between the princes was surprisingly clear – where they could barely look at each other, let alone talk. .
It has only deteriorated since that glacial moment. From their Oprah Winfrey sit-down to interviews with US TV networks and friendly podcasts, they’ve launched attack after attack on the royals and monarchy.
Their incendiary “truth bombs” for Oprah include claims that a senior member of the family was racist, that Buckingham Palace ignored Meghan when she was suicidal during her first pregnancy, and that Prince Charles cut Harry off financially.
The fallout was such that William was forced to publicly defend the royal family against accusations of racism.
The brothers last saw each other in July before the unveiling of a statue of their mother where their chill was hard to hide – until yesterday.
No one would rather see the return of that brotherly bond of affection than the Queen, who had hoped rapprochement would be made by including the Sussexes in her Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
Nothing would give her more pleasure than to see this bitterness put aside and her family reunited.
There is still time, of course – but two days into the long Jubilee weekend and the omens are not good.
On Thursday, Harry and Meghan’s efforts to avoid the spotlight at the Trooping the Color ceremony, where they were reduced to mere spectators, were mind-boggling. Since William spent most of the day on horseback and presiding over Trooping, there was no opportunity.
So yesterday the focus shifted to St Paul’s, the cathedral where their parents married 41 years ago and certainly a perfect venue for a royal reconciliation.
Could the two princes turn back the clock to a time when their mutual trust had been such an enduring and endearing part of the royal story?
As children, there was a close bond that grew out of adversity—the very public failure of their parents’ marriage and then the devastation of their mother’s death.
At Eton, William looked after his homesick younger brother and later, when he struggled with his doubts about making Kate his wife, it was Harry who was there for him. Both were well aware of the importance Princess Diana placed on them to take care of each other.
Their lives were so intertwined that when things started to go wrong between them, the consequences were all the more unforeseen. No one expected them to live in each other’s pockets forever; but still no one expected Diana’s boys to take such divergent paths.
Nothing illustrated how the Sussexes’ exile in California has turned their old world upside down than the manner — and timing — of their arrival at St Paul’s.
As non-working royals, they are now very much in the second division. And while they were spared the indignity of sharing the carriage that brought a group of underage members of the royal family who also perform no official duties, such as Lord Frederick Windsor, son of Princess Michael of Kent, they were just behind them.
At least this allowed them to walk the entire ship together. And with the eyes of the 2,000-strong congregation on them, it must have fleetingly reminded Meghan of that glorious May day four years ago when they were the center of attention at their wedding in Windsor.
This time, however, they did not sit at the front of the cathedral, but turned left to take their seats behind the dutiful Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and between Princess Eugenie’s husband Jack Brooksbank and the Queen’s niece, Lady Sarah Chatto.
It took an agonizing 19 minutes for William and Kate to arrive to be seated. If the reality of his new life had escaped Prince Harry thus far, it must have certainly set in then. There was no acknowledgment between the brothers, no sign of forgiveness from one, no remorse or even apology from the other.
Nothing. Indeed, it was difficult to escape the conclusion that the chasm between the princes is as deep as ever and that nothing has changed.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that the two met or at least talked in private. But closing this gap requires a public demonstration, not a private one.
These are, remember, two men who from childhood were always the most tactile brothers, hugging or wrestling, high-fiving and fist-punching.
The mere fact that the movements of the Sussexes have been so secretive since their arrival in Britain tells its own story. And how do we explain which events they do and do not attend?
After yesterday’s service, each royal arranged a reception in the Guildhall, the scene of so many historic royal moments. It was here in 1992 that the Queen uttered that memorable phrase about the ‘annus horribilis’ and where in 1997 she paid a grand tribute to Prince Philip as her ‘strength and residence’ on the occasion of their golden wedding anniversary.
Could it play another equally important role in the history of the monarchy – a meeting between two warring brothers?
Unfortunately not. Harry and Meghan were the only royals who didn’t show up.
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