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On Tuesday next week, the British royal family will gather in central London to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Prince Charles’ investiture as the Prince of Wales.
It’s unusual for the royals to gather together (in private or public) outside of Christmas Day or big summer events such as the queen’s birthday, so it will be interesting to see how they handle this marquee event—whether they successfully capitalize on the occasion, or step into one of multiple bear traps they so often set for themselves.
The overarching goal at all these affairs is to present a united front. This, the royals notably failed to do over Christmas.
Charles has a reputation for petulance, and one bear trap he has already walked straight into is not to have requested, sources say, the presence of his brothers Andrew and Edward at the event.
Charles actively dislikes Andrew, believing the rumors of Yorkist corruption that have dogged him and Fergie for years have brought the royals into disrepute, and has regarded Edward as a fool ever since the debacle of It’s A Royal Knockout, an embarrassing charity gameshow Edward persuaded his family to take part in during his ill-fated TV career.
Charles has determinedly excluded his brothers from the inner circle of royalty, patiently starving them and their families of the oxygen of publicity and public proximity to the Crown ever since he denied them the opportunity to appear with their mother on the Buckingham Palace balcony after her diamond jubilee.
His decision not to insist on their presence on Tuesday (and make no mistake, if Charles had called they would have come) is unsurprising, but a clear message that as king, he will continue his program of quietly consigning them to obscurity.
With his two brothers not invited, Charles must also know that the royal narrative of the festive period was marred by the ongoing drama of the conflict between Meghan and Harry, and William and Kate.
Indeed, relations had deteriorated so much from last year (when Meghan and Harry spent the nights before and after Christmas Day at Kate and William’s house, and Harry famously said that for Meghan it was like having “the family she never had”) that this year, Harry and Meghan stayed at the Queen’s house, Sandringham, instead.
A photograph of the four young royals walking into church together this Christmas looked staged (because it was) and drew negative comparisons with a now-iconic shot from their first Christmas together, 2017, in which they were pictured striding up the church path like posh Reservoir Dogs.
Since Christmas, tensions between Kate and Meghan, and William and Harry have continued to simmer, coming to a head again last month when it was revealed that the two families will formally separate their courts and press operations as the attempt to combine what is politely referred to as their “different styles” is formally abandoned.
It is hoped that putting some clear blue water between the courts of Sussex and Cambridge may provide some space to allow Meghan and Harry’s more glamorous, showbiz style to flourish without distracting from the dutiful seriousness of Kate and William’s more hidebound operation.
So, Tuesday’s event represents an important moment—especially, it must be said, for the rehabilitation of Meghan. Although her formidable work ethic has not gone unnoticed (even the queen is said to be impressed), her image with a domestic audience struggling with the financial and existential uncertainty of Brexit, was undoubtedly damaged, however unfairly, by savage criticism in the UK press of the reported opulence of her New York baby shower.
So, both inside the grand ballroom at Buckingham Palace and in the press, all eyes will be on the pregnant princess.
The event itself, which is being described as a daytime reception, will be a grand affair.
It will feature hundreds of guests, drawn from Charles’ wide circle of “great and good” friends and associates, who will gather in the palace’s vast and rather gloomy windowless ballroom. Afterwards the close family will assemble for a series of photographs in Buckingham Palace’s altogether more fabulous White Drawing Room.
Palace spinners are rubbing their hands at the rare opportunity to present the Prince and his wife Camilla together with his two sons and their wives. (Grandchildren will not feature, as it is a school day and this is a party for grown-ups, not a family-friendly event.)
Charles’ sister, Princess Anne, whom he loves and reveres as a major asset to the family for her unshowy down-to-earth attitude, and who regularly wins the title of hardest working royal thanks to a seemingly endless series of engagements, will be in attendance.
Charles’ father Prince Philip is not expected to make an appearance.
Another interesting element of Tuesday’s choreography will be the presentation of Camilla in the photographs. Charles has made no secret of his eagerness to see her become queen, and privately, Charles’ followers know to treat her as queen-in-waiting if they want to remain in his favor.
Tuesday offers a tantalizing chance to present her as such to a wider public—one more part of the royal psychodrama laid out for all to see.