Shortly before Kate Middleton handed out the trophy for the men’s singles final on center court at Wimbledon on Sunday, social media exploded as Meghan Markle hugged Beyoncé at the premiere of The Lion King in central London.
“My princess!” Beyoncé said to Meghan as she embraced her warmly, while Jay-Z and Prince Harry exchanged amused glances from the sidelines.
Beyoncé, looking beatifically into Meghan’s eyes, said, “The baby is so beautiful. We love you guys.”
Harry, not one to be caught short of small talk at such a critical moment, replied: “And how are the twins?”
Beyoncé responded: “They are not here. They don’t come on every trip. We left them at home. They would have loved to have been here.”
Then, according to the Daily Mail’s royal reporter, Rebecca English, up piped Jay-Z, telling Harry: “The best advice I can give you: Always find time for yourself.”
As thunder-stealing moments go, Harry and Meghan’s was up there with the noisiest ones.
Bizarrely, the appearance, as well as clashing with the final few minutes of the taut five-set men’s final between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, came just the day after Meghan and Kate had appeared side by side at the ladies’ singles final, where Meghan’s pal Serena Williams was beaten by Simona Halep.
Saturday’s Wimbledon appearance was the result of painstaking negotiation between the two rival courts. It was clearly a coordinated attempt to reset perceptions of House of Sussex and House of Cambridge as rivals, and draw a line under persistent rumors of a feud between Meghan and Kate in particular.
Just 24 hours later, as Kate prepared to make her way on to the grass to hand over the trophy while cameras flashed for Meghan and Harry a few miles away, that truce lay in tatters.
Of course, we can’t be exactly sure how Kate reacted to being upstaged by Meghan and Harry on Sunday night. There is a chance that Kate squealed with delight when she checked her phone in her car on the way home and saw footage of her brother-in-law and his wife glad-handing the world’s other biggest celebrity couple, but somehow, it seems unlikely.
Wimbledon is not only the highlight of the sporting British summer; it is Kate’s marquee engagement of the year. Tennis is one of the things Kate has always been genuinely passionate about, and she has fought hard to line herself up as the heir apparent to the Duke of Kent, who is president of the club.
We can assume the Beyoncé meeting isn’t an engagement to which Kate would have given her unfettered and delighted blessing had she been consulted.
And here lies the crux of the issue.
Harry and Meghan are not just “not considering” the schedule of Kate and William when planning their diary; they are actively disregarding it.
There were plenty of good reasons for Meghan and Harry to lend their support to the launch of The Lion King and to have made their way up a celebrity carpet that was yellow rather than red, patterned with paw prints, and studded with luminaries such as Elton John, Guy Ritchie, Vin Diesel, and Pharrell Williams.
The London premiere, after all, was held in support of the conservation work undertaken by Harry and Meghan through The Royal Foundation, their joint charitable foundation with William and Kate that they are now disentangling themselves from.
But to do so at 6 p.m. on the evening of the Wimbledon final was a clear shot across the Cambridges’ bows.
The dynamic is complicated enough at the moment, but it is fascinating to think this forward a few decades.
Part of the reason for the big split between the Cambridges and the Sussexes is that Harry and Meghan did not want to be told what to do by William and Kate.
Currently, Harry and Meghan’s court is answerable only to the queen, but when she dies, their staff will report to Charles. And when Charles dies, we can therefore assume, and the throne passes to William, Harry will be back where he started, having to run everything by his big brother once again.
They can’t even make a sensible plan on how to divide up eyeballs on a busy summer weekend, so it’s not hard to see why so many people are beginning to have serious questions about how sustainable this rivalrous relationship between two courts is in the long term.