LONDON – When Queen Elizabeth II opens the platinum anniversary, celebrating her 70th birthday on the British throne next month, she will do so with a reduced royal family: neither Prince Harry, nor his wife Megan, nor Prince Andrew will get a seat on a balcony in Buckingham palaces to wave to the crowd.
Even the presence of the queen is not certain: the 96-year-old monarch rarely goes public these days, having survived a fight with a coronavirus and complaining about his gait problems. But people with ties to the palace said she was going to appear on the balcony, the best opportunity for a royal photo.
Therefore, the question of who speaks next to the monarch, loaded with, well, palace intrigue. Officially, the Queen’s decision not to consider Harry, her grandson and Andrew, her disgraced second son, is solely a function of their revised job descriptions: they are also no longer full-time members of the royal family.
Prince Harry relinquished that status when he and Megan moved to Southern California in 2020. Andrew lost his status after the Queen kicked him out of public life due to ties to financier and sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein. In February, he upheld a sexual assault lawsuit filed against him in New York City.
But the decision to exclude them – especially Harry and Megan – may have inevitably been interpreted by London tabloids as an insult to family members, which have spawned many unflattering headlines over the past two years.
The decision also shows that Harry did not close the rift with his father and brother, which opened after he and Megan said they wanted to relinquish royal duties, and this deepened after they gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey, in by which they accused members of the family of callous and even racist behavior.
The cathedral on the balcony will be restricted to “members of the royal family who are currently performing official public duties on behalf of the Queen,” according to a palace spokesman who did not mention Harry, Megan or Andrew by name.
This circle includes her eldest son and heir, Prince Charles, and his wife Camilla; his eldest son, Prince William, and his wife Catherine; daughter of Queen Princess Anne; her youngest son, Prince Edward, and several others. The Queen also invited various grandchildren.
Prince Harry and Megan do not allow this decision to keep them aside. A statement from the couple’s spokeswoman said: “Prince Harry and Megan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are excited and proud to attend the Queen’s Platinum anniversary celebrations in June this year with their children.”
Some key points of Queen Elizabeth’s reign
The couple’s daughter Lilibet first meets her great-grandmother, after whom she is named. Lilibet was Elizabeth’s nickname as a child. Named after their daughter, Diana honors Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.
Harry and Megan are expected to attend a Thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral on June 3, as will Andrew. They can also attend other events. But the appearance of the balcony on June 2 is the symbolic center of the four-day anniversary celebrations that will take place immediately after the military parade in honor of the Queen’s birthday, known as Trooping the Color.
Harry and Megan were drinking tea with the Queen at Windsor Castle a week before her birthday in early April. Harry said the meeting confirmed his close relationship with his grandmother. But he shook the feathers in Britain by saying on NBC’s “Today” show: “I’m just making sure she’s protected and surrounded by the right people.”
The image of the streamlined royal family underscores the influence of 73-year-old Charles, who nowadays serves as the unofficial regent prince for the queen, performing many of her public duties. Charles, royal observers say, has long sought to reduce the number of full-time family members.
Buckingham Palace has begun sharing details of the anniversary, which will include a TV party on a round stage in front of the palace on June 4 and a contest the next day. According to a representative of the palace, the decision to announce the layout of the balconies was designed so that it does not overshadow the celebrations.