Meghan Markle flashed a radiant smile, curtsied respectfully to the queen and Prince Charles and generally dazzled in an emerald-green dress and matching hat during her final appearance Monday as a senior member of the royal family.
But it may have been the kind of show-must-go-on performance that the American former actress would be well-trained for. Meanwhile, Prince Harry’s oft-glum expression, as he sat beside his wife during the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey, may have better relayed the reported behind-the-scenes tensions that marred their final official appearance with Prince William, Kate Middleton and the rest of the royal family.
The service was supposed to be a way for Harry and Meghan to bid farewell to royal duties, and even for them and William and Kate to show that they had healed the reported rift between them. Royals fans were perhaps hoping to enjoy a scene of the once-promised “Fab Four,” the glamorous younger generation of royals built around the formerly close William and his younger brother Harry.
But Instead there was drama that left Harry and Meghan feeling “upset,” according to the Daily Mail columnist Rebecca English. Not surprisingly, it had to do with protocol, specifically how royal family members were to enter the church before the queen. Adding to the drama was a last-minute attempt by William and Kate to try and defuse the situation, English explained.
English said Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, were unhappy to learn that they were excluded from the queen’s VIP processional down the aisle. The program for the service said the processional would only consist of the queen, Prince Charles, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and William and Kate.
Last year, Harry and Meghan, pregnant with her son Archie, were part of this VIP group, English said.
But two months after their stunning announcement to step away from royal life, the couple were relegated to the second tier, which included the likes of Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, the Countess of Wessex. Like Edward and Sophie, Harry and Meghan had to make their own way to the front of the abbey to take their seats before the processional started.
So tensions broke out, according to English. Afraid that the drama would somehow seep into public view, William, 38, and Kate, 38, stepped in by offering to join “emotional” Harry and Meghan. They, too, would take their seats in the abbey ahead of the queen’s processional, English said.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s decision to forgo the processional was so last minute that there was no time to reprint the 2,000 programs, which clearly said that they would enter with the other senior royals, English reported.
William and Kate’s gesture also didn’t reduce tensions between them and Harry and Meghan, as observers noted. Meghan made an attempt to look delighted to be there, flashing a big smile, mouthing “hi” and giving William and Kate a small wave. William appeared to reply with a quick “hello.”
But Harry seemed pensive. He said “hello” and smiled to William, but his brother either seemed to ignore him or to smile awkwardly. The only time Harry didn’t seem stiff before and during the service was when he and Meghan briefly chatted animatedly with his uncle Edward, who was seated in the same row.
“It wasn’t the warm reunion that we were all hoping for,” Judi James, a body language expert, said in another Daily Mail report. Harry’s “tension was palpable,” as William seemingly failed to greet him, she said.
A royal source told Vanity Fair that Kate seemed “uncharacteristically glum” and didn’t give Meghan the warm smile and embrace she gave her at the service the year before. The source also wondered if Kate, seen as the “peacemaker” behind the scenes, misses when she, William and Harry were “a happy trio.”
“She thinks what has happened is all very sad,” the source said.
Meghan scored points online by apparently being the only one to curtsy to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles when they made their way down the aisle.
Camilla also seemed eager to ease matters by turning to smile warmly and greet Harry and Meghan, who were seated behind her, the Daily Mail said.
The decision for Harry and Meghan to be excluded from the processional was made by the queen’s private secretary, English reported. That decision left them “particularly hurt” because it was their last engagement as royals.
During several events over the past week, Meghan wore show-stopping fashions, and she and Harry poured on the glamour and the PDA, giving the U.K. and the royal family a sense of the star power and sexiness they will be losing at the end of the month.
Harry and Meghan also felt they should still enjoy senior-royal status because they don’t formally step down until March 31, English added. Harry also remains the Commonwealth Youth Ambassador until that date. .
But one royal source told English that the Sussexes “were quite sensitive and emotional about” not being in the processional.
Another insider told English, “Although they are adamant about wanting to step down, they seem quite preoccupied with what status they will retain and the fact that Harry remains sixth in line to the throne, as they made a point of saying on their new website the other day.”
The couple clasped hands as they departed the abbey behind William and Kate. James told the Daily Mail that Harry seemed to relax after William and Kate waved good-bye to people outside and left in their car. The duke also became animated and joked around a bit with other guests and people outside.
“Harry suddenly looked like a man reluctant to leave a party,” James told the Daily Mail. But he again took Meghan’s hand as they climbed into their waiting car, to be sped away to their new non-royal life in Canada.
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