There was a glimmer of hope that Harry and Meghan may not now be completely cut off from the royal family Friday, when King Charles said, in his first televised address to the nation as king, that he loved them.
After speaking at some length about William and Kate’s new roles as Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles said: “I want also to express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas.”
As olive branches to Harry and Meghan go, this looks, at first sight, like a significant one. However, the cold reality is that Charles III actually used his first few hours as monarch to demonstrate that he could and indeed would be ruthless in excluding them from the inner circle of the family if he chose to.
Although sources close to Charles have always insisted that he loves both his sons and would like nothing better than to heal the wounds with Harry and Meghan, the fact is that Harry and Meghan were subjected to a series of humiliations in the fraught 24 hours after the queen’s death.
The first note was struck when it was announced by Harry’s people that Harry and Meghan would both be making the journey to Balmoral, but then, after several hours delay, it was announced that Meghan would not be going after all.
What happened in the intervening period is now being hotly debated, but there is a significant body of opinion building that Meghan was told not to darken Balmoral’s door on the orders of William and Charles.
Indeed, the BBC’s royal correspondent came perilously close to saying as much when he saying, on air: “She might not be terribly warmly welcomed, to be perfectly candid about it.”
The reasons why Meghan would not have been “warmly welcomed” are not hard to fathom. In addition to the now two-year old allegations of racism she made against the palace, Meghan recently issued a veiled threat to publicize more royal secrets, telling The Cut magazine that she could “say anything” and had not signed a confidentiality agreement with the palace.
Given that Queen Elizabeth was almost certainly severely incapacitated (at a minimum) while this unseemly debate was raging, it could be argued that the banning of Meghan from Balmoral (if that is what happened) was Charles’ first act as king.
Given her threats to reveal secrets, the exclusion of Meghan from the family gathering at the queen’s death bed is unsurprising.
Hanging over everything is the imminent publication of Harry’s memoir, and what he might say, and who he might trash, in it. Ever since their bombshell Oprah interview, and other interviews since, the royals have kept the couple at arm’s length, concerned where any words said to them may end up being repeated.
What is much more alarming for the couple’s future prospects of retaining their position on the royal Christmas Card list is the way Harry was not included in the royal party of William, Edward, Sophie and Andrew—Andrew for God’s sake!—that was whisked up to Scotland on Thursday afternoon on board a military jet.
Instead he was required to take a commercially leased Cessna, which departed several hours later, and meant that he did not land until after the death announcement had been made.
He then arrived at Balmoral at 8 p.m., and left just over 12 hours later on Friday morning, taking a scheduled British Airways flight back to London. Charles took an RAF jet a few hours later. It has yet to emerge what, if anything, was said between Harry, Charles, and William in the hours they were together. In the drama-filled time-frame, Harry seemed notably isolated.
Harry and Meghan knew that one day the queen would die and Charles would become king. But his anger might have blinded Harry to just how consequential an enemy he was making when he accused Charles of cutting him off, of saying that Charles had told him that he had to “suffer,” and giving the impression generally that he was a cruel and uncaring parent.
And maybe Harry was one of the many who expected the queen might live as long as her mother, who died at the age of 101.
Harry and Meghan certainly didn’t expect her to die this week, but the late monarch’s somewhat sudden death is making Meghan’s hugely provocative interview with The Cut look like an increasingly calamitous decision.
While Elizabeth lived, Harry, who was deeply beloved by her, would have known there was always a seat at her table for him as a family member.
The signs so far are that his father may not be as keen on separating family and state. Even if he was, the truth is that Harry attacked Charles very personally in a way that he was cleverly cautious not to do to his grandmother. So, Charles has every reason to be aggrieved on behalf of the Crown and on behalf of himself, as a father.
But then there was today’s speech, and a very public and affectionate olive branch. Charles has said publicly that he loves Harry, yes. But for the royals actions always speak louder than words.
In other words, if Charles really wants to mend bridges with Harry and Meghan, they had better be given damn good seats at the funeral.