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Rishi Sunak could block Harry from Coronation against Charles’ wishes

King Charles III coronation details revealed by Palace

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King Charles III will be crowned at Westminster Abbey on May 6, eight months after his accession to the throne. Details for the upcoming celebrations were revealed over the weekend, with Queen Camilla tipped to play a central role in the event, which will see her crowned alongside her husband. Buckingham Palace has so far remained tight-lipped over who will be included in the guest list for the historic event, but it is believed that a number of charity representatives, foreign royals, Government officials and faith leaders are likely to be part of the congregation. It is currently thought that Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle are unlikely to attend the ceremony, and according to some experts and insiders, the decision may not be left to the monarch.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s strained relationship with the Royal Family has been in the spotlight since the release of their explosive Netflix documentary series in December and the publication of Harry’s tell-all memoir earlier this month.

Historian Dr George Gross, Visiting Research Fellow in Theology at King’s College London, said it’s very difficult to know at the moment whether the couple, who live overseas in Montecito, California, will be in attendance.

Speaking previously to Express.co.uk, he explained: “I think it’s a real unknown, if you have them there does it make that a story? If you don’t have them there, does that also make it a story? I think what the Palace will want to do above else, whoever the guests are, is to keep the focus on the monarch.”

The historian noted parallels between Harry and Edward VIII, later the Duke of Windsor, who did not attend the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953, but explained that it was then-Prime Minster Winston Churchill who banned the former king from the event.

“The historian’s parallel is that of Edward VIII who, of course, did not attend the Coronation and that was a state’s decision, or rather it seems that it was Churchill’s decision,” he said. “That’s because this is also a state function, so in some ways it’s also up to the Prime Minister to decide and provide his advice.”

Charles has reportedly been encouraged to use the so-called “Churchill precedent”, allowing him to take the “impossible” decision of Harry’s attendance out of his hands and into Rishi Sunak’s.

Following the furore over the Duke of Sussex’s memoir Spare, the King would face the difficult choice of either banning his son or enduring a media circus over Harry and his wife’s attendance.

“The Coronation is a state event and funded by the state,” a source told The Mail on Sunday. “So, in the same way that Winston Churchill advised the Duke of Windsor to stay away, the decision of whether to invite Harry, who has no official Royal role and no state function at the ceremony, will be down to the government rather than just his father.”

However, Whitehall insiders said: “Traditionally, the Royal Household provides us with the number of royal guests, without giving their identity, and we construct the arrangements on that basis.”

Mr Gross told Express.co.uk: “In general, you’d anticipate most of the core members of the Royal Family being invited. And while he [Harry] still remains a designated stand-in it would seem unusual for him not to be there.”

He also recognised the difference in status between the two royals, as well as the fact the Duke of Sussex is the King’s second son and stressed that the parallel between Harry and Edward isn’t perfectly fitting, saying: “The possible parallel is Edward VIII, but that’s actually elevating Harry’s status as he hasn’t been a King.”

After an 11-month reign, Edward abdicated the throne, choosing love over duty when he gave up his royal destiny to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

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His abdication, in December 1936, meant that his younger brother acceded the throne as King George VI, and in turn, made the heir apparent his niece then-Princess Elizabeth, who later ruled as the longest-reigning Britsh monarch in history, Queen Elizabeth II.

Following his and Wallis’ wedding, Edward was given the title of Duke of Windsor and lived the majority of his life in exile in France. He and the Duchess of Windsor rarely returned to the UK and kept a distance from the Royal Family.  

Some 17 years after the abdication, Elizabeth had acceded the throne and Prime Minister Winston Churchill resolved the difficult dilemma over the possible attendance of the exiled king at the new monarch’s coronation.

According to documents at the National Archives, the Duke of Windsor was told to inform the press an ex-sovereign would not be permitted to attend the coronation of a new one.

Sir Norman Brook, then-Cabinet Secretary, wrote in his official minutes that Prime Minister Churchill had “advised him not to come to coronation”.

“He will say to press that it would not be consistent with usage for Coronation to be attended by any or former ruler,” he scribed.

As Mr Gross noted, Buckingham Palace will likely strive to keep the focus on King Charles and his Coronation.

When asked by ITV’s Tom Bradby whether he will be in attendance, Harry made it clear that he felt as if it was up to his family to decide. “There’s a lot that can happen between now and then. But, you know, the door is always open. The ball is in their court,” he said. “There’s a lot to be discussed and I really hope that they can – that they are willing to sit down and talk about it, because there’s a lot that’s happened in six years. And prior to that as well.”

Speaking of the event, a Palace source said: “His Majesty understands people are going through some very tough times and wants to do what he can to lift the nation. He knows people are struggling and wants them to get involved and to celebrate in their own way.”

The three-day celebration will kick off on May 6, with the crowning of King Charles and Camilla. On May 7, the concert will take place at Windsor Castle. And on May 8, a bank holiday, a day of volunteering will be held in tribute to the King’s public service.

A senior royal source said: “Our intention is to give as many people as possible the opportunity to take part in the celebrations.”

Dr Gross is leading with Dr David Crankshaw, Lecturer in the History of Early Modern Christianity at King’s, research on the “British Coronations Project c.973–present”, a comprehensive analysis of what these events reveal about our past, our present and about ourselves.

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