The last engagement of the duke and duchess of Sussex as senior royals was marred by behind the scenes tensions over the protocol.
It was agreed that the presence of Harry and Meghan on yesterday’s Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey with other senior royals would be an appropriate farewell.
But the Daily Mail understands that the couple were upset to hear that they would not be allowed to accompany the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the main VIP party.
Instead, they were told to find their own way to their seats at the front of the abbey before the other royal princes arrived, alongside the count and countess of Wessex.
Farewell to the roads: the four royals in Westminster Abbey for the Commonwealth Service. The last engagement of the duke and duchess of Sussex as senior royals was marred by behind the scenes tensions over the protocol
The fleeting hello: a brief greeting for Harry and Meghan from William when he arrives with Kate. It was agreed that the presence of Harry and Meghan at yesterday’s service with other senior royals would be an appropriate farewell. But the Daily Mail understands that the couple were upset to hear that they would not be allowed to accompany the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the main VIP party
Chat with Edward: William enjoys an animated conversation with his uncle while Kate and Sophie watch. Harry and Meghan were told to find their own way to their seats at the front of the abbey before other royal princes arrived, alongside the count and countess of Wessex (above, with the Cambridges)
Fearing another very public royal skirmish, William and Kate can be unveiled, intervened to defuse the situation at the weekend, and offered to join “emotional” Harry and Meghan while waiting for the Queen’s arrival , Charles and Camilla.
But not before 2,000 orders of service were signed and printed, which very clearly – and quite embarrassingly – placed the Cambridges firmly with the main royal party.
And it seems that their 11th hour olive branch did not alleviate the discomfort between the arguing family.
Distant relatives: the Sussexes and Cambridges are uncomfortably separated while waiting for the procession. Fearing another very public royal skirmish, William and Kate can be unveiled, intervened to defuse the situation at the weekend, and offered to join “emotional” Harry and Meghan while waiting for the Queen, Charles and Camilla arrived
When the Cambridges arrived to take a seat, the Duchess, 38, appeared to Harry and Meghan in a favorite red Catherine Walker coat and matching hat, while the two brothers exchanged only the most clumsy hello. Although Harry greeted his brother William with a smile, there was little interaction between them.
Meghan, 38, dressed in a striking emerald green Emelia Wickstead dress with a William Chambers hat, Gabriela Hearst bag and Aquazzura heels, was seen as “hello” and then “hello” to William when he didn’t appear to be her first time, with a somewhat rictus grin on her face.
However, the prince, 37, greeted her on the second occasion with a smile and a quick hello. It was not clear if there were any more exchanges outside the camera.
During yesterday’s service — one of the highlights of the Queen’s calendar — Harry, 35, seemed thoughtful and ill at ease.
He and Meghan, who were determined to give a mega-watt smile, talked animatedly with his uncle Prince Edward, who was sitting in the same row.
Camilla, 72, elegant in navy, seemed to be trying to lighten things up when she and Charles arrived, turning to smile warmly and to greet Harry and Meghan, who were sitting in line behind her.
Meghan was seen as a curtsey for both the Queen and the Prince of Wales when they sat down.
Solemn: Harry seems confiscated while the other royals wait for the queen to arrive. During yesterday’s service — one of the highlights of the Queen’s calendar — Harry, 35, seemed thoughtful and ill at ease. He and Meghan, who determinedly gave a mega-watt smile, talked animatedly with his uncle Prince Edward, who was sitting in the same row
The Sussex people folded hands as they left – in the same way that they arrived – and could even see each other clamped in their official car as they ran away after the service to start their new life in North America.
Buckingham Palace tried to put on a courageous face last night, insisting that there was “no fixed format for this annual service,” because it “depended on how many members of the royal family were present.” The queen and the royal family are always the last to participate in a procession up to the front of the abbey.
In particular, however, the palace was unsuccessful as to why the Cambridges were originally in the official Order of Service to accompany the Queen, before changing their mind to take place before the Queen’s arrival next to the Sussexes.
An assistant said: “The Wessexes, Sussexes and Cambridges all process directly to their seats. The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Queen are in the procession.
“It is not unusual for members of the royal family to travel to Commonwealth countries during the Commonwealth week. There is no further comment. “
The decision not to include the Sussexes was taken by the Queen’s office, led by her private secretary Edward Young.
Harry and Meghan were mainly considered hurt, because although it was their last public commitment, they will formally resign on March 31. Until then, Harry still retains the title given to him by the queen of Commonwealth Youth Ambassador – which he was stripped of along with his other official duties, as part of his royal resignation.
He and Meghan will also maintain strong ties with the “family of nations” because they will retain their role as president and vice-president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust. The duchess will also retain her patronage of the Association of Commonwealth Universities that she adopted last year.
“It seems that they were quite sensitive and emotional about it,” said a royal source.
Another insider added: “Although they are determined to resign, they seem to be pretty concerned with the status they will maintain and the fact that Harry remains sixth in line with the throne, while commenting on their new website made another day. “
Last year the couple – Meghan pregnant with their now ten-month-old son Archie – took a seat next to the queen and the other senior royals, both in line with their status and their specific Commonwealth roles.
The monarch, who is head of the Commonwealth and regards his stewardship as one of the greatest successes of her government, personally asked them to be her flag bearers, believing that they would make good contact with the young people.
The 54 Commonwealth Member States have a combined population of more than two billion, of which more than 60 percent are under the age of 30.
As for the Sussexes, it is understood that their office is planning to make a number of announcements about their future life in the coming weeks, but they have not planned any official appointments between now and March 31, when they are officially step down.
The Buckingham Palace couple’s office is officially closed on April 1, with all 15 members of their staff, as previously revealed by the Mail, losing their jobs while Harry and Meghan pursue their independence – and commercial career – abroad.