Forget Ross and Rachel, Dawson and Joey, Blair and Chuck: At this moment in pop culture history, the greatest “Will they / won’t they?” of our time is whether Meghan and Harry will attend King Charles’s coronation in May.
With just less than two months to go till the big day, the question looms unresolved, dominating all talk of the upcoming major event in the King’s life. Like all juicy “will they / won’t theys,” however, it’s being teased out in tantalizing increments, drip-fed to us with the edge-of-your-seat pacing of a weekly show. But is there something else behind the speculation?
The dramatic snubs between King Charles and Harry and Meghan pile up
Take the most recent developments, emerging in the wake of the Frogmore drama, wherein Charles allegedly ordered Meghan and Harry to vacate their U.K. home gifted to them by Her Late Maj — and the subsequent Christening drama, when, in seeming retaliation for that move, Meghan and Harry circumvented royal tradition and christened their daughter, named after the queen, on their own in California — and, while they were at it, asserting their kids’ right to be known as Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet. (Did we mention the coronation is being held on that newly minted Californian prince’s birthday? An opening salvo you may have forgotten in the breathless twists-and-turns since.)
And now, according to OK! Magazine, “tense negotiations” are currently underway between the two parties, and the result is so uncertain that the palace is drafting two separate schedules, one with the King’s youngest son and his wife in attendance, and the other without them. (Which does seem to imply they’re playing a much more pivotal role than the one rumoured last week by The Daily Mail, which quoted “family friends” who hoped the couple were so periphery to affairs that they would be “seated in Iceland.” )
Oprah weighs in?
It’s not just tabloids and their “palace sources” feeding the speculation: Meghan and Harry’s own spokesperson waded into the fray a few weeks ago, confirming the couple had “received email correspondence from His Majesty’s office regarding the Coronation” (intriguingly vague!) but kept the suspense alive by adding: “An immediate decision on whether the Duke and Duchess will attend will not be disclosed by us at this time.” We’ve even had a celebrity cameo, courtesy of Sussex pal Oprah, who last week told CBS anchor (her bestie), Gayle King, that “they should do what they feel is best for them and their family,” adding that they hadn’t actually asked her opinion on the matter.
And while it’s all very entertaining to watch, the preponderance of coverage around the Coronation’s guestlist, fuelled it seems as much by the palace itself as anyone, is faintly … suspicious, particularly when you consider the fact that unadulterated anticipation for the event itself isn’t exactly dominating headlines. Other than a few scant details about how the celebration will be scaled-down and more sustainable (no new crowns for anyone!), the only other news out of the palace has focused on the attendance of the Prince and Princess of Wales’s photogenic children, who’ll apparently be riding in a carriage in one of the processions.
King Charles’s popularity is taking a hit
In fact, Charles’s early reign has otherwise been notable mainly for the growing number of protesters who follow him around on his engagements. Last week, for example, an anti-monarchy group greeted him at the Commonwealth Day Service with signs reading “Not my King,” and also attended an event he and Camilla were at in York in February. The new king had four eggs hurled at him in November, and, extremists aside, his popularity continues to be tepid: According to YouGov, he’s the fifth most popular royal (lagging behind his sister Anne, Will, Kate, and, at number 1, the queen), with an approval rating hovering around 50 per cent.
One council in Scotland (a country currently contemplating an exit from the United Kingdom) wholesale rejected a public holiday to celebrate his crowning, while elsewhere in Britain 87 local councils have reported they won’t be spending any money on celebrations, although that may have as much to do with strained budgets amidst a cost-of-living crisis as any personal animus toward the longest serving heir in history finally having his big moment. Here in Canada, despite being one of the 14 overseas realms over which he is king, we’ll simply be marking the day with a ceremony in Ottawa.
Which, of course, begs the question: Is all of this breathless drama over whether Meghan and Harry will be at the coronation simply a convenient smokescreen, a sideshow at the Sussexes’ expense? Without the distraction, after all, coverage might focus instead on the existential questions currently facing the monarchy, which an event like the coronation, in all its ancient pomp and archaic tradition, just highlights. Questions like, for example, the validity of an inherited position in an era when the divide between the fabulously wealthy and the rest of us gets deeper by the day, or the blurred division of religion and power represented by the fact that Charles will also be named head of the Church of England as the same time he’s crowned head of state.
Do Harry and Meghan benefit from the gossip?
And, of course, it’s worth remembering that Meghan and Harry — no strangers to courting the spotlight when it suits them — have as much to gain from keeping this speculation alive as the palace might, albeit for competing reasons. For the Sussexes, it keeps their names in circulation and, depending on the angle of the coverage, serves to reinforce their narrative, namely that The Firm is an inflexible, repressive institution that happily sacrifices the happiness of the real people within it on the altar of the Crown’s continued existence. In this case, that’s a son feeling like he can’t attend one of the biggest days of his dad’s life, kept away by the so-called “gilded cage” that traps the rest of the family.
Their (surely inevitable?) attendance, then, becomes an act of admirably taking the higher road, burying the hatchet — despite the fact, of course, that Harry’s memoir, published earlier this year, may have significantly contributed to Charles’s ever-sinking popularity, which did see a little bump immediately after his mother’s death. In their defence, of course, he hasn’t always helped his own cause, as demonstrated by his mini temper tantrum at a leaky pen caught on camera, days after he took the throne.
Alternatively, if you’re in the camp that has been watching all this unfold and think the royals are responding graciously — changing Archie and Lilibet’s titles on the official website without demur, for example — to provocation by an attention-seeking couple, doing their very best to steal the spotlight at what should be Charles’s moment, you’ll see their attendance as utterly in keeping with their fame-seeking MO.
Either way, you’ll be watching, right?
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