London celebrations

Daniela Elser: Prince Harry snubs Kate Middleton during her secret return to London

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are set to attend the Invictus Games 2022 in the Netherlands. Video / Access

Oh to have been a fly on the wall! What would we have seen if we had been inside the drawing room at Windsor Castle this week when Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, came face to face with Top Lady AKA Her Majesty the Queen AKA her Gan Gan and AKA le at the head of an institution they have spent the better part of the past two years publicly denouncing with fierce abandon?

Were there sandwiches, delicate cupcakes and tea served on fine china? Or was room-temperature lukewarm tap water poured in and left undrinkable when that important face-off finally took place?

Here’s what we know: On Wednesday UK time, the couple flew to London incognito from their home in California with the tantalizing question of whether they bothered to fly on a commercial jet or boarded the private jet from a billionaire buddy so far unanswered.

They spent the night at Frogmore Cottage, that multimillion-dollar source of so many negative headlines about the couple and for which they repaid the $4 million-plus dosh Sovereign Grant that was used to renovate it.

Prince George of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Queen Elizabeth II and stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.  Photo/Getty Images
Prince George of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Queen Elizabeth II and stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Photo/Getty Images

(These days, the five-bedroom joint is home to her cousin Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank, a man whose current profession is tequila ambassador. And people say the extended royal family has no real jobs!)

Harry and Meghan visited the Queen at Windsor Castle on Thursday, news of which was revealed not by the highest royal sources whispering in a reporter’s ear, but by a busload of visitors who were at the castle for the Maundy Thursday service and spotted the couple.

A viewer told The Sun: “I couldn’t believe it when I saw who it was. We waved and they waved back.

“They looked happy and relaxed and were waving to everyone on the bus. Charles and the Queen were at Windsor Castle at the same time so they must have met them both.

“It was quite a sight. We knew we might see Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall at the ceremony, but we never thought we would meet Harry and Meghan.”

(Now that’s a bridge club dinner story, if I ever heard one…)

The whole operation was so secret that even the most senior of palace aides was kept in the dark about the Duke and Duchess’ whirlwind visit.

Reports also suggest the Sussexes met her father, Prince Charles, who was at the castle for the Maundy Thursday event with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall with the Queen having brought in her 73-year-old apprentice son and daughter-in-law. years to do the honors for her in service.

About the encounter, The Telegraph reported that Netflix’s most famous recruits had “seen” Charles, which doesn’t really sound particularly warm or even expected. (It wasn’t until earlier in the week that it was revealed Charles would be in Windsor for the Easter event.)

It all seems… superficial.

Although it was the first time Meghan had set foot on British soil since 2020, it was not a great rapprochement, a timid step towards healing deep wounds. If anything, it all makes them feel like they’re doing the bare minimum necessary to keep the royal noses from going seriously out of whack.

Even the Sussexes – two people who last year accused an unnamed member of the royal family of racism and portrayed the palace as an indifferent institution in front of a global audience of 60million – couldn’t have got away with it. traveling to Europe and not seeing Her Majesty without causing a very serious offence.

Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge attend the Commonwealth Service on Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey in London.  Photo/Getty Images
Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge attend the Commonwealth Service on Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey in London. Photo/Getty Images

As their office told ITV, the Sussexes “stopped by” to see Charles and the Queen.

It all reads like a somewhat lukewarm, basically obligatory kiss from the ring. That it wasn’t a question of fixing anything but of preventing the situation from getting worse.

There’s a key fact here that underscores that this was no big fence-mending exercise, with all the warm hugs and crackling fires and scones happily passed.

What is imperative here is not to focus on the people they have met, but on those they have not met.

Including: William and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

If this trip had really been a serious attempt to undo some of the immense damage caused by the events of the past two years, it should have included some kind of gesture, however small, to Kensington Palace.

Just over a year ago, in early April, it was Kate in peacekeeper mode at Prince Philip’s funeral who deftly maneuvered things to get the two royal brothers talking, all done in such a way practice in full view of the British press. (Handy, right?)

What often seems to get lost in the wash these days is that not too long ago Kate and Harry were friends. Good laughs-on-the-back-of-the-balcony-scrum-hums. Look at any image of the duo on any type of engagement and there they are, having what looks like a wonderful time.

Those days are obviously long gone.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak at the Global Citizen festival in New York last year.  Photo/AP
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak at the Global Citizen festival in New York last year. Photo/AP

William and Harry could have had several minutes of civilized conversation at Philip’s funeral and managed to walk and talk for the cameras at the Diana statue unveiling last year, without any PR imperatives, it would seem they have no interest in seeing one another.

That Harry failed to see his once beloved brother or sister-in-law is sadly very telling of the state of relations between the two families. Nobody needs to start worrying about finding a villa big enough for everyone in Greece this summer.

There are other details that only add some sting to this high-speed tour.

First, the fact that the whole exercise could be measured in hours.

Then, the fact that Harry and Meghan left their young children in California carries a certain bite. Only a masochist would happily sign up for a long-haul flight with a child almost three years old and a baby in tow, but the Sussexes’ son Archie hasn’t seen his British family since 2019. Similarly, the Last year, the duo co-opted Queen’s nickname for their daughter, calling her Lilibet. The nonagenarian has never met her little namesake.

And finally, a spokesperson for the Sussexes confirmed to ITV that they had visited “the Duke’s grandmother”. So… he deploys his title with all the deference due to him, but she is reduced to being only his “grandmother”? It really takes the disrespectful biscuit.

Realistically, this first trip home for the duo was always going to be something of a foot-in-the-water exercise for all parties, but it ended up being a more dismal and dull spectacle than even that.

Less than two months before the start of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, has this royal “stopover” broken the ice? Or are we going to experience a prolonged and painful Royal Ice Age?