Could Princess Diana’s 60th birthday see Meghan and Harry’s return to the UK? Photo / Getty Images
Poor old Diana, Princess of Wales. Throughout his too brief life, his major birthdays have generally been a bit of a fiasco.
By the time Lady Diana celebrated her 18th birthday, the big coming out balls were on her nose and she was living in London, swinging between cleaning houses and babysitting work. When she turned 21, she was Princess of Wales and mother to baby Prince William, but her marriage was already deeply fractured and she was battling bulimia and postpartum depression.
His 30th birthday would have turned into a series of stealthy press briefings, with the then-estranged Welsh trying to sow different narratives. (She, via Andrew Morton in The Times, said her wandering husband would leave her alone on the big day; her camp announced that he had offered to throw a party for his wife but declined the offer. )
After her death, what would have been Diana’s 50th birthday saw no one other than the venerable Newsweek age her in a highly controversial fashion for a photoshopped cover image featuring her with her new stepdaughter Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. It turned out as well as a gluten-free scone at a garden party at Buckingham Palace.
Now, in less than two weeks, on July 1, if she had lived, Diana would have been 60.
Already the milestone is shaping up to be one of the busiest and most tense royal events since the Queen Mother found herself in the same drafty room as her nemesis Wallis Simpson.
The touching event planned to mark Diana’s birthday faces the possibility of being overwhelmed by the dramaaaaahhhh geyser that seems to erupt whenever her son Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex take the stage.
This year, July 1 will see Princes William and Harry gathered in Kensington Palace Gardens for the unveiling of the memorial statue they commissioned in 2017 from their dear mother. (You know, back in the days when “royal family” wasn’t synonymous with “semi-regular displays of public grudge” or “lingering flush of racism.”)
Four years ago, the brothers commissioned sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley to create a fitting tribute to the Princess, a woman whose maverick approach to HRH-dom irrevocably changed the face of the monarchy. (He’s a bit used to it: his portrait of the Queen can be found on the backs of British coins.)
The bickering siblings in Wales are expected to reveal this work together and give separate speeches to mark the occasion, which in itself reveals the state of their relationship.
Since open hostility has long erupted between the two men, the frenzy and anticipation around the big day is already building up.
The chance for the press to watch the men stand side by side after months of the young royal taking shots at the palace while he is safe behind the towering gates (I guess) of his Montecito mansion is sensational enough to cheer even the most besieged Fleet St editor.
However, this fraternal coldness would only end up as a side event if – and this is a big ‘if’ – Harry is joined by his wife and palace co-provocateur Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.
This week there was new speculation that Meghan could take a quick break from maternity leave to join her husband on his transatlantic flight for the engagement. (At least the man would probably need some serious moral support and a friendly face.)
Although recent reports have denied that she would make the trip, there is precedent here for her to do all she can to support her loved ones as she has a very young bub. Barely a month after welcoming her son Archie in 2019, Meghan reappeared, briefly, in public to take part in Trooping the Color, an important event on Windsor’s family calendar. Then, in September of that year, she flew to New York when her baby was just 4 months old for just a few days to take her place on the court to cheer on her good friend Serena Williams.
Given Harry and Meghan’s resources, if she wanted to take the ride, she surely could, if Covid restrictions allow, get in and out of London within 24 hours.
If the Duchess were to take part in the event, her return to London 15 months after the Sussexes’ last round of official engagements in March of last year would totally and totally eclipse the media coverage.
Since the palace has worked hard to sell a “it’s business as usual!” Line via carefully choreographed engagements and media appearances, Meghan’s return to the stage would be a devastating distraction and threaten to derail their attempts to refocus attention on the monarchy’s courageous good works.
There is much, much more at stake here than just a busy family moment.
For the former Suits star, appearing alongside her husband could be a strategic decision. If she were to be there, then it would make sense for Kate to be there too, thus reuniting the Fab Four while the press kit happily watched.
If this very public comeback were to happen, the entire dog and pony show could be sold as a healing journey, with Harry and Meghan slowly being welcomed into the freezing bosom of his family; the beginning of a provisional line being drawn under the whole sorry chapter.
The Sussexes would come across as seemingly intimidated by the turmoil or her family’s stilt retreat from their interview with Oprah.
With your spine straight, chin raised, there might be a certain air of triumph on the stage. The takeaway would be that the prime time outpouring hadn’t proved fatal in terms of ties to the royal household. All – or at least some – had been forgiven.
For both sides, this exit would go incredibly far in terms of undoing the rift narrative. (OK, yes, the same breakup tale that the Sussexes themselves only ignited via their Oprah Winfrey barrage.)
Assuming on the big day it wasn’t all sour faces and tight smiles (and that they managed not to collectively radiate the kind of misery that only forced family reunions can trigger), the footage of the quartet would be a powerful cleanser for the palate after all the animosity of recent months.
For Meghan, the unveiling of the statue would also represent a powerful chance to align with the memory of her mother-in-law. The two women, after all, share many similarities.
The two found themselves in the unenviable position of facing the men in gray of the palace; both approached their royal careers with fiery determination and a penchant for pioneers; and both, despite their best intentions, eventually found themselves outside the palace, looking back.
The opportunity presented by this Kensington Palace event is for Meghan to forge an unbreakable and permanent association in the public imagination between her and Diana, that is, to be anointed as (or one of) natural heirs to his powerful heritage.
Leaving aside the personal and emotional significance of this psychic bond for her and her husband, that would also be the public relations manna from heaven; handy given that the Sussexes are cementing their brand in the United States and need to earn a crust.
That said, Meghan’s return to Blighty clearly has a downside. After the many very damaging claims they have made about the royal household this year, the duo could face a decidedly frosty reception – bordering on the Arctic -.
Likewise, the British public has made his feelings known. A poll taken at the end of April found that popularity had fallen to its lowest level on record.
While the Duchess’s first children’s book, The Bench, reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list for children’s picture books this week, in the UK it doesn’t even appear. not in the top 100 best-selling books or children’s books on Amazon.
Moreover, Meghan miraculously reappearing in London for this photoshoot could look like a public relations ploy, which the Sussexes would surely be sensitive to avoid.
Nevertheless, would they consider that a calculated bet which, given the possible benefits, could outweigh the risk?
If Diana were still alive, she would likely be dismayed that her beloved boys are now divided by the animus, a continent, an ocean, and several hours of TV interviews.
But what unites William, Harry and their mother is that all three were defined by their desire to make a difference and the lasting impact they all had on the Royal Family – for better and for the better. worst.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with over 15 years of experience working with a number of major Australian media titles.