Given rumors of rancor and rift, the unexpected show of unity between the former ‘Fab Four’ of William, Kate, Harry and Meghan was a masterstroke in ensuring the attention of the coming days of national mourning remains firmly fixed on the late Queen Elizabeth II and the new King Charles III.
As crowds outside Windsor Castle on Saturday gasped at the surprise sight of the new Prince and Princess of Wales exiting their car accompanied by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, any fears that family rifts could spoil the The Queen’s final farewell was immediately dispelled.
As the four stared at the mountain of flowers outside the castle, their body language was nearly identical. The brothers stood solemnly with their heads bowed; the wives, their hands resting on the backs of their husbands in a sign of gentle support.
They walked in silence, Harry keeping Meghan’s hand in his most of the time. There may not have been much conversation between the couples, but it was a time of quiet contemplation, not chatter. And when it came to thanking and shaking hands with the gathered well-wishers, logistics separated them, with the Welsh working on one side and the Sussexes on the other.
But taken with the King’s warm words in his maiden address to the nation, when he expressed ‘my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas’, the significance of the very gesture public should not be underestimated.
And it was necessary. The optics of William arriving at Balmoral with the Duke of York and the Earl and Countess of Wessex, while Harry arrived alone nearly two hours after news of the Queen’s death did nothing to appease the divisive relationship between the once close brothers.
A source said the decision to extend the olive branch was made by the Prince of Wales, who wanted to invite the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to accompany him and the Princess of Wales. He first discussed it with the king, who thought it was an important show of unity.
It was an invitation the Sussexes, who have been outspoken critics of royals and palace life, were willing to accept. This meant the walkabout was delayed by around 45 minutes as they prepared.
Shortly before Windsor’s appearance, William paid his own moving tribute to ‘Granny’, saying, “She was by my side in my happiest times. And she was by my side during the saddest days of my life.
Although pressed on the subject, Buckingham Palace officials have so far not clarified whether Harry and Meghan’s children, Archie and Lilibet, will be referred to as Prince and Princess with HRH titles, as protocol would generally allow the sovereign’s grandchildren.
According to the updated line of succession on the Royal Family website, although they have risen to the sixth and seventh ranks of the throne, they continue to be known as “Master” and “Miss” to the current time.