When Lilibet meets little Lilibet…the image that could still heal the royal breakup, writes RICHARD KAY

It is not the first time in the QueenDuring his long reign, all eyes will be on the balcony of Buckingham Palace at lunchtime today, when the Trooping the Color ceremony gives way to the deafening roar of a Royal Air Force air parade.

Over the years, this tableau has offered a captivating glimpse of who’s in and who’s out, as once-familiar figures have been relegated to the fringes of real life.

This time, however, the show will be matched by another event, with much more riding on the outcome.

Because it will give us the fascinating vision of prince harry and Meghan meeting publicly with other members of the Royal family for the first time since his frigid departure from Britain more than two years ago.

It should also offer a view of his children: Archie, three, and his daughter Lilibet, one on Saturday, who will meet her great-grandmother for the first time. Although her grandson and her children are excluded from the pomp of the Palace gathering, the Queen has insisted that they receive the same courtesies that are extended to wider members of the Royal Family.

They will join the Duchess of Cambridge and her three children, who are first cousins ​​to Archie and Lilibet, with a view from the Horse Guards Parade grandstand, where Trooping takes place.

Harry and Meghan, along with their mother Doria Ragland, introduce Archie to the Queen and Prince Philip in May 2019.

Harry and Meghan, along with their mother Doria Ragland, introduce Archie to the Queen and Prince Philip in May 2019.

The first image of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's daughter (above) published in a Christmas card last year

The first image of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s daughter (above) published in a Christmas card last year

The significance of this olive branch invitation cannot be overstated. Because it offers a real opportunity not only to bridge the gap between the Sussexes and the royals, but also to repair the House of Windsor brand, which, in America at least, has been badly tarnished by the falling out between Harry and Meghan.

What’s more, it could ensure that the couple, who can’t be sure of the reaction they’ll get from the public during the four-day Platinum Jubilee celebration, will be greeted with warmth rather than stony indifference.

Goodwill is far from guaranteed. The couple’s latest approval ratings may not have escaped their notice: according to YouGov survey data, the Duke is viewed positively by just one in three Britons, while more than half view him negatively, giving her a net approval rating of minus 26. Meghan fared even worse, with her approval rating dropping from minus 39 in March to minus 42.

So if there’s going to be a close-up, it’s going to take more than just a photo opportunity, however cleverly arranged. With their accusations of racism, claims of cold indifference from both family members and staff, and memories of the Oprah Winfrey interview still strong, trust in the Duke and Duchess remains low.

But the Queen is determined that the Jubilee will be a time to put aside differences and bring both the country and her family together, hence her offer of front-row seats to Harry and Meghan.

Harry and Meghan photographed during their controversial interview with Oprah Winfrey last year

Harry and Meghan photographed during their controversial interview with Oprah Winfrey last year

Harry and Meghan pictured together at a volleyball event during the Invictus Games at Zuiderpark in April.

Harry and Meghan pictured together at a volleyball event during the Invictus Games at Zuiderpark in April.

The Sussexes are expected to stay at Frogmore Cottage, where they will throw a small party for Lilibet that the Queen may attend.

The Sussexes are expected to stay at Frogmore Cottage, where they will throw a small party for Lilibet that the Queen may attend.

The role of Baby Lilibet can be crucial. When the couple announced that they would be naming their daughter Lilibet, the Queen’s family nickname, it was considered a presumptuous choice for a baby who, though eighth in line to the throne, would grow up on the other side of the world. , speaking with an American accent.

Courtiers saw it as a flippant and somewhat cynical exercise in securing the Sussexes’ long-term future as members of the Royal Family. Some wondered if they had even asked the Queen for permission.

But time is a great healer and I know the Queen, 96, is looking forward to meeting her eleventh great-grandchild. Although such a meeting could be today, it may be delayed until Lilibet’s birthday on Saturday.

If so, this would almost certainly take place in the Queen’s private apartments at Windsor Castle. But the timing will depend on whether there is a belated change of plans and whether the Queen goes to the Derby after all, despite reports that she is not expected to attend.

And if it happens, imagine if an image were published. A photograph of Lilibet meeting Lilibet would be a more eloquent symbol of family unity and forgiveness than any anonymous report.

It could also be a powerful metaphor for things to come. Even Prince Philip’s decision to put aside her animosity towards the Duchess of York and pose alongside her for photographs at Princess Eugenie’s wedding was seen as a sign of compassion for the wayward Fergie.

It surely can’t be a coincidence that, to mark great-grandson Archie’s third birthday last month, the Palace reissued that memorable image of Harry and Meghan presenting their newborn son to the Queen and Philip at Windsor Castle, with the Duchess’s mother, Doria. observing.

It’s one of the Queen’s favorite images from a time when the bitterness of Harry and Meghan’s departure to California was long gone and the image of the Royal Family seemed inclusive and diverse. How times have changed.

Harry and Meghan landed at a London airport this afternoon, with a small team of employees, reported Page Six.

Harry and Meghan landed at a London airport this afternoon, with a small team of employees, reported Page Six.

With their television interviews, the couple have painted the royals as distant, indifferent and disconnected. Regardless, other members of the family, including Prince Charles, are supportive of the Queen’s magnanimous gesture towards the Sussexes, although there are nerves among figures in the Royal House.

These concerns center around what is happening to Harry’s “intimate and candid” memories. It was originally said to appear this fall, but there’s no sign of it in any pre-publication book lists. The assistants don’t know if the manuscript has been sent to the publishers or if his prince and his ghostwriter are still working on it.

Influential commentator and author Tina Brown suggested that the Palace take steps to persuade the prince to abandon the book. “Somebody has to go to Harry and try to say, ‘We’ll give you a check for whatever fee you negotiated for the book, and in return we’ll ask you not to do it.'” ‘

In view of the fact that Harry reportedly got a £16m advance on the book, that might be beyond even royal pockets. But at the very least, they might encourage you to soften your content.

Aides are also looking into reports that Harry and Meghan may be tempted to return to the royal fold if their media careers turn out to be less durable than they hoped. Its deals with pressured streaming giant Netflix no longer look so promising, while the deal with Spotify has yet to materialize.

For now, there is no doubt that the couple is on parole during their four-day stay.

What no one knows is how, regardless of the generosity shown by the Queen, Harry and Meghan will react to their greatly reduced roles in this Jubilee story. Ten years ago at the Diamond Jubilee and 20 years ago at the Golden Jubilee, Harry was a central figure in the celebrations and in every balcony money-throw.

Today, how far he has traveled to the edge of real life will be uncomfortably clear to him. But it’s possible that the daughter he named after his beloved grandmother, and his son, may still hold a path back to what he was.

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