Patricia Treble: Will all eyes be on the King?
As we await Coronation festivities to begin, royal watchers are keeping keen eyes on not only Charles III, but his wayward progeny
By: Patricia Treble
In the countdown to the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla, all eyes are on … California. While shops and streets in Britain are plastered with bunting and coronation symbols, in North America, attention is more focused on the angst within the King’s family, especially their strained relations with the Duke and Duchess of Montecito (officially it’s Sussex, but the name of the American exclusive enclave of the uber wealthy is feeling increasingly apt, especially as the couple only visited Sussex once, during a six-hour trip in October 2018).
Usually royals plan their work schedules so as to not overshadow whatever Windsor is in the spotlight. But Harry and Meghan are now free to ignore those rules. The timing of recent events may be complete coincidences, but it’s hard not to get the sneaking feeling that there’s a tit-for-tat rivalry underway. The result: The Sussexes are everywhere, especially in North America, while the negative headlines keep coming for the Windsors.
After news broke that the King wasn’t renewing their lease of Frogmore Cottage, which has been largely empty since they left in 2020, photographers outside an exclusive club in Hollywood, a two-hour drive from their home, captured the couple smiling as they entered the main entrance. Then, on the day his father and stepmother were supposed to start their first state visit, Prince Harry grabbed the front pages by taking a cab to the preliminary hearing of his phone hacking case against the Mirror tabloid in London. He strode through crowds of onlookers and media, seemingly ignoring the security concerns that have spawned ever more legal actions. A week ago, after William got up before dawn to mark ANZAC Day, his brother again dominated the news as he bashed his family, now ID’d as “the institution,” in a filing for yet another court case. He accused them of reaching a “secret agreement” with the Murdoch news group, and also revealed that William settled his own hacking case for a “very large sum.”
Meanwhile, after a brief absence from the public eye while Harry was bashing his family early in 2023, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is once again everywhere. In late April, she popped up to introduce her friend Misan Harriman in an online TED talk. What she said was forgotten when people saw her new look: sleek long hair falling straight on either side of a glowing face banished of any wrinkles or lines. It was very Hollywood, very Kim Kardashian.
At a Lakers game the next day, Meghan chose a bright pink outfit by Staud that popped in the dimly lit private box area. It was perfect for photographers. Soon after, the Hollywood bible, Variety, revealed that she’d signed with talent agency WME along with the Sussexes’ commercial arm of their Archewell empire. “Film and television production, brand partnerships, and overall business-building will be explored,” Variety explained. Her team includes Ari Emanuel, who last year married Sarah Staudinger, whose Staud collection included that very same pink outfit.
If that weren’t enough, there were months of speculation as to whether or not they’d attend the coronation, including journalists having to dissect a 37-word statement confirming that Harry (and only Harry) had “received email correspondence from His Majesty’s office regarding the coronation,” which didn’t actually say that they’d been invited. In the end, he’s going but Meghan is staying home with their children. She, after all, has to manage little Archie’s birthday. Her son turns 4 years old, and of course, we’ve been subject to no end of headlines about the import of the star-studded party to come.
The Sussex onslaught wasn’t matched by the royals. Of all the working royals, only William and Kate have a hope of matching the Sussexes’ celeb quotient. They’re also the only working royals under the age of 50. Alas, while the Montecito duo were everywhere, the Wales clan were noticeably out of public view — spending all 28 days of their children’s Easter holidays in private.
So, as the countdown to the coronation switches from days to hours, just how much of the coverage will be on Harry, and how much will focus on the rest of his family, including his father on the most important day of the King’s life?
Based on everything reported, known and surmised, and analyzing arrangements from previous coronations (there were four between 1902 and 1953), it’s possible to make some Coronation Kremlinology predictions.
Who’s sitting where?
Expect to see a lot of the Prince of Wales (William, for those still not familiar with all the recent title changes). In addition to pledging to be his sovereign’s “liege man of life and limb,” the Prince of Wales is going to help dress his dad at one part of the coronation, which involves a surprising number of clothing changes, including two sets of state robes confusingly called the Robe of State and Robe of Estate.
The front row of royals belongs to Kate and the kids, who have no doubt been repeatedly warned that this is a serious event and they are not to act up (we’re looking at you, Prince Louis) lest they be banished into the care of their nanny. I’m assuming that Prince George will stay with the other Pages of Honour near his grandfather as the monarch will need help moving those robes around.
Hey, where’s Harry sitting?
It’s hard to see how the deep freeze between Harry and his big brother William won’t affect his seat assignment. That’s what happened during the Platinum Jubilee when he and Meghan were relegated to an inside position next to the York sisters, Beatrice and Eugenie, and well away from William and Kate. Look for him to again be relegated to the “extended royal family” section of Westminster Abbey. As well, royal officials will no doubt be combing camera angles during rehearsals to reassure themselves that Harry and William won’t appear in the same close-up frame.
What would a royal talk about with Harry?
“It felt a bit cold this morning, didn’t it?” is probably the extent of any conversation between Harry and a senior royal given how he bashed his family in his memoir and the six-hour Netflix series, including accusing his “evil” stepmother of leaving “bodies in the street” in her rapacious climb to the top of society.
Equally importantly, they’re unlikely to talk about anything personal or important knowing that previous intimate chats appeared in his commercial ventures. The Sussexes have previously revealed text exchanges between Meghan and Kate, as well as a word-for-word recounting of an intimate conversation between brother and father after Prince Philip’s funeral. The working royals would not be happy if such conversations reappeared in his many lawsuits against the media and U.K. government. Yup, weather is an excellent subject.
Meanwhile, what’s up with Princess Anne’s outfit?
For the coronation, she’s wearing a military uniform after being asked to be Gold-Stick-in-Waiting. “I said yes, not least of all it solves my dress problem,” she told CBC.
She’s colonel of the Blues and Royals, a regiment of the Household Cavalry. That role comes with the title of “Gold Stick.” Historically, such officers were responsible for the monarch’s personal protection on ceremonial and state occasions, but in practice, it means that Anne gets to hold a gold-topped staff (a Gold Stick) as she rides near her brother’s coach. (Fun fact: there’s a Silver Stick as well)
Who could steal the show?
For those who have hidden the Montecito pair via filter, the coronation may yet suffer a few surprises. Though the three Wales kids (George, Charlotte and Louis) are going to be adorable, especially George in his page boy’s outfit, my money is on lesser known relations, especially Zara and Mike Tindall.
They’re fun — Mike posted images of him wearing his wife’s hats during the Platinum Jubilee — and have proved their loyalty and trustworthiness by carefully walking the line between being part of the Windsor clan while also making money.
Last year, Mike, a former rugby star, took part in “I’m a Celebrity” and revealed no royal secrets, though he did tell of how he split his pants at his 30th birthday party in front of his mother-in-law, Princess Anne.
Back to Harry – what exactly is his role?
To be blunt, he’s a member of the congregation. With little chance of taking part of the official procession or balcony appearances, Harry has reportedly decided that the party for Archie’s fourth birthday (also May 6) is of such massive importance that he’s planning a “coro and dash” trip to London in order to be back in Montecito to help his son blow out the candles.
Left unanswered is why a fourth birthday is so different from that of the third, which Harry spent playing polo with his buddies. (Also, do the rules of California hoi polloi demand that parties be held only on one’s birthday?)
He’s cutting it close. The coronation is expected to end at around 1 pm, yet reports say that Harry hopes to be in the air by 2 pm or 3 pm, a very tight window considering how long it takes to get to Heathrow even when most of the city isn’t shut due to a major event such as a coronation. If that turns out to be his schedule, one wonders if he’ll have time to join his family for the official photographs at Buckingham Palace.
Well, at least there’s Photoshop.
Patricia Treble has been writing about the royals and the Crown for more than two decades, including her Write Royalty newsletter on Substack.
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