After last week’s face-to-face meeting with the Queen, and hot foot from their weekend success at the Invictus Games, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have now reportedly been invited to appear on the Buckingham Palace balcony during the platinum jubilee.
Whether Harry and Meghan will choose to take up the invitation and fly to the UK for the June celebrations is not yet known. The duke is still involved in legal action with the Home Office over security for him and his family while in the UK.
However, despite the controversy over remarks by the critical couple of the royal family in interviews since stepping down as working royals, it seems the Queen, who celebrates her 96th birthday on Thursday, firmly believes the family trumps all.
The invitation to join other royals for the balcony appearance, which seems likely to take place at the trooping the color birthday parade, is said to have been issued after a low-key visit to the Queen by the Sussexes during the couple’s quick stop-off at Windsor Castle en-route to the Netherlands, where the Invictus Games for wounded personal service is held this year. The couple also had a brief meeting with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Harry later told the BBC “it was great’ to see his grandmother. There are unconfirmed reports he and Meghan had promised the monarch that she would meet grandchildren Archie and Lilibet “in the near future”, which suggests they may be contemplating a return for the four-day jubilee bank holiday.
As non-working royals, they would play no formal role in the jubilee celebrations, but as the balcony appearance would be “a general family gathering” it seems likely this would be an ideal time for a public show of family rapprochement.
“I think the ice was broken at Windsor last week, if completely or not we will never know, but at least it’s an entree” said Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine. “But will he come back? Well, you kind of hope so for his grandmother’s sake.”
Balcony appearances have been used previously by the royal family to signal a specific message. At the end of the diamond jubilee it was seen as symbolic that numbers were strictly limited to the Queen, Charles, Camilla, William, Kate and Harry. This was widely interpreted as a physical manifestation of Charles’s proposed “slimmed down” monarchy.
That appearance came immediately after a St Paul’s service of thanksgiving, and a Westminster Hall lunch followed by a carriage procession for the most senior royals back to Buckingham Palace.
This jubilee has a different format. The birthday parade would seem to be the only opportunity for a balcony appearance where, traditionally, the Queen’s extended family gather to watch the fly-past. It also seems likely it could be the last big family balcony appearance of her reign.
“So, I see no reason for Harry and Meghan not to be there. The Queen has the extended family on the balcony normally, working and non-working. It’s standing room only. And, again, I see no reason for the Duke of York not to be there, as members of the extended family,” said Little.
It is possible it may be the one occasion when the public sees the Queen, who has mobility issues, in person over the jubilee, with younger royals possibly standing in for her at other events. Trooping is logistically difficult.
In the past, she has arrived by carriage and inspected the troops from the dais. It may be that, to aid her comfort, she remains in her carriage throughout. But it is also possible her role could be confined to watching the procession from Buckingham Palace as it returns from Horse Guards Parade ahead of the fly-past. And, though she would hope to attend the service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s, there are many steps to negotiate.