Europe

Queen ‘never’ understood Harry’s exit despite frequent calls

Prince Harry: Levin on royal attending coronation

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s return to the UK last month was only the third time the couple have visited since stepping down from their royal duties in 2020. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex left their home in California for a week-long trip to Europe to work with charities “close to their hearts”. However, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, the Sussexes extended their stay to mourn the loss of the monarch with the rest of the Royal Family. Harry rushed to Balmoral Castle, where Her Majesty passed, but did not arrive until after the news was broken to the world. In a tribute published on Archewell’s website a few days later, the Prince said his grandmother was a “guiding compass” in her commitment to service and duty, adding he was grateful for the “special moments” they shared.

After the Sussexes confirmed their decision to permanently step back from the Firm in 2020, Buckingham Palace released an official statement, reading: “​​While all are saddened by their decision, The Duke and Duchess remain much-loved members of the family.” 

According to royal author Katie Nicholl, whose book ‘The New Royals’ hit shelves the day after the Queen’s funeral, the late monarch stayed close to her grandson after he moved overseas. However, she claimed the Queen never understood the Prince’s decision to leave his royal life behind. 

Ms Nicholl guested on this week’s episode of Royally Us to discuss her new book, which explores the remarkable life and reign of Elizabeth II. She told hosts, Christina Garibaldi and Christine Ross, that the Queen “did stay close to Harry,” adding the pair “always had a close relationship and he would call quite frequently”. 

She continued: “The Queen took those calls and enjoyed the video calls where she got to see Archie and Lilibet. But I’m not sure she ever did understand his decision to leave. 

“We know from the statements she issued that she really did try to convince them to stay and I think it was a source of great disappointment and private hurt and upset that a way couldn’t be found for them to stay as working members of the Royal Family.”

The infamous ‘Sandringham summit’ saw the royals come together to attempt to resolve the so-called ‘abdication crisis’, following Harry and Meghan’s shock announcement that they wanted to stand down as working royals.  The Queen summoned then-Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry to Sandringham for the talks, with the Duchess of Sussex understood to be calling from Toronto. 

There, the royals determined the conditions of Harry and Meghan’s royal exit. While the Sussexes had initially hoped that they could both represent the Queen and pursue their own private interests, their proposal was denied and the couple relinquished their public duties altogether. 

Ms Nicholl said: “It was the Queen’s wish to try and persuade them to stay.” 

However, a couple of months later, Harry and Meghan carried out their final royal engagement — the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey in March 2020 — and left the UK to start their new lives across the pond. 

In the years that followed, there were several reports of tension between the Sussexes and the UK-based royals, with speculation of a rift persisting right up until the death of Elizabeth II. 

While it had been said that Harry and Meghan originally had no plans to visit the Royal Family during their European trip, everything changed following the Queen’s passing. 

Just two days later, the Duke and Duchess joined Prince William and his wife Princess Kate on a walkabout outside Windsor Castle. It marked the first time the former ‘Fab Four’ had carried out a joint outing since ‘Megxit’. 

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However, while some saw it as a flicker of hope, Ms Nicholl said: “Any suggestion that they had a meaningful reconciliation would be wide at the mark.” 

Harry and Meghan stayed in the UK for the national mourning period but returned to the US the day after the monarch’s state funeral. Having arrived in the UK on September 3, the couple had not seen their two young children for over two weeks. 

The Sussexes have no official plans to return to the Prince’s home country, but many commentators suspect that the couple will be back in the near future. 

Harry and Meghan renewed their lease on their former royal residence, Frogmore Cottage, earlier this year and with King Charles III’s coronation set for May 6 — Archie’s birthday — there are strong suggestions that the family of four will return to celebrate with the Royal Family. 

Ms Nicholll said: “There is still that issue of the familial rift, that rupture at the heart of the House of Windsor. And of course, a lot of people are wondering if Harry and Megan and their family will come over for the coronation and whether that will finally signal some thawing of the rift that people had hoped might have taken place over the Queen’s funeral.”

She told Entertainment Tonight this week that Camilla is “very keen” for the Sussexes to attend, but “it’s going to be a decision for Harry and Megan to make.

“In my book, I do talk about how behind the scenes, Camilla has done really everything she can to try and bring this family back together, and press the importance of trying to move on from this rift, and I think she would be very pleased, as would the King for Harry and Meghan to be at the coronation.

“We haven’t got any official details on the guest list, but I’m hearing they are likely to be invited along with other senior and extended family members. Whether or not we see them there — we have to wait and see, but it’s my understanding they will be, of course, receiving an invitation to the coronation.”

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