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As further details of the belittling treatment dished out to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during their visit to the U.K. to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee continued to emerge this week, it has become painfully apparent that relations between Harry and Meghan on one side, and his English family on the other, are at a historic low.
It may just have been the exhaustion of traveling with two jet-lagged children, but Harry’s thunderous face as he was snapped arriving home off a private jet in California seemed to provide a vivid illustration of his mood after the party that he and his wife were both invited to—and not invited to.
The failure of William to meet personally in private with his brother, and William’s family’s decision to travel to Cardiff rather than attend Lilibet’s first birthday party, is further confirmation, were it needed, that the broken relationship between Harry and his brother is far from being healed.
The casual insults dished out to the Sussexes include being banned from taking a photograph of their daughter with her great-grandmother, a series of conspicuous-by-their-absence non-invitations to any events where they might be pictured alongside HM, and the failure of any of Harry’s immediate family to turn up for Lilibet’s birthday party. As any parent knows, it’s when people take it out on your kids that it hurts the most.
Harry and Meghan’s impetuous early departure from the celebrations—they left on Sunday shortly before the final event: the queen’s climactic appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony—irritated the royals and was perceived by them as an attention-seeking display of petulance, at least according to one friend who told The Daily Beast, “So much for not overshadowing the queen. Would it have killed them to wait a few hours?”
Royal author Christopher Andersen told The Daily Beast that the effect of the weekend, which sometimes appeared to be devoted to blatantly shunning the couple was just to make things worse.
“The excuse being floated by the palace for their low profile, that this was supposed to be all about the queen and no one wanted to distract from that, falls flat. By egregiously giving the Sussexes the cold shoulder, the royals just poured gasoline on the fire. Now everyone is speculating about the continuing rift between Charles and the Cambridges on one side and Harry and Meghan on the other.”
He does think, however, that Harry and Meghan were perhaps naive if they thought they were going to be treated respectfully.
Ultimately, when it came to Harry and Meghan, all the jubilee proved is that neither side is ready to compromise, let alone apologize.
Anger and outrage are still the dominant emotions on both sides—and at the root of it all is the interview the couple gave to Oprah Winfrey, in which they claimed many and varied palace mistreatments and slights, including one senior royal who questioned the color of the then-unborn Archie's skin.
The Sussexes’ position is that they simply told the truth about what happened and the way they were treated. They see the decision not to name the individual as less inflammatory, and their supporters have argued that it gave the royals the opportunity to own the problem of racism toward Harry and Meghan within the family and deal with it.
Instead, the queen dismissed the whole matter by saying, witheringly, “Some recollections may vary.” No one, unsurprisingly, has heard anything further about the matter from the palace despite the queen’s pledge to interrogate the allegations; she said they were “taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”
In an extra chapter added to an updated version of the sympathetic biography of the couple, Finding Freedom, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand wrote: “The queen’s ‘recollections may vary’ comment did not go unnoticed by the couple, who a close source said, were ‘not surprised’ that full ownership was not taken.”
Although friends of the royals do privately concede that it would be far from out of character for one of several of the royals to have said something deeply inappropriate about the skin color of Meghan’s babies, they insist that any such remark would have been made out of ignorance rather than malice. This part of the argument is unconvincing and, of course, racist in and of itself.
However the further, perhaps more credible, argument made by Windsor supporters, is that by opting not to name the person who made the remark, the Sussexes unfairly put the entire family under a cloud of suspicion on the basis of one person’s racism.
However the unity with which the Windsors have closed ranks is extraordinary—the controversy has even brought William and Charles together—and the jubilee was a very visual demonstration of that.
Paddington Bear was, of course, one of the stars of the jubilee. There is a scene in that film where the explorer who declined to kill Paddington’s family to allow a specimen to be collected is cast out from his London club by his outraged peers, one of whom utters the words “Geographers, turn your backs.”
Something like this has happened to Harry and Meghan. It’s been going on for two years now, but the jubilee was the first actual, physical portrayal of their outcast status. Of the blood royal HRHs, they only now appear to have the support of Beatrice and Eugenie York, who know all too well the pain of being ostracized from the family and are anyway only minor dramatis personae in the royal telenovela, having been sacked as working royals and stripped of their security detail several years ago by Prince Charles.
Andersen said: “Harry and Meghan were clearly not expecting the wall of resistance they encountered from what is obviously a totally united and still-seething royal family. It isn’t really surprising though. Why extend an olive branch when in a matter of months there may be new bombshells detonated in Harry’s tell-all memoir?”
Duncan Larcombe, a biographer of Prince Harry and a former royal editor at the Sun, told The Daily Beast: “The choreography of being seated behind the Duke of Gloucester in the church service is very telling and won’t have been lost on Meghan or Harry. The feud is still on, and we know that because if this feud was over, you can be sure we would have been told all about it; a family photo would have been issued, or William and Harry might have been photographed dancing together on Saturday night. None of that happened. It hardly would have been possible to imagine it beforehand, but the jubilee has actually made things worse. The royal family looked like they were offering an olive branch, but it turned out to be a baseball bat.”
Indeed, so bad are things between the two families that The Daily Beast has heard increasing speculation that Meghan might never come to the U.K. again.
The Daily Beast understands that it is expected that while Harry would definitely return for important state affairs. These would include the hopefully distant occasion of his grandmother’s funeral, and he is also likely to be in attendance at the coronation of his father, despite rumors he may not be, not least because he is likely to remain a counselor of state (one of four adults who can step in to act for the monarch in case of their incapacity) until Prince George comes of age, and therefore while his presence is not required for the coronation to go head, it would certainly be fitting.
It’s hard to imagine what attractions Meghan would see in making the long journey again, however, after a weekend in which she was trolled by the press, slighted by her family, and booed by some members of the public.
Friends of Charles have told The Daily Beast that he is devastated by the breach with his younger son and desperately wants to repair relations, but the failure of the royal establishment to actually do anything about that last weekend was striking. The decision not to telegraph in any way that Harry and Meghan were indeed, as the queen has described it, still “much-loved members” of the family was notable.
Instead, Harry and Meghan were hidden away, shuttled from place to place out of view of the public.
While sources at the palace have been unwilling to tell The Daily Beast whether or not Harry and Meghan were invited to attend either the concert on Saturday night or the pageant on Sunday afternoon, it seems unlikely given that they were firmly and deliberately excluded from all the big family group photo-ops.
“The palace didn’t want to hand Archewell another decade of legitimacy with pictures of them and the queen and Lilibet with the queen,” says Larcombe.
But for Harry and Meghan, renewing their association with the crown was likely a key factor in their decision to attend, and their daughter’s birthright.
As Andersen says: “Archie had his photo taken with the queen and Prince Philip when he was two days old. To deny this to Lily on her first birthday just seems unnecessarily mean-spirited. The queen could have overruled her handlers on this one issue, and of course she could have allowed the Sussexes to appear on the balcony with the rest of the family at some point during the jubilee. This was a historic event and to exclude Harry and Meghan from the visual record just seems wrong.”
It also seems to be pretty far from an offer of peace.