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On Thursday evening at 8, the U.K. stopped what it was doing to applaud, from windows, doors, balconies, and gardens, the health workers on the front line of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Among those who lent their support were Prince Charles (recently diagnosed with coronavirus) and wife Camilla, who put this message in an Instagram story: “Don’t forget to support #ClapForOurCarers tonight to show our appreciation for all the nurses, doctors and carers supporting the fight against coronavirus.”
Also applauding: the children of Prince William and Kate Middleton, who sent out a gorgeous video of their three children applauding on Instagram.
It will be fascinating to see if, among the hundreds of thousands of likes the video receives, it will be liked by Meghan and Harry’s SussexRoyal account.
If that happens, then we can say with some confidence that the entente cordiale between Sussex and Cambridge is on.
For, on Sunday, locked down we must assume, in their new, top-secret Los Angeles base, Meghan and Harry posted a message on their Instagram account to mark U.K. Mother’s Day (don’t worry, you didn’t miss it: the U.K. celebrates Mother’s Day on a different day to the rest of the world).
Among the thousands of likes it received, there was one very significant thumbs-up: a like from the Kensington Royal account, William and Kate’s official online home.
It was the first time for many months that Will and Kate had liked one of Harry and Meghan’s posts.
While it was grossly insensitive of another former royal, Sarah Ferguson to suggest this week that coronavirus was a good thing that was going to clean up the planet, there are tiny pinpricks of light in the emotional gloom, economic anguish, and global misery that the coronavirus is causing.
One of them is that many of us, the royals apparently included, are re-evaluating relationships, thinking again about the importance of perhaps over-hastily discarded friendships and family bonds.
For Harry in particular, the vulnerability of Prince Philip, 98, and the Queen, 93, is likely to have been keeping him awake at night, as he hunkers down with Meghan and Archie, thousands of miles from his family and friends.
Harry has always been very close to his grandmother, who adores him, and he is known to have been very concerned about her and Philip, 98, with sources telling the Daily Mail he felt “helpless and concerned” about them.
Any notions of flying home to the U.K. have presumably been displaced by the Sussexes’ dramatic move to Los Angeles, but, like many of us, Harry has likely been spending more time on the phone with his family—with the palace even going as far as to confirm that Charles spoke with both Harry and William to tell them about his diagnosis.
Given that it was Charles who spearheaded the tough (but right) decision to cut Harry and Meghan off unilaterally from their royal status instead of giving them the half-in, half-out deal they craved, the fact that they took the time to chat one-on-one on the phone is not insignificant.
The news that Prince Charles has developed a mild case of COVID-19 caused a minor panic this week. His illness appears to be under control, but it has thrown the spotlight on the age and potential frailty of the monarch and her husband for the public; it’s impossible to conclude it won’t have done the same for their family.
Of course, the question of Prince Philip’s mortality is an issue that has bubbled in the background of much palace decision-making for years now. One recent Fleet Street rumor that Philip had died was only definitively quashed when Philip stepped out of his home at Wood Farm and hopped aboard a helicopter bound for Windsor Castle, where his wife was expecting him for lunch.
So, when tales began to circulate that Charles had contracted the coronavirus, royal correspondents wearied by many years of Philip-panics were skeptical at first.
Surely he would have been rigorously kept away from any potential infection—and after all, he had conspicuously avoided shaking hands with anyone at the recent Commonwealth Day service by adopting a “namaste” gesture.
Then, the palace stunned the world by confirming that yes, Charles really did have it (although Camilla, an ex-smoker and a year older than her husband, who is as fit as a fiddle, did not).
Charles’ condition has led to some recrimination and finger pointing both within palace walls and without, with some angry suggestions that not enough care was taken to shield Charles and his mother from the virus, when it was already known—from what was happening in Italy—that a U.K. iteration of the epidemic was almost inevitable.
Indeed, fear of coronavirus was given by Meghan to a select group of tame journalists whom she invited to an event as the reason why she did not bring Archie to the U.K. on their final visit.
As courtiers and public-health officials scrambled to try to establish Charles’ movements it emerged that he could have imperiled his mother’s health when they met on March 12, at an investiture at Buckingham Palace.
Much attention has focused on the possibility that Charles contracted the disease from Monaco’s Prince Albert, but Charles has met many people. It may be impossible to ascertain where he picked it up.
In a bizarre twist, The Daily Beast understands that Harry and Meghan were also at the palace on March 12, bidding a tearful farewell to their staff. When that was over, they left the palace by taking a shortcut through the gigantic, windowless ballroom where the investitures were being carried out.
It seems likely that these movements were at least part of the context of Charles’ personal call to his son.
The Queen has joined the younger members of the family in celebrating health workers; just as the Cambridges released their video last night, HM’s Twitter account published pictures of her meeting NHS staff.
Coronavirus has, for now, united the royal family. Go on, Meghan and Harry. Click the heart.