A Royal Family Affair: What Does It Mean That Harry Is Attending the Coronation Without Meghan?
Then Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, attend the 'Our Planet' global première at London's Natural History Museum, April 4, 2019. Photo: Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage
A thousand years of tradition is the only point here: The announcement that the Duke of Sussex will attend his father King Charles III’s coronation on May 6 is a very good thing. It is a big moment in Charles’s life, and a huge moment for Britain. The Crown lies at the heart of the British identity, a source of unity and pride. It is the embodiment of continuity and stability in a topsy-turvy world, It upholds the ideals of public service and rewards achievement in the community. The Crown is larger than the squabbles of the members of the Royal Family.
So much has already been read into the fact the Duchess of Sussex will not accompany her husband to the sacred and ancient service at Westminster Abbey, a veritable flood of ink spilled on Thursday morning. The hot take responses were divided roughly in half: one that Meghan was snubbing the Royal Family, or two, that they are certainly relieved. It was batted about that perhaps Meghan was afraid of being booed. That she was abandoning Harry to face the music after all the dirty laundry he aired in his memoir this past January, and that they aired in their two-part docuseries last fall.
Most of all, much ado was made about it being little Prince Archie’s fourth birthday on the coronation day, as a good excuse for Meghan to bow out. That is a flagrant red herring. Perhaps it’s just me, and I am a mother, and can attest that no four-year-old can read a calendar, and thus shifting a cake and Paw Patrol-themed party by a day isn’t a biggie. Somehow the other 2,000 attendees — heads of state, European royals, charity workers — are able to swing it around their own personal commitments.
Isn’t it okay if Meghan just didn’t want to go? We don’t know, is the point, and I really don’t think we need to know her reasons. It is a mature, and healthy, decision to choose not to do something if it isn’t right for you. That is the American way, where individual freedoms trump the collective. That is the very thing Harry and Meghan fought for, and won, when they left royal service. This is the epitome of the very modern concept of enforcing boundaries in action. Similarly, how could Harry not go, if he simultaneously wanted his children to have their Prince and Princess designations?
Point is, all the speculative frenzy is a distraction from the real issues: these are private — and often tawdry — family dramas being pulled into the grandest of state affairs. The gesture to invite the duke and duchess in the first place was surely the point? It was a meaningful gesture, from the King himself. The pair had agreed to the terms of their leave-taking of the service of the Crown in 2020, effectively conceding their places on the balcony of Buckingham Palace at such grand events. They are in turn free to make money however they desire, including selling details of intimate family tales. These tales remain one-sided, unchallenged by the remaining working members of The Firm, by choice and by tradition. The Royal Family kept completely quiet on these matters, on the record at least, letting their courtiers set the agenda with leaks that we will never know were sanctioned or not.
All the leaks and speculation in the press are not going anywhere. The Royal Family has made their own unknowable peace deal to survive alongside the British tabloids (and now the world’s press, as these stories have become breakfast table staples everywhere). I’m probably more fascinated, and titillated, than most by all the internecine twists and turns in this real-life soap opera with hats and gloves and gilded carriages. The interest isn’t going anywhere, and understanding the narrative can’t be controlled is the only way forward.
Really, this looks like the best, and most mature, decision for the duke and his family. It shows his respect for the King, and it allows Harry to protect his wife from the slings and arrows of the press he so often proclaims he despises. It’s a win-win.
The theme of the historical colonial flaws of the institution of the monarchy was one that Harry and Meghan began to address in their self-titled docuseries. Yes, the monarchy has been responsible for some horrific historical wrongs, and a lot of blood has been shed to protect the Crown. There is a long way to go in reforming the institution and addressing its unconscious bias, atone for past wrongs and bring the whole unwieldy system into line with this century’s values and practices. The tradition of primogeniture is a tough one to swallow in this day and age and obsession with nepo babies, too, especially if you missed the genetic lottery to become heir by one place, like Harry. Honestly, it would have been tough to be Harry, and I think a lot of people agree after reading his book that we have genuine compassion for that.
This could have been a moment to let things rest. And perhaps it still might be. There was worry before Charles acceded that Britons might not warm to him. The opposite has been shown to be true: the role is bigger than the human inhabiting it, and Charles has the affection of his people, for the most part. The continuing status of the Commonwealth remains to be seen; 53 countries all with different experiences and points of view.
The Crown is much bigger than a prince and his American wife. To paraphrase Rick in Casablanca, it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of two people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
So now that the will they/won’t they decision has been made — rather late in the game, and well after the RSVP deadline for a little extra drama — how about everyone else just let it go. Neither Harry nor Meghan is talking about their family decision about attending. Perhaps, we can do the same? Then, sit back and enjoy the best in pomp and circumstance the world has to offer, and a first glimpse at the coronation rituals in 70 years.