With 61 days to go until King Charles’ coronation, one thing is irrefutably and unmistakably clear: No one is having a good time.
The Duke of Norfolk, the Earl Marshall, whose family has been in charge of arranging state events like this since 1386, has been reportedly “sidelined” by bickering Downing Street departments; members of the House of Lords are in an “uproar” with only a fraction of them invited; while Buckingham Palace has been “pleading” for someone to find more seats inside Westminster Abbey.
Then there is the curious ongoing humiliation that a multitude of British performers including Adele, Ed Sheeran, Kylie Minogue, the Spice Girls, Elton John and Harry Styles have all simultaneously found their diaries too full to belt out a few numbers as part of the festivities.
Golly, that’s awkward.
And Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and as of recent days, holders of a couple of coronation invites? They are in a huge, bloody mess.
Like a 21st century, postmodern Hamlet, they face the inevitable decision: To go or not to go?
Because there is also another thing here that is abundantly clear about the coronation: The Sussexes are pretty much stuffed either way. There are no good options right now for the Montecito Two and their caravan of outrage.
Over the weekend, The Sunday Times’ royal editor Roya Nikkhah confirmed that the duo have made the guest list for Charles’ ultimate hat parade, with a spokesman for the couple saying: “[The Sussexes] recently received email correspondence from His Majesty’s office regarding the coronation. An immediate decision on whether the Duke and Duchess will attend will not be disclosed by us at this time.”
Which means we have thus officially entered the bated-breath stage of things, which leaves everyone from Charles to some poor copy editor stuck on the night shift at the La Paz Herald to whoever has to do the 2000-plus Westminster Abbey seating plan waiting to see what they decide.
Perhaps, they themselves don’t know. Rock, meet hard place.
In the coming weeks, the Sussexes face their biggest and most consequential decision since they booked those one-way tickets out of London in January 2020 and started googling job ads in California. (‘Role must pay $100 million plus, can set own negligible hours, absolutely no uniforms required.’)
Going is not an option
On one hand, how the hell can Harry and Meghan go? December and January saw the couple, via their Netflix docuseries and then his 400-page memoir (a tale of childhood misery followed by self-indulgent adult windbaggery) launch devastating salvo after salvo at the royal family, with Charles, Prince William and his wife Kate, the Princess of Wales directly in the firing line.
Crucially, Harry didn’t just go after the institution of the monarchy but he went after the people who occupy the top spots right now.
It was, as I don’t need to tell you, not a pretty sight. We had a fraternal assault (if that is not too grandiose a word for a kitchen altercation that sounds like it was less MMA and more brotherly scuffle), a brother breaking his promise to not resort to traditional palace skulduggery in the never-ending battle for good coverage, and a princely dad who went too light on the hug front.
Overall, the picture that Harry painted of his relatives was that essentially they are all unlikeable people, driven by ego, jealousy and locked in a lifelong grudge match of press one-upmanship.
As we have seen over the last few months, Harry and Meghan have clearly made the decision to take all their hurt feelings and twinges of familial hurt and to use them as the foundation of their lucrative careers.
Today, their entire US enterprise is predominantly built on their willingness to excavate the 26 months between their engagement and their stunning royal exit to burnish their images and bulk up their bank accounts.
They have proven that they have a whole lot of truth to tell about Windsor Inc, especially if the price is right.
Therefore, given how much time and how many hours they have spent telling us just how desperately unhappy they were as working HRHs, on paper, the idea that they would then spend tens of thousands of dollars to charter a private jet to fly for more than 10 hours, with two small children in tow, to sit metres away from the mass of his seething, barely-able-to-contain-their-distaste relatives seems ridiculous.
Also, how could Harry go without it looking like an epic climb down from his highest of eternally superior high horses?
If they do go, it could look like quite the capitulation from Harry’s self-righteous stance, having repeatedly taken it upon himself to tell us again and again how rotten a time he had of it growing up in the emotionally austere captivity of the royal family.
Most recently over the weekend in a streamed conversation with trauma expert Dr Gabor Maté he said that he had experienced “negative trauma” as a child, explaining that his family’s unwillingness to have therapy so that they could “speak his language” left him feeling “pushed aside”.
It’s only now, he said, that he is able to “live a truly authentic life”.
In January, Harry spoke with journalist Tom Bradby about the possibility of attending the coronation.
“The door is always open. The ball is in their court. There’s a lot to be discussed and I really hope that they’re willing to sit down and talk about it.”
Again, if Harry goes, despite his father showing zero interest in sitting down to hash things out, having managed to wangle exactly zero concessions, let alone an apology, out of Buckingham Palace, it would make for quite the climbdown.
Questions of practicality
Then, there are practical issues the Sussexes face in going.
For example, where the dickens would they stay?
Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams has told the Daily Telegraph today that Harry has been offered accommodation inside Buckingham Palace, with Fitzwilliams quoted as saying the King is “hellbent” on his youngest son seeing him crowned.
But that’s only because Charles has chucked him out of his former UK home, Frogmore Cottage.
We know now that the King began the process of formally turfing his son and daughter-in-law out of their Windsor home a reported 24 hours after Spare was unleashed.
While Harry and Meghan are reported to have use of the property until after the coronation, if they have been given their marching orders, how habitable would the place be?
(The Daily Mail has reported that removal vans have been seen on the Windsor Estate though whether these are in connection with Frogmore or Prince Andrew’s ousting from the Royal Lodge is not known.)
But the question remains, would they want to stay at Buck Pal – in the very heart of the institution they have spent years railing against?
Then there is the fact that Harry and Meghan face being potentially exiled to the cheap seats inside the Abbey for the coronation, somewhere in the sea of Queen Elizabeth’s cousins or lumped behind a teenage viscount.
And all of this, of course, would be happening while they are being given the most arctic of cold-shoulders by much of his family. Just imagine how rigorously William and Kate will refrain from making eye contact with them or even glancing in their direction.
How much humiliation of Harry and Meghan will be squeezed into one live TV broadcast?
But not going is also not an option
And yet, conversely – the Sussexes can’t not go to the coronation.
Let’s be real: Their careers (and therefore their commercial prospects) rest entirely on their royal status, a resource they have managed to squander at a rate of knots thanks to their anti-palace agitprop.
Things are not looking exactly tickety-boo for Brand Sussex right now.
Sure, the performance of Harry & Meghan and Spare might be testament to the enduring public fascination with twisty-turny royal soap but that has not translated into public support. (The TV series is the most-watched documentary premiere for the streamer and his book is the fastest selling nonfiction title in history.)
The most recent polling done on behalf of Newsweek found that support for them in the US has fallen to an all-time low, with the percentage of respondents saying they had an unfavourable view of the duo outweighing those with a favourable one.
To really put that in context, Queen Camilla is currently more popular than the high-priced Netflix hires. Just let that sink in.
Meanwhile, they have quite literally become the buts of jokes, with South Park putting out an episode called, “The Dumb Prince and His Stupid Wife” and comedian Chris Rock using his, cough, live-streamed Netflix show, to take a swipe at Meghan. In the special, he said that her revelation that an unnamed member of the royal family had queried her unborn baby’s skin colour was “not racist” and that the Duchess was only dealing with some “in-law sh*t”.
If Harry and Meghan had thought that laying out their side of their story in painfully overwrought detail would trigger a wave of Global sympathy or see them elevated in the celebrity pantheon then, bummer dudes.
They now face the possibility of sliding into irrelevance and facing an increasingly disinterested, bored audience who have heard their same complaints and sob stories again and again.
Which is why they can’t afford to skip the coronation or the exposure it affords. The ceremony could very possibly end up being one of the most watched TV events of all time. Do we really think they could – or would – stay away at the exact moment they need to shore up their relevance and reinvigorate interest in them?
What. A. Mess.
And that goes for everyone involved here from the Sussexes, to Charles and William, to whoever is meant to be doing the placement for the big day, to the beleaguered Earl Marshall, and to the Buckingham Palace footmen who might be soon detailed to traipse around London finding just the right oat milk for their guests.
Leave it to Harry and Meghan to make The Crown suddenly look quite boring …
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