Britain’s top royals came together on Monday at London’s Westminster Abbey in what was the last public family gathering before Prince Harry and his wife Meghan set off on a new career path devoid of official duties.
The annual Commonwealth Service was also the first time Harry and Meghan had been seen with Queen Elizabeth, his elder brother William and wife Kate, and father Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, since the couple thrashed out an exit deal from their royal roles in January.
Harry and Meghan smiled and she waved at William and Kate as they arrived in the abbey to take their seats. The couple then chatted and laughed with his uncle, Prince Edward who was sitting next to them. “I imagine everybody will be on absolutely best behaviour,” royal biographer Penny Junor told Reuters. “But goodness knows what they will all be thinking privately.”
The January agreement, which comes into action at the end of the month, will see the couple, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, seek to carve out “a progressive new role”, mainly based in North America, that they aim to finance themselves.
Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, will stop using their HRH titles - His or Her Royal Highness, will not use “royal” in their branding and Harry, who will remain a prince, will relinquish his military titles.
Their announcement two months ago that they wished to step back from some of their royal duties sent shockwaves through the monarchy. It led to a crisis meeting involving the 93-year-old queen, her heir Charles, William and Harry that concluded he and Meghan would have to give up all their royal duties.
The couple have spent most of their time since in Canada, but returned at the start of the month for a farewell round of engagements. Harry and Meghan’s baby son Archie has remained behind in Canada. Monday’s event to mark Commonwealth Day is their last official royal appearance and comes less than two years since they married in a dazzling ceremony of pomp and pageantry watched by millions worldwide. There is no certainty about when the family will next be seen together.
“Our hope was to continue serving the queen, the Commonwealth and my military associations without public funding. Sadly that wasn’t possible,” the prince, the sixth-in-line to the throne, said in a speech in January.