The last photo of Meghan and Harry on British soil before leaving the UK for Los Angeles to start a new life depicts two very different pictures.
One of the Sussexes stood nervously behind Kate and William at Westminster Abbey – previously collectively known as the Foursome, a portrait of family disorder. The other, holding an umbrella in arms, was pouring rain outside the mansion, a picture of freedom. And, at least for their fans, it’s a reminder of what the royal family is losing.
This week, more than two years on, all eyes are on Harry, 37, and Meghan, 40, for their first official visit to the UK together since leaving the country.
During this period, there have been interviews with Oprah, the founding of their organization Archewell, multiple legal battles with the British press, the death of Prince Philip, the birth of their second child Lilibet, their upcoming autobiography, and a partnership with Netflix. Deal with Spotify. Recently, Harry faced backlash when he told US TV on the Invictus Games that he made sure the 96-year-old queen was “protected”.
The stakes are high, but so are the potential pitfalls. Will family tensions ease, or will differences remain apparent? How will the British public – and the British media – embrace them?
The exact time of their touchdown has not been made public, but the first event the Sussexes are expected to play is Thursday morning’s game of colour.After the Queen’s ‘careful consideration’, they will not appear in the ‘balcony moment’, which will be A sanctuary for working royalty.
The first proper opportunity to observe their relationship with the Cambridges – hinting at the frenzy of lip readers and body language experts – may not arrive until Friday, when the Sussexes will attend the Queen’s Thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral.
But for the family, the highlight of the trip will likely take place behind closed doors when Lilibet, who turns one-year-old, sees the Queen – her namesake and great-grandmother – for the first time on Saturday. For her grandfather, Prince Charles, it was also an opportunity to spend time with her and her brother Archie, now three.
They plan to keep the journey simple, travelling with a limited number of security personnel and their presence will be severely limited, reports ITV Royal editor Chris Shipp.
The engagement wasn’t official until Saturday night, a derby at Epsom Downs and a platinum party at Buckingham Palace, an open-air concert hosted by Diana Ross, and there’s speculation that a small birthday party could be held for Lilibet at Frogmore Cottage, where the family is understood to live The place.
The Sussexes have recently renewed the lease of their old home at Windsor Castle estate, which Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank have occupied in their absence, according to reports. Move to Portugal.
While they have received a warm welcome as first-rate celebrity charity campaigners in the US, the couple – especially Meghan – remain unpopular with the British media and have been accused of trying to steal the Queen’s limelight.
Writing in The Sun this week, photographer Arthur Edwards personally reminded the couple that the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee “has nothing to do with either of you” and claimed their interview with Oprah “polarized the country” .
But royal commentator and co-author of Finding Freedom, Omid Scobie, tweeted back on Tuesday: “Frankly, to say she’s easily overshadowed is an insult to the Queen. An insult. HM has been successfully front and centre for seven years and I think she’ll be fine.”
Royal photographer Samir Hussein, who shot the rainy pictures of Mansion House, predicted they would react differently. “Inevitably there will be some negative press and confiding in them because some people are not happy with the way they have behaved after announcing their resignation as a royal,” he said. “However, for the most part, I’m sure people will be delighted that they are back in hosting such a historic and important celebration for the Queen.”
The Queen was also delighted that she was seeing her great-granddaughter for the first time, he said. “After so much being said over the past two years, it will help bring the two sides closer together, and that will be a real hope.”
Los Angeles-based celebrity branding expert and author Jeetendr Sehdev said the trip was an opportunity to redefine their image in the UK and predicted they could reintegrate into the royal family – but this time “on their own terms”. “They have firmly established themselves as one of the most fearless, unapologetic and resilient brands in the world. And will continue to be an inspiration to many.”
Buckingham Palace said it “does not comment on private arrangements” and a spokesman for the Sussexes declined to comment.