It’s easy to imagine some of the things that Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex might not-so-secretly fantasise about or like to doodle about in their dream journals: Being invited on a meditation retreat by Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton, or the state of California instituting a policy of free açai bowls for underprivileged children.
But a wholesale reconciliation with the royal family? Well, the idea of the Sussexes angling to make peace with the House of Windsor seemed about as likely as someone being able to pry a glass of red wine out of Camila, Queen Consort’s hand after 5pm or Prince Andrew being made the face of a ‘Visit New York’ campaign.
However, that is exactly what I am about to tell you. (The Sussex part, not the Andrew bit thank Christ.)
Harry and Meghan – Buckingham Palace exiles and the world’s most famous titled malcontents – fancy a spot of breach-healing and bridge-building with this family, or at least according to new reporting.
Over the weekend The Sun published the sort of story that few, aside from pathological optimists, would ever have predicted with the paper’s royal editor Matt Wilkinson revealing that the couple has “secretly planned a year of reconciliation with the Royal family”.
Now before anyone injures themselves trying to make sense of this volte face, there is, of course, a caveat. This rapprochement? It had only been slated to kick off after Harry’s memoir had hit shelves and their Netflix documentary had landed on the streaming giant.
(Don’t worry; I’m just as confused as you as to the convoluted logic here. Deciding to make peace but only after aiming a final series of potential painful volleys?)
Wilkinson writes that, “sources [have] told The SunHarry and Meghan saw the book and docuseries as a way of attacking the royals one final time before trying to build bridges again” while a source has said, “next year 2023 was to be their reconciliation year”.
Still the key words here are “2023 was to be.” Per Wilkinson, the California-based couple had “targeted a charm offensive on the Queen next year but their carefully laid plans were scuppered” with the passing of the world’s number-one brooch fancier.
Which brings me to my first point: Who makes a plan contingent on the continued wellbeing of an obviously increasingly-frail 96-year-old?
When Queen Elizabeth II died last month, it was both simultaneously a convulsive shock and wholly predictable, with her health having very obviously been in decline for the last 12 months. As much as she might have been adored, there was never going to be a Lazarus-like return to regal full-strength with every new image released by the Palace only making it ever more apparent that her advanced years were catching up with her.
Which is to say, the accession of Charles and the rejigging of the royal hierarchy including the promotion of Harry’s father to the throne (and his brother and sister-in-law William and Kate to the roles of Prince and Princess of Wales) was clearly only going to happen sooner rather than later.
Yet, based on that Sun report, the Sussexes cooked up a reunion plan that was predicated on a woman who was fast approaching her century staying in the top job. OK …
Likewise, a report surfaced in Page Six last week suggesting that the Sussexes are “desperate to edit [their] Netflix show” along with Harry’s memoir following his grandmother’s death and father’s accession.
Huh? Did they think the Queen just might live forever or prove immortal? This day was always going to come so film, write or plan anything based on the presumption that Her Majesty would still be alive and in charge?
Then, there is another gnawing question here: How the dickens can Harry and Meghan reportedly still think they can call the shots when it comes to mending fences with Team Windsor?
What I find so fascinating is, if we take The Sun story at face value, the notion that the Sussexes would seem to think they are the ones in the position to dispense forgiveness, Oprah-style and that the royal family would be wholly open to their outreach.
If the Queen had not gone to the great gin bar in the sky and was still with us (if only…), how did this all playing out? That Harry could publish his autobiography, full of his ‘truth’, possibly containing any number of barbs aimed at Charles, Camilla, the Waleses and The Firm in general, followed by their documentary, only for the couple to waltz back into the Palace forecourt to greeted with warm embraces and hot buttered crumpets?
The idea that any sort of reunion might be up to the Sussexes choosing and that they could dictate the situation seems about as likely as Princess Michael of Kent being put in charge of the Commonwealth. (Remember when she wore that racist brooch to Meghan’s first big royal Christmas event? Or when it was revealed in 2018 she had a pair of black sheep that she had named Serena and Venus?)
It is not as if Charles went far out of his way to do much olive-branch waving last month during the official mourning period and the Queen’s funeral, what with Harry travelling separately to the rest of his family to Balmoral; having the ‘EIIR’ insignia and the aiguillettes that denoted his pre-Megxit role as a Personal Aide-de-Camp removed from the military uniform he was given one-off dispensation to wear; being uninvited from a State diplomatic reception and then, in a final humiliation, being lumped in the second row for the Westminster Abbey service.
Does any of this sound like The Firm might be particularly receptive if the Sussexes do decide they want to bury the hatchet?
Only in recent days, royal biographer Katie Nicholl told the Daily Beast of the situation: “I think it does come down to William not really being able to forgive Harry for turning his back on his duty, and the way he did it. William feels that a lot of what Harry has done has been very disrespectful.”
So too has the Telegraph reported that even after the events of last month, “there has been no thawing of the relationship between the Sussexes and their British family.”
These last few years in the royal world have been more topsy turvy than a corgi trapped in a tumble dryer and stranger things have happened than the Sussexes and the royal family making up. The thing is, Harry and Meghan can do all the planning they fancy (was there an electronic whiteboard involved? I’m guessing yes) but just to resort to a serious cliche here, it takes two to tango. And so far? With that book and doco still in the offing? We have a hell of a long way to go before anyone makes it to the dance floor.
Daniela Elser is a writer and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.