The final images of Meghan and Harry together on British soil before leaving the UK to start a new life in Los Angeles painted two very contrasting pictures.
One, of the Sussexes standing tense in Westminster Cathedral behind Kate and William, formerly collectively known as the Fab Four, was a portrait of family dysfunction. The other, beaming arm in arm under an umbrella in the pouring rain outside the Mansion House, a vision of freedom. And, at least for his followers, a reminder of what the royal family was missing.
This week, more than two years later, all eyes will be on Harry, 37, and Meghan, 40, on their first official visit to the UK together since their departure.
In the intervening years there was that Oprah interview, the establishment of her Archewell organization, multiple legal battles with the British press, the death of Prince Philip, the birth of her second child, Lilibet, an upcoming autobiography, and deals with Netflix and Spotify. More recently, Harry received backlash when he told US television at the Invictus Games that he had made sure the 96-year-old Queen was “protected”.
The stakes are high, but so are the potential dangers. Will family tensions have healed or will divisions still be evident? And how will they be received by the British public and the British media?
The exact time of their landing is not publicly known, but the first event the Sussexes are expected to attend is the Color Parade on Thursday morning. After “careful consideration” by the Queen, they will not be present for the “balcony moment”, which will be the working royalty reserve.
The first proper opportunity to observe their dealings with the Cambridges (causing a frenzy among lip readers and body language experts) probably won’t come until Friday, when the Sussexes are expected to attend the Queen’s service of thanksgiving. in St. Paul’s Cathedral. .
But for the family, the highlight of the trip will likely take place behind closed doors as Lilibet, who turns one on Saturday, meets the Queen, her namesake and great-grandmother, for the first time. It will also be an opportunity for her grandfather, Prince Charles, to spend time with her and her brother Archie, who is now three years old.
They are planning to keep it simple during the trip, reports ITV royal editor Chris Ship, traveling with a limited number of security personnel and their appearances will be strictly limited.
With no official engagements until Saturday night, with the Derby at Epsom Downs and the Platinum Party at Buckingham Palace, an outdoor concert headlined by Diana Ross, there has been speculation there could be a little birthday gathering for Lilibet at Frogmore. . Cabin, where it is understood that the family is staying.
The Sussexes reportedly recently renewed the lease on their former home on the Windsor Castle estate, which in their absence has been occupied by Princess Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank, who are said to be moving to Portugal. .
While they have been enthusiastically received in the US as A-list celebrity philanthropists, the couple, Meghan in particular, remain unpopular with much of the UK media and have already been accused of trying to steal the leading role of the Queen.
Writing in The Sun this week, photographer Arthur Edwards took it upon himself to remind the couple that the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations are “not about the two of you” and claimed their Oprah interview had “polarized the nation”. .
But Omid Scobie, royal commentator and co-author of Finding Freedom, responded to such comments, tweeting on Tuesday: “Frankly it’s an insult to the Queen to suggest she can be so easily outshone. HM has successfully stayed front and center for SEVENTY YEARS, I think she’ll be just fine.”
Royal photographer Samir Hussein, who took the Mansion House rain photo, predicts they will have a mixed response. “There will inevitably be some negative reports and negative comments towards them as some are unhappy with the way they have behaved since announcing they are stepping down as members of the royal family,” he said. “However, for the most part, I think people will be happy to be back at such a historic and important celebration for the Queen.”
There will also be happiness for the Queen because she will be able to meet her great-granddaughter for the first time, he said. “There will be a real hope that this will help bring both sides closer together after everything that has been said in the last two years.”
Jeetendr Sehdev, the Los Angeles-based celebrity branding expert and author, said the trip is an opportunity to redefine how they are viewed in the UK and predicts they could rejoin the royal family, but this time “on their own terms.” terms”. “They have firmly established themselves as one of the world’s most fearless, resilient and unapologetic brands. And he will continue to be an inspiration to many.”
Buckingham Palace said it “would not comment on private arrangements” and a spokesman for the Sussexes declined to comment.