Queen Elizabeth may struggle to meet Prince Harry and Meghan Markle when they visit the U.K. next month as the aging monarch has an exceptionally busy week at the beginning of September and, sources at Buckingham Palace said, “Some things cannot be moved.”
Sources at Buckingham Palace told The Daily Beast that while there was no intention to steer expectations one way or the other around Harry and Meghan getting or not getting an audience with the queen, it is a simple fact that the week commencing September 5 is jam-packed with constitutional duties for the queen.
Harry and Meghan are expected to be in the U.K. twice in September: for the One Young World 2022 Summit in Manchester on Sept. 5, and again on Sept. 8 at the WellChild Awards. In between these dates they will be at an Invictus Games event in Düsseldorf. They are expected to stay at their Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage, but this has not been confirmed.
The most public of the queen’s duties that week is to hold an audience with Britain’s new prime minister on September 6, and invite them to form a government. While this is not in itself a particularly lengthy meeting, the queen, who is known for her assiduous work ethic, will demand extensive briefing notes to prepare for her meeting with the new PM (likely to be right-winger Liz Truss) and would be unlikely to welcome trifling domestic distractions as she prepares to anoint the woman who might, conceivably, be her last prime minister. She is likely to want to spend a considerable amount of time after the formal activity reflecting on the meeting with advisers, and recording it in her private diaries.
And if the queen seems to have gone a little cooler on the prospect of a meet-up, who could blame her? The last time he met his grandmother, Harry told Hoda Kotb all about it in an NBC Today interview, saying that his grandmother had a habit of telling him secrets she wouldn’t tell any other member of the family and that he had been checking she had the “right people” around her as if he were her guardian.
Few people like having their private conversations discussed on telly, especially when it implies other family members are incompetent or uncaring, and especially when they are the queen. Once bitten, the queen might be twice shy.
So the fact that this is the week chosen by Harry and Meghan for their visit might perhaps give the palace a convenient mechanism to pass on a meeting.
There will be no such easy reasons to explain away any failure by Harry to meet his brother.
As a vivid example of just how bad the feud between William and Harry now is, consider this: Despite the fact that their houses will be less than half a mile apart, with William moving to Adelaide Cottage on the Windsor estate in the coming weeks and Harry and Meghan expected to stay at Frogmore Cottage, the brothers reportedly have “no plans” to see each other when Harry and Meghan come to the U.K. next month.
The Daily Telegraph made the astonishing “no plans to see the Cambridges” claim in a report published Monday evening by their royal correspondent, Victoria Ward. Oddly, the newspaper did not cite, even anonymously, its sources for the claim, instead saying, “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have no plans to see the Cambridges when they return to the U.K. next month, The Telegraph understands.”
While the wording seemed to suggest the claim had emanated from a briefing from the Sussex camp, the Sussexes vowed last year that their spokespeople would no longer provide off-the-record information to the media.
While their spokespeople would not be drawn into actively denying they made the “no plans” comment, The Daily Beast has no reason to believe that this policy of not providing anonymous quotes is not still in effect, suggesting that they did not make the remark. A source at Buckingham Palace said the “no plans” comment had not come from them either. Williams and Kate’s office did not return an email seeking comment.
While the provenance of the intelligence may be unclear, few will doubt its accuracy. The idea of William and Harry meeting up for a chinwag is laughable after the debacle of the Platinum Jubilee, where William and Kate made no effort to meet Harry and Meghan in person and conducted an official engagement in Cardiff on the day of Lilibet’s birthday.
It is now blindingly obvious that neither brother has the remotest interest in reconciliation.
As with most intractable disputes, it is not hard to see why a resolution remains so elusive: Both sides think they are right and that they are the ones who are owed an apology.
The Sussexes have spoken repeatedly and volubly about what they consider to be the unacceptable way they were treated by the royal family.
William, meanwhile, was incensed by Harry’s very public accusation to Oprah Winfrey that a member of the family asked racist questions about the likely color of his and Meghan’s then-unborn children.
“We are not a racist family,” William said at the time, in response to shouted questions from a reporter, which represent his only public remarks on the matter.
On top of the water that has already flowed under the bridge, William and the royals know there could well be more to come. Hanging over everything is the Sword of Damocles that is Harry’s memoir, which is due out sometime this fall. Publication details are being kept deliberately hazy—no title, jacket image, or even publication date having been announced—perhaps with the intention of minimizing leaks, or else to create more excitement when the book finally drops.
While Harry and Meghan have said that they are visiting the U.K. to support charities “close to their hearts” it is of course entirely possible that they might not be averse to generating further interest around the book by strategically raising their profile as the summer holiday season draws to a close.
Harry’s visit to the U.K. will come just a week after the 25th anniversary of his mother’s death, and it would be off if he did not refer to that fact in any interviews or public speeches.
On his last trip to Europe, he told Hoda Kotb that his mother’s presence was a “constant,” in his life and said of Prince William: “She’s got him set up, and now she’s helping me.”
Whatever happens next month, it is clear that the once-beloved brothers-in-arms are now engaged in the coldest of wars.
The fact that at Windsor they will be physically so near and yet emotionally so far apart is perhaps the ultimate illustration of how poisonous this feud has now become.
But if the great pragmatist and peacemaker of the Windsors, the queen herself, finds herself too busy for a cup of tea with her grandson next month, that will be taken by many as the clearest sign yet that Harry and Meghan have truly been ejected from the royal fold.