The drama began with a report in The Sunday Times which said that Harry had been refused permission for a wreath of poppies to be laid in his name at the Cenotaph, Britain’s official war memorial, during Sunday’s annual service commemorating war dead and war veterans which the royals attend.
Now the actual wreath that Harry wanted to be laid in his name has been unearthed, languishing in a cardboard box at the Royal British Legion’s Kent HQ.
While neither Buckingham Palace nor Prince Harry’s media team was willing to comment on the story to The Daily Beast, the unearthing of the actual wreath has dispelled what little doubt there may have been that the story in The Sunday Times was accurate.
The Sunday Times said that Harry made a “personal request” to Buckingham Palace to have the wreath laid, but that his wish was denied by courtiers (the queen was reportedly kept out of the loop) on the grounds that he is no longer representing the monarchy.
Harry was said to be “deeply saddened” by the decision, which has been widely interpreted as clear confirmation that the royals feel he should have absolutely no ceremonial role within the family.
The new pictures of the abandoned wreath, which was made by the British Legion, the charitable organization for veterans, emerged after Harry’s team in LA stoked the fire of the feud on Sunday afternoon by sending out photographs of Harry and Meghan somberly surveying a vast field of war graves at Los Angeles National Cemetery.
Their media team said they wanted to “personally recognize Remembrance in their own way.”
They were also photographed laying a wreath at the graves of two Commonwealth soldiers and laying flowers there, which, media were told, had been picked by Meghan from their own garden.
The carefully staged photographs and accompanying press release have prompted a predictable wave of criticism in the U.K., neatly summarized in the form of arch-Sussex critic Piers Morgan who called the photos a “distasteful PR stunt.”
The familiar accusation now being leveled at the couple is that, by releasing their own photographs, they have disrespectfully overshadowed the official ceremony in London.
While it does seem inevitable that Harry and Meghan’s decision to release carefully curated pictures of themselves was likely to gobble up media oxygen on Monday, it does also seem equally perverse that the palace couldn’t have found a way to accommodate Harry’s wish to be seen to publicly pay his respects at the Cenotaph.
Many dozens of wreaths are laid in total and they are laid by all manner of people—this year, for example, one was laid by the Sun’s veteran royal photographer Arthur Edwards on behalf of readers of that newspaper.
Harry did actually spend ten years in the army, did actually set up an incredibly successful sports charity for wounded veterans, and did actually walk to the North Pole to raise money for and awareness of the plight of wounded veterans. Given all that, it’s not completely unreasonable for him to think that he may still have a valuable role to play advocating for veterans.
Was this the most diplomatic way to press his case? Probably not. The curated pictures have gone down badly back at home. It is admittedly hard to have complaints about privacy taken seriously when you are bringing a photographer along to record your "personal" act of remembrance and sending the pictures out to media organizations. It looks childish.
But have the Royal Family once again made a total and utter mess of their attempts to silence Harry and Meghan? Definitely.
This feud is not, and never has been, a zero-sum game. There are no winners. Instead, it is turning into a universally damaging war of attrition.
As each side lashes out at the other, they succeed only in steeling their adversary’s resolve—and making themselves look increasingly petty and self-centered.
It’s quite clear to all onlookers that Harry and Meghan are not about to shut up, and were there any doubt about that, the events of this weekend have made that even more apparent.
In the season of armistice, the royals should perhaps recall that lasting peace deals involve uncomfortable compromises, even on the side of those who think themselves the victor.
If ever there was a moment for the palace to be generous, to bend the rules a little, to elevate the human above the procedural, this was it.
It’s hard to see how allowing a beautiful wreath from Captain Wales to be laid at the Cenotaph by one of the thousands of veterans he has helped over the past decade could have been worse for the royals than the undignified debacle that has now resulted instead.