Prince Harry in the spotlight for coronation return
LONDON — Prince Harry will be heavily scrutinized at his father King Charles III’s coronation, as he rejoins other royals for the first time since airing a barrage of criticism about them.
Harry, 38, will take his seat at the May 6 ceremony in Westminster Abbey without wife Meghan or either of their two children, Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet.
The American former television actress will be at their California home, celebrating Archie’s fourth birthday, sparing her potentially awkward interactions with her increasingly estranged in-laws.
The couple have repeatedly castigated the monarchy since relocating in 2020, stepping up the attacks in recent months through a series of television interviews and in Harry’s memoir.
In the explosive autobiography, “Spare”, published in January, the prince laid bare years of family feuding, including alleging that elder brother Prince William physically attacked him during an argument about Meghan.
In early March, Harry told developmental expert Gabor Mate he came from a “broken home” and was trying not to pass “trauma” on to his children.
Buckingham Palace only confirmed Harry’s attendance earlier this month, following lengthy speculation about whether he would be there.
“A lot of eyes will be on him,” said Pauline Maclaran, from Royal Holloway University of London, who has written a book about Meghan’s impact on the monarchy.
“People will be fascinated to see the interaction between him and other royals,” she told AFP.
‘Come and go’
Harry has been in Britain sporadically this year for court hearings as he pursues legal action against UK newspapers over alleged phone hacking.
Even court filings have become an avenue for the family rancor.
In witness statements made public this week, the prince claimed his father’s household blocked his bids to launch the lawsuits a decade ago due to a “long-term strategy” to keep the media supportive of his stepmother, Camilla, becoming queen consort.
The revelation follows Harry writing in his memoir that he and William had begged their father not to marry Camilla before their eventual nuptials in 2005.
Ahead of their grandmother Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in September, the warring brothers tried to showcase family unity by jointly greeting well-wishers alongside their wives in Windsor.
But tensions were evident, and the subsequent accusations by Harry and Meghan are seen as only worsening the rift.
“Everybody will be looking for the interaction between Harry and William, but I gather they’re going to be kept far apart so there probably won’t be any interaction,” Maclaran said.
She predicted Harry “will be kept in the background” and “come and go pretty quickly, trying not to cause any fuss.
“I don’t think that there’s any reconciliation possible at the moment,” Maclaran added. “It does seem that there is an unwillingness on both sides really to repair.”
The breakdown in relations between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — as they are formally known — and other royals is seen by some as damaging to the monarchy.
The centuries-old institution is grappling with the loss of Elizabeth II, a widely respected figure credited with maintaining the monarchy’s popularity during her record-breaking reign — and keeping any latent republican sentiment at bay.
With Charles now king, the family feud and sexual abuse allegations against his brother Prince Andrew are sowing public “doubts around who these people are”, said Graham Smith, of the pressure group Republic, which wants an elected head of state.
“They see him (Charles) as part of this questionable family,” he told reporters at a recent briefing. Harry “continues to cause him problems”, he added.
But others argue Harry and Meghan have made themselves deeply unpopular in Britain by quitting royal duties and giving so many incendiary interviews.
“Duty is what people want from the royal family and Harry does not provide it,” said Sean Lang, a history lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University.
Charles was right to invite them to the coronation, he argued, because “not to have done so would have looked petty”.
But it was “wise” of Meghan to stay away, given the state of relations and the considerable risk of crowds booing them.
“It is possible that the spectacle of the coronation… might emphasize the extent to which Prince Harry has excluded himself from the monarchy, and that might make it a difficult day for him,” Lang added.
“But I think many people in Britain will simply take the view that he brought this difficulty on himself.”