Prince Charles photo from opening should panic Harry, Meghan

The fraught relationship between Prince Charles and Prince Harry looks sets to get a lot more rocky as Charles takes a huge step.

I highly doubt the Queen has ever listened to anything by or vaguely like Bob Dylan (except maybe if she was forced to sit through Prince Edward staging a DIY performance of Haircast entirely with unwilling footmen) but if there is one lyric that immediately springs to mind today it’s “the times they are a-changin”.

On Wednesday in the UK, nearly every newspaper, aside from I’m guessing the Daily Workersplashed nearly identical images on their front pages – that of a slightly maudlin-looking Prince Charles next to his Mummy’s Imperial State Crown as he presided over the state opening of parliament in her place due to ill health.

For months now, the Queen has been suffering from what Buckingham Palace has been calling “episodic mobility issues,” a phrase bereft of any real detail and which is doing sod-all to tamp down growing fears about how her serious health woes might actually be .

Unspecified these problems might be but they are clearly ailing her, forcing her to tap Charles and grandson Prince William, in their capacity as Counsellors of State, to attend the ceremonial opening of parliament in her place, with her 73-year-old son reading the speech she had planned to give. (The poor bloke has gotten a pasting on social media for talking about “easing the cost of living” at the address while sitting on a gold throne and with a diamond-encrusted crown within easy reach, but keep in mind Downing Street dictates what manoeuvring is announced during this ceremony.)

The symbolism of this watershed moment is clobber-over-the-head obvious: The reign of Elizabeth II is every day drawing just a bit closer to closing.

But if there is anyone for whom this Charles photo should be a cause for serious alarm it is his son and daughter-in-law Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Despite being thrown in the Harrods towel more than two years ago to try their luck on the West Coast as entrepreneur-philanthropist-celebrity-politicians with a side line in the vegan latte business (spoiler alert: None of it seems to be really sticking) they remain inexorably linked with the house of Windsor.

Like it or not, a number of decisions about their future won’t be made by 10 per cent-taking managers, PR firms and business agents but 8500km away in London. Decisions like, what sort of relationship they might be able to hope for with his family; whether their son Archie and daughter Lilibet will be made both HRHs and Prince/Princess when their grandfather accedes; And even whether, if their commercial ambitions grow, they face serious monarchical pressure to stop using their gifted Sussex titles.

Until now, the duke and duchess have had a fairly easy go of things.

Sure there was the Sandringham Summit in January 2020, during which the Queen was very much in monarch mode, no smiling Gans Gans here, forcing Harry and Meghan to choose between two stark options – stay “in” and they better smile as wide as humanly possible while opening roundabouts in Rickmansworth or “out” and lose their ability to market themselves as royal, deploy their HRHs, or represent Her Majesty.

However, aside from that moment of Queenly totalitarianism, it has been Her Majesty who has gone to the greatest lengths to try and heal the breach while things between Harry and his father go from bad to worse.

Harry himself revealed in January 2021 that the family enjoyed Zoom video calls with his grandmother and that she had sent them a waffle-maker.

It was the Queen with whom the Sussexes had tea last month during a speedy stopover in the UK, while they only had a “meeting” with Charles that lasted a sparse 15 minutes, according to the Daily Mail. (And said meeting was reportedly at Her Majesty’s insistence.)

When a week later Harry was interviewed by the US Today program, he said he had “a really special relationship” with the Queen but he refused to say if he missed William or Charles.

Most recently, the Sussexes’ willingness to jet back to London for the upcoming Platinum Jubilee celebrations, even though they have been barred from the Buckingham Palace balcony following Trooping the Color, has widely been read as a sign of just how deep-seated his respect and love for this grandmother is.

The tenuous, green shoots of connection between the dissident couple and his family largely seem to be at the aging of the Queen.

So, what happens, both in a personal and a royal sense, when she passes away and Charles takes the reins? (Or should that be reigns? Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

There is every chance that Harry and Meghan might face a much less sympathetic time of it.

Possibly muddying Charles-Harry relations even further could be his upcoming memoirset to be released later this year.

Given that Harry has only ever had two jobs, neither of which he had to likely apply for, has lived in the same city for most of his life, and whose global platform comes courtesy of who his grandmother is, it is hardly as if Penguin Random House would have been wetting their knickers to pay him a reported $27 million to write about his hopes, dreams and go-to smoothie recipe.

There is one thing which both publishers and the book-buying public want: Tea. Dirt. All the juicy loose-lipped morsels of gossip from the ultimate Palace insider.

While Penguin might put out press releases with lots of words like “truth” and “journey” there is no denying what they and readers are really after which is Harry to dish on his family, big time.

Which is where Charles and his wife – and future Queen – Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall come in. There has been speculation for months that Harry might be planning something of a take-down of his stepmother.

Veteran journalist Richard Kay, who was friends with Diana, reported in the Daily Mail recently that “Charles is said to be deeply concerned” about his son’s book “which he fears will be used to settle more scores.”

As Tina Brown, author of the recently released (and fascinating) Palace Papers told the Telegraph: “Harry … can’t stand Camilla, he doesn’t want Camilla to be queen, he’s very that it’s happening angry. He has not made his peace with it and he probably never will.”

In early May, Clarence House was forced to deny a report in British magazine Private Eye which claimed that Harry had “no intention” of attending his father’s coronation if his stepmother Camilla was anointed side-by-side as Queen.

It hardly requires a crystal ball and an extensive understanding of royal annals to see that if Harry does take a serious potshot at his father’s adored wife, the relationship between Harry and his father would likely only deteriorate further.

So far, Buckingham Palace’s handling of the Sussexes’ inflammatory interviews has been a tight-lipped refusal to engage, with the Queen famously waiting nearly two days to publicly respond to the couple’s allegations of royal racism and cruelty. However, the Palace’s persistent reticence to descend into the ruck and maul of fighting a media war has meant they have largely not pushed back and that the Sussexes have had free rein to energetically spin things they want.

Again, this hands-off approach on the part of the Palace could very possibly go out the window under King Charles III. He has waited a literal lifetime for the top job and his willingness to sit back and take whatever Molotov media cocktails the Sussexes might lob at the Palace in the future could be very, very limited.

This would not just be a personal decision for Charles; The key responsibility of the sovereign is to ensure the survival of the institution of the monarchy. With public support sliding (only 54 per cent of Britons say they are happy with having an unelected head of state, down from 60 per cent in 2019) this aspect of Charles’ gig is only going to become more urgent.

It is against this backdrop that the obvious question becomes, will we see the Palace under the new king start to take a much harder line with Harry and Meghan in the future?

Royal regime change is coming and it is not only the public and royal writers who need to prepare themselves.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

Read related topics:Meghan MarklePrince Harry


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