LONDON - Crowds outside of St Paul’s gave a nice round of hurrahs for Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, as the couple made their first public appearance of the Platinum Jubilee celebration for Queen Elizabeth II.
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, got an even bigger hand as they entered the Anglican cathedral in the heart of London for a service of thanksgiving on Day 2 of jubilee events. The church bells rang as Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, arrived. There was a mixed reaction from spectators to the entrance of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife, Carrie Johnson. Some booed.
The queen was absent, watching the show on the BBC from her rooms at Windsor Castle.
The palace alerted the public that the monarch began to feel “some discomfort” at Thursday’s Trooping the Colour ceremony by British military regiments and so would not attend. She has been struggling with what the palace calls “mobility issues” in recent months and has missed a number of engagements. Still, even after the palace announcement, made an appearance at Windsor on Thursday night. Dressed in green, she looked steady on her feet, but perhaps tired, as she placed a gloved hand on a glittering globe, to symbolically light the beacons in Britain and around the Commonwealth.
“It had been an extraordinarily long day for Her Majesty, but she seemed determined to make this final appearance,” the royal reporter for the Daily Telegraph wrote.
In his Friday sermon, the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, addressed the queen directly, and told the congregation what they already knew: that Elizabeth is a lifelong lover of horses.
Cottrell made a joke that he had “no great tips” from on high for the derby races at Epsom Downs on Saturday, where some of the queen’s horses will appear. Continuing the equine theme, the archbishop said, “your majesty, we are sorry you are not here with us this morning in person. But we are so glad you are still in the saddle”.
People may forget, but the queen is also the “Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England”. The archbishop praised her for a “staunch constancy and a steadfast consistency, a faithfulness to God, an obedience to a vocation”.
The prime minister did the readings from Philippians in the New Testament.
“Rejoice,” Johnson read. “Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
There is a steady transition of responsibility - and soft power - passing now from the queen to her son Charles and grandson William, who are playing more prominent roles during the jubilee. The BBC cameras mostly focused on them, but occasionally cut away to showcase Harry and Meghan.
The BBC commentator said that it appeared Harry and Meghan were allowed “their own little procession” as they entered, which he suggested was the doing of the queen.
St Paul’s wasn’t the easiest place to catch a glimpse of royals, but that didn’t stop several hundred from gathering outside, where the streets were lined with metal barricades.
Among those at the front who did get a brief look were Ian Tuer, 64, a transport manager, and his wife Valerie, 55, who works as a butcher. They travelled down from the Lake District.
Valerie said Harry and Meghan’s appearance will have gone down well with the British public: “I think there would have been a lot said if they hadn’t appeared. They’ve done the right thing coming back.”
Ian said that it was good to see Harry and Meghan. “I think they wanted to be here no matter what people thought. They made their decision to be Hollywood A-listers and that’s fine. They got a good reception and they will be happy about that.”
As for Prince Charles, Ian said, “He’s a nice guy, he’s waited a long time to be king, I think he’ll be quite tolerant, I think he’ll be hugely approachable, he won’t be there forever, the future of the royal family was obvious on the (Buckingham Palace) balcony” the day before.
The Sussexes are in Britain from California with their young children, Archie, 3, and Lilibet, who will celebrate her first birthday on Saturday.
This trip marks the first time that the queen has met Lilibet in person. Harry and Meghan named their daughter after Elizabeth, using the queen’s childhood nickname.
Harry has made only a few public trips back to Britain since settling in California. In April, 2021, he attended the funeral of his grandfather Prince Philip, although he did not return this spring for Philip’s memorial, which was a much larger affair as Covid restrictions had lifted. Last summer, he returned to unveil a statue of his late mother, Princess Diana.
Harry’s lawyers have said that the prince does not feel safe when he is in the UK because of the security arrangements that apply to him. He is bringing a claim against the British government after being informed he would no longer be given the “same degree” of personal protective security when visiting Britain. The prince offered to pay for the security himself, but Britain’s Home Office declined.
In a surprise move, the couple announced in January 2020 that they were stepping back as senior royals. The queen rejected their proposal to “half-in, half-out” royals and stripped their royal patronages, making it clear in statements that, while the Sussexes are much-loved members of the royal family, work came first.
The Sussexes decamped to California after a short stint in Canada.
The two sides agreed to a review of the situation after 12 months. But according to royal biographer Robert Hardman, the queen was not expecting them to resume their British life. Writing in his book Queen of Our Times, Hardman says that the queen knew that the Sussexes were unlikely to return as senior royals.
“Asked by one well-meaning visitor if she expected them to resume royal life, she replied firmly, ‘Of course not. They took the dogs’.”