Published: 13 April 2023
In a decision that delighted his father, King Charles III, according to royal sources, who was keen to have the support of his two sons at his coronation, the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, decided that he would attend the coronation ceremony alone amid growing hopes of reconciliation with his father while Meghan would stay in California with the couple's children.
Edited by |Juls McMahon
Europe section - CJ journalist
London - April,13,2023
However, Prince Harry’s trip will be a flying visit and he will not attend any other royal events over the weekend.
The Duchess of Sussex will remain in California with the couple’s two children, Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet, continuing a prolonged absence from public events. Meghan has not been seen at any events this year and was notably absent from Harry’s promotional tour for his memoir.
It is understood that the duke has spent several weeks agonising over whether to travel to London for his father’s crowning because of the deep rift that has divided the family.
Despite a turbulent few months, he is acutely aware that the historic occasion will be immensely important for the King.
While the Duchess has spoken in glowing terms about her father-in-law, who walked her down the aisle on her wedding day, she is not bound by the same ties to the Royal family or the UK.
Friends have said she sees her life and her future base in the US and that public events in Britain have waned in importance. understands that chief among the factors that influenced her decision to stay behind was the desire to celebrate Prince Archie’s fourth birthday, which falls on the same day as the Coronation.
Although he had been holding out for peace talks with his family, the Duke had decided to attend the Coronation regardless. “It is about showing up, showing support and being there for his father,” one source said. “It was a very personal decision, not a PR one.”
However, it is understood to have taken Buckingham Palace aides by surprise, many of whom had assumed that neither the Duke nor the Duchess would attend.
This in turn prompted positive conversations that both sides hope will pave the way, in the longer term, for reconciliation between father and son. One friend said: “Things are certainly moving in the right direction. Hopefully, the worst is over.”
The Duke does not expect to have any personal conversations with his father on the day of the Coronation, aware that it is not the time or the place.
He is also not expecting to have any meaningful conversations with the Prince and Princess of Wales during his short visit. Such is the gulf between the two brothers that multiple sources have said they cannot see how the relationship will ever be repaired.
The Duke and Duchess were also understood to have been aware that Meghan’s presence at the Coronation could have proved controversial and was keen to avoid attracting negative attention.
They have also often spoken about the importance of family and consider their individual decisions consistent with that message. Their decisions were based on “authenticity, respect and love,” one friend said.
The Duke is expected to fly in for the service at Westminster Abbey and will not attend the Coronation Concert or any other linked events. As a non-working member of the Royal family, he would not be invited to appear on the Buckingham Palace balcony.
The Sussexes’ two children were not formally invited to the Coronation as Palace aides waited to hear whether they would make the trip before factoring them into any plans.
Prince George will be a Page of Honour at the ceremony, and Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis are expected to take part in the procession, meaning the monarch will only be flanked by his grandchildren from one side of the family.
Buckingham Palace announced that the Duke would be attending at 3 pm on Wednesday. That was followed shortly afterwards by confirmation from a spokesman for the Sussexes, suggesting a degree of cooperation.
The Duke’s presence at Westminster Abbey means he will join his closest family members for the first time since his grandmother’s funeral last September.
Since he and the Duchess decided to step down as working members of the Royal family in 2020, she has only travelled to the UK three times, while he has returned alone on multiple occasions.
The Duchess quietly stayed over in April last year to visit the Queen in Windsor Castle before going to the Invictus Games in the Netherlands and returned for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June.
The couple also visited in September for a short trip to attend a few charity events, staying on for the Queen’s funeral after her death at Balmoral.
Prince Harry flew to the UK alone for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral and for the unveiling of a statue of his late mother at Kensington Palace on what would have been her 60th birthday.
Most recently, he made a surprise visit to London last month to throw his weight behind a legal claim against the publisher of the Daily Mail, during which the King was said to have been “too busy” to see him.
The Duke is expected to be seated alongside his wider family in the Abbey but is thought unlikely to wear the military uniform. This decision will follow a last-minute U-turn that meant he was able to wear a military uniform to his grandmother’s funeral as a “final mark of respect” despite being a non-working Royal.
It is understood he has no expectations or demands for what attire he will wear at the ceremony.
He is expected to receive police protection during his brief visit to the UK because he is returning for an official royal event and will be included in the wider security plan, just as he and Meghan were during the Jubilee.
Meanwhile, the Duke’s High Court claim against Mirror Group Newspapers is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, May 9 – the first working day after the Coronation – although he is not due to give evidence until June.
It was described as “unfortunate timing” by one source close to the Duke and means he will be likely to have to return to the UK within weeks if he does not choose to stay.
Harry will stay at Frogmore Cottage during the bank holiday weekend for what may be the final time after being evicted by his father in a decision he and Meghan were said to be disappointed by. It is not yet known whether he will be able to stay in his old Windsor home in June.
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