The Daily Telegraph

Gulf between the Sussexes and the Firm seems as great as ever

- Camilla Tominey associate editor

There could arguably be no better allegory for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s disconnect from the Royal family than Prince Harry’s singing of God Save the King at Queen Elizabeth II’S state funeral.

As the cameras panned on Harry, 38, in Westminste­r Abbey, he appeared somewhat disjointed in his rendition of the National Anthem – at times singing, at others, appearing to grit his teeth.

Onlookers were left wondering whether the grief of the occasion had overwhelme­d the father-of-two or if it was simply a case of not feeling ready to sing the song in his father’s honour.

The confusion characteri­ses what has been a mourning period marred by miscommuni­cation and, perhaps, mispercept­ion for Harry and Meghan.

All that has really been clear since Queen Elizabeth died on Sept 8 is the depth of the sorrow that was etched across their faces – they have had to endure not only the pain of losing Harry’s beloved grandmothe­r but, also, an awkward reunion with the royals.

As they were expected to fly back to California yesterday to be reunited with their children – Archie, three, and one-year-old Lilibet – after more than a fortnight apart, little appears to have been resolved with their nearest and dearest, with whom they are thought to have had “little interactio­n” behind all the pomp and ceremony.

According to Meghan’s US chat show host friend Gayle King, who travelled to the UK to cover the funeral for CBS, no peace deal has been struck with the Prince and Princess of Wales despite their joint Windsor walkabout.

Asked about the royal rift, King, who was first introduced to Harry and Meghan by their mutual friend Oprah Winfrey and attended the Duchess’s New York baby shower in 2019, said: “There have been efforts on both sides … to sort of make this right.

“We shall see … big families always go through drama.

“It remains to be seen. Are they going to be drawn closer together or are they going to be drawn apart?”

You may have thought that the past 12 days would have given the royals the perfect opportunit­y to patch up their difference­s.

But, in reality, the extraordin­ary sequence of recent events has only served to highlight how detached the Sussexes now are from “the firm”, if not the family.

Take the state reception invitation debacle. Originally, the couple received an email saying they were welcome to join the gathering of 1,000 world leaders at Buckingham Palace on Sunday night.

The Daily Telegraph understand­s that the couple only got wind that they might not be able to go, after all, following a press briefing on Thursday when a question mark was raised by the King’s spokesman over the attendance of “non-working” royals.

Such is the breakdown in communicat­ion between the Sussexes’ people and the palace that they couldn’t get a solid answer on whether they were in or out until Friday evening, when it emerged they had been invited “in error”.

As one insider explained in bafflement: “They have done everything as best they could. They have turned up, they have smiled, shaken hands, whatever was asked.”

There was similar imbroglio over whether or not Harry could wear his Blues and Royals uniform at any stage.

At first, the decision was taken that in line with the Duke of York, who has also stepped down from public duties, he should not. Then a reprieve was offered to Prince Andrew to wear his uniform for the children’s vigil in Westminste­r Hall on Friday evening.

Following a hullabaloo, the Sussexes’ spokespers­on confirmed in a statement: “Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex will wear a morning suit throughout events honouring his grandmothe­r.” It added: “His decade of military service is not determined by the uniform he wears.”

Yet behind the scenes, conversati­ons clearly took place to ensure that Harry would be given the same allowance as his disgraced uncle and be able to wear uniform for Saturday’s vigil by the grandchild­ren. The palace later briefed that the King took the final decision.

But when Harry received his uniform he was reportedly “left heartbroke­n” after his late grandmothe­r’s initials ‘ER’ were removed.

Again misunderst­anding appears to have reigned supreme since Harry has not been entitled to wear the cipher (or indeed the twisted gold rope aiguillett­es) on his shoulder since February 2021 when he was stripped of all his military titles.

The Duke must surely have been aware that this was the case, despite the apparent incredulit­y of his largely Us-based staff.

Another matter on uniform that remains unclear is why the Prince of Wales wore only the cipher but not the aiguillett­es, despite being obliged to wear both. It looked like a concession to mollify his brother but, as with a lot of what happened last week, no explanatio­n was given.

The news, which was first reported in this newspaper on Sunday, that Harry was only informed of Queen Elizabeth’s death five minutes before the public announceme­nt also speaks to a growing theme of disengagem­ent from Harry and Meghan.

Insiders have been at pains to point out that he was told as soon as he could be told – in mid-air.

Although Harry was informed of the Queen’s declining health at the same time as William that Thursday

morning, his aides struggled to find a suitable scheduled flight, leaving him with no choice but to charter his own Cessna from Luton airport.

He eventually took off at 5.35pm – an hour after Prime Minister Liz Truss was reportedly told of the Queen’s death. The release of the public statement was delayed until the King managed to reach him on board the plane shortly before he touched down.

A source later explained that Harry had not been treated differentl­y from any other member of the family, since the King was not in regular contact with anyone during the course of what was a very difficult day.

“The King was adamant that the official statement must not be released until all members of the family had been informed. That was a father talking because he cares.”

However, there is no doubt that the sequence of events that unfolded after the monarch’s demise shows the extent of the gulf that still exists between Harry, Meghan and the royals.

The disassocia­tion works both ways, of course. As the couple prepare to return to what the King described as “their life overseas”, uncertaint­y remains over whether – or when – Harry will publish his memoirs.

That the palace and indeed, the royals, have no idea what’s in them, speaks to a family that doesn’t look as if it will be singing from the same hymn sheet any time soon.

They are thought to have had ‘little interactio­n’ with their nearest and dearest behind all the pomp

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