The King has left his grandchildren Prince Archie and Princess Lili out of his coronation plans. And that is a huge mistake.
I wonder if, one day, Princess Lilibet, currently seventh in line to the throne and the only member of the British monarchy born on US soil and surrounded by, I’m guessing, healing crystals and a team of high-priced doulas, will realise how many controversies, kerfuffles, and hoo-ha’s she was involved in before the age of two?
There was a hullabaloo over her parents, Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex choosing to borrow her great-grandmother’s childhood nickname. When she was only days old, legal letters were winging their way around London over the suggestion that the couple had not asked the late Queen permission.
Then came that whole, ‘Will King Charles or won’t he?’ thing over whether he might step in to prevent the Montecito munchkins assuming the titles to which they are entitled.
And now the adorable little girl is at the centre of a new storm involving her parents, her grandfather, the Archbishop of Canterbury, 4000 military personnel and a whole lot of horses. (This is the royal family we are talking about; you just know there will be a horse in there somewhere.)
Over the weekend, the Times reported that Lili and Archie, who will turn four on the day of the coronation itself, are not even invited to their Grandpa Charles’ anointing while their cousins, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis are set to “star” in the event.
Specifically, they will take part in the official procession afterwards, which will see the trio plonked in some centuries-old carriage and forced to not pick their noses or whinge about being parted from their gold-plated iPads as they wend their way through the streets of London.
The argument about who is in and who is out of the procession really boils down to focusing on working members of the royal family. You know, that group of upright sorts who, week in and week out, clock on for public service, duty and the occasional commemorative tree-planting.
I don’t buy it.
Charles would appear to be making zero effort to include his Sussex grandchildren out of his coronation and that is a whopper of a miscalculation.
Just to get a bit philosophical here: If you break it down, a monarch – in a century where ChatGPT, UberEats and BTS exist – is most powerfully and uniquely a symbol. A potent, important symbol who stands for stability, duty and – importantly – unity.
Charles is said to be keen to drive this message home with all the subtlety of a first-year arts student who has just started learning about Edward Saïd.
Reports have suggested that the selection of guests who will fill the Abbey’s pews will be a representative cross-section of a multicultural 21st century Britain.
Leaving Archie and Lili out of the whole three-day event makes something of a mockery of all that enthusiastic drum-banging about just how smashing this inclusiveness business is.
How can the King bring a politically, culturally and socially fractured Britain together if he doesn’t even have it in him to bring all of his grandchildren together?
This whole thing is such a bad look for His Majesty.
No matter what damaging, ill-conceived, peevish and foot-stomping things Harry and Meghan have done for the cameras or in print, no matter that they are probably the only people who could list ‘palace agitator’ as their job description on LinkedIn, Archie and Lili are completely innocent in this mess.
Charles’ failure to make any sort of provisions for his two youngest grandchildren, his only grandchildren born to a bi-racial mother, looks not only a tad vengeful but does nothing to counter Harry’s claims of royal unconscious bias.
Earlier this month it was revealed, again by the Times, that Queen Camilla’s five teenage grandchildren will be given roles in the ceremony – a ceremony which has not changed all that much since when women were burnt as witches and Galileo’s round Earth theory was considered heresy. The teens’ inclusion, a friend of the King and Queen enthusiastically told the paper, reflected the couple “being unafraid to shake things up a bit to reflect the realities of modern life, of which a blended family is a central element”.
But that “blended family” line just looks hollow given the omission of Archie and Lili from any part of the historic event.
If Charles and Camilla really wanted to “reflect the realities of modern life” they would be willing to reflect the fact that all families are dysfunctional in their own way (with apologies to Tolstoy) and yet still find a way to muddle through.
And I know, I know. This is all theoretical given that Archie and Lili’s parents Harry and Meghan are yet to even decide if they are willing to attend the Westminster Abbey service. The Duke and Duchess are currently stuck with having to choose between leaving themselves out of possibly the biggest globally televised event ever or having to face his glacial, Easter Island-esque family, who seem likely to stonily ignore them, eyes straight ahead.
Surely, though, if the Sussexes knew that Charles wanted to include their children in some way, to make some touching gesture to reflect his love for all of his grandchildren, then that would tip the scales.
While a two-hour religious ceremony heavy on the lengthy oaths and ceremonial faffing sounds like the absolute worst place to take two small children, the coronation is only one part of three days of events including a concert at Windsor Castle, which at this stage will probably be headlined by a Little Mix tribute band, and a nationwide series of street parties.
Charles is King, dammit – he may no longer have the power to decide to invade France or send irritant citizens to the Tower for a good spot of manacling, but it would be completely within his power to find a way to involve Archie and Lili, and not their parents, if he wanted. For example, in 2016, Queen Elizabeth posed for a touching portrait with all of her great-grandchildren. Lord, just get out the same gilt sofa, wipe the Tiny Teddy crumbs off all those small faces and leave the King to pose with his grandchildren. Hearts would melt, Twitter would go wild and he would look like a cracking grandfather.
If the 74-year-old did want the Montecito tots to be a part of things, surely we’d be seeing stories in the UK press with lines like, ‘His Majesty is hoping that all of his grandchildren can be a part of his coronation,’ or some equally pallid line. (Nor did he put out any sort of statement when Harry and Meghan announced this month that their children would be taking the prince and princess titles they are entitled to.)
What the King should also take into consideration here is that the repercussions of this omission could be long-lasting and far-reaching.
It’s one thing for the King to want to put Ma and Pa Sussex in their place, possibly stowing them behind a pillar and alongside a few random Kent cousins, but he is failing as a grandfather and a monarch if he does not find some way to make it abundantly clear that Archie and Lili are equally loved and equally his grandchildren as the young Waleses.
By leaving them both out of coronation plans, His Majesty is all but ensuring that the current rift between London and Montecito will only become more deeply entrenched – and that it will last for generations.
The people who could end up paying the price for the King’s decision on this issue could be adult George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lili who seem destined to grow up having zero contact and no sort of trans-Atlantic relationship whatsoever.
Say what you will about the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their feuding (and don’t worry, a huge portion of the internet seems wholly given over to this toxic project) but their kids deserve to enjoy the closeness and in-built support system that William and Harry enjoy with their cousins.
The King could be instrumental in ensuring this happens.
If only His Majesty would take a break from begging Westlife to play his Windsor coronation concert (Harry Styles, Adele, Elton John and Kylie Minogue have all said no already) and would give this all more thought; if only the Archbishop of Canterbury decided to remind him about that whole ‘sins of the father’ thing.
Charles so very clearly wants to be on the right side of history when it comes to his commitment to climate change, conservation and equality – but all that hard work and forward-looking sweat and effort could be about to be undermined by a three-year-old and a one-year-old.
The choice is entirely his.
Daniela Elser is a writer and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.
Originally published at www.news.com.au