Royalist is The Daily Beast’s newsletter for all things royal and Royal Family. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox every Sunday.
The brevity of Prince Harry’s forthcoming trip to the U.K. to attend his father’s coronation is a “massive diss” to his family, a close friend of Prince William’s has told The Daily Beast.
And with rumors now circulating that Harry could fly in and out of the country in such short order that he spends less than 24 hours in the land of his birth, opinion is divided as to whether the effect of his appearance will be to bolster a sense of unity or reinforce the narrative of division that has beset the royals in recent years.
“If he comes for less than 24 hours, it’s a massive diss really,” said the longtime close friend of William’s. “You know, ‘Tell us how you really feel, Harry.’”
The friend said that relations between the two brothers were “so bad they are nonexistent” but that William would likely be happy for his father that Harry was attending the coronation.
“William’s official position is that he supports his father because he is the king and it’s his coronation,” the friend said.
Harry brought months of speculation about whether or not he would attend the coronation to an end earlier this month when it was announced that he would attend the ceremony but Meghan and his children would not.
While Charles is said to be relieved by the issue finally being settled, there seems to be an increasingly clear divide between William’s ongoing hostility to his brother and Charles’ apparent willingness to continue to try to build bridges.
“Of course Charles is delighted Harry will be there. He has always made it very clear he loves both his sons and wanted Harry to be there. He completely understands it is going to be a quick trip.”
— Friend of King Charles
A friend of the king, for example, gave The Daily Beast a very different perspective on Harry’s non-attendance to that given by William’s friend, saying: “Of course Charles is delighted Harry will be there. He has always made it very clear he loves both his sons and wanted Harry to be there. He completely understands it is going to be a quick trip.”
The friend said they had no knowledge of the accuracy of reports that Charles and Harry had spoken by phone in recent days, but said that it seemed a reasonable supposition.
Last month, Harry visited London to attend the opening days of a court case being brought against the publishers of the Daily Mail, but Charles’ camp briefed the king was too “busy” to meet with Harry, despite the fact that he had been at home after a two day-trip to France was canceled at the last minute, presumably leaving a hole in his diary.
Asked if this apparent snub by his father, which would suggest there would be no chance of a meeting over the coronation period, was a relevant factor in Harry’s decision to make a lightning visit, the source said, “No-one would be expecting the king to be having private meetings with anyone over that weekend.”
(Neither Buckingham Palace nor Harry’s spokesperson responded to requests for comment in connection with the issue of how long he might be staying in the U.K. as part of his coronation visit.)
In his unwillingness to chastise Harry, however, Charles appears to be increasingly isolated from other members of his family. Although William has kept his criticism of Harry private, Camilla burst into the open last weekend, appearing to authorize a friend to give The Sunday Times careful, measured and on-the-record condemnation of Harry’s depiction of her in his book Spare, in which he described her as “dangerous,” subsequently telling Anderson Cooper: “With her, on the way to being queen consort, there was going to be people or bodies left in the street because of that…”
“Of course it bothers her, of course it hurts. But she doesn’t let it get to her. Her philosophy is always, ‘Don’t make a thing of it and it will settle down—least said, soonest mended.’”
— Marchioness of Lansdowne
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Camilla’s close friend the Marchioness of Lansdowne—an interior designer known professionally as Fiona Shelburne—said of Harry’s comments, “Of course it bothers her, of course it hurts. But she doesn’t let it get to her. Her philosophy is always, ‘Don’t make a thing of it and it will settle down—least said, soonest mended.’”
Another source, described as an aide, told The Sunday Times that Camilla had “an eye-roll response,” to Harry’s memoir and the sometimes inflammatory interviews he gave to promote it.
All attention will now turn to exactly how long Harry will spend in the country. In a tweet when Harry’s attendance was first announced, the journalist Omid Scobie, who is known to have excellent contacts within the Sussex organization and has on occasion acted as a de facto spokesperson for the couple, said, “Expect it to be a fairly quick trip to the UK for Prince Harry, who will only be attending the coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey.”
How quick is “fairly quick?” It is entirely feasible that Harry could fly in the day before the coronation, landing on the evening of Friday May 5 and head home less than 24 hours later, given that the ceremony itself begins at 11 a.m. and is only expected to last just over an hour.
Harry has no further role in the ceremony. He has not been invited to join the royal party for the procession back to Buckingham Palace and he is definitely not expected to make an appearance on the Palace balcony.
He might decide to just get back home. The 1620 flight from Heathrow lands in LAX at just before 8 p.m. local time; the time difference means a private jet to Santa Barbara could certainly have him back in Montecito in time to blow out the candles at Archie’s fourth birthday party, which Meghan’s friends have given as one of her reasons for not attending.
No doubt many will see Harry’s actions as an admirable demonstration of his devotion to family duty if he does choose this course of action.
Harry and Meghan might like that.
In some quarters of Buckingham Palace, of course, running out of your dad’s big day to attend a child’s birthday party might be perceived not so much as a noble devotion to paternal obligations as an almighty “Fuck you!”
One increasingly gets the impression that Harry would be just fine with that interpretation too.