Announcing his absence “reluctantly” Thursday evening, Buckingham Palace explained it by a “certain discomfort” felt during the first day of celebrations on Thursday. The queen, who has difficulty walking, appeared there twice on the balcony of the palace.
The mass at St Paul’s Cathedral is to mark the first public appearance of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan in the UK since leaving for California two years ago.
Prince Andrew, 62, forever deprived of a royal role, will not participate. The palace announced Thursday that it had caught the Covid and would be absent “with regret” from this religious ceremony, organized as part of the four days of festivities marking the platinum jubilee (70 years of reign) of Elizabeth II, a record for a British monarch.
The return of Harry and Meghan, who came from the United States with their two young children for the celebrations, has already caused a lot of hostile ink to flow.
“You are not welcome at the Jubilee,” Amanda Platell, former spokesperson for former Conservative leader William Hague, wrote in the Daily Mail last week. “Don’t be daring enough to steal the lights directed at the queen,” royal photographer Arthur Edwards also warned in the tabloid The Sun.
After the family tensions of the past two years, all gestures and looks during this mass are of course examined with a magnifying glass.
Will Harry and William talk to each other? What about Meghan and Kate? For two years, relations between Harry, 37, and William, 39, second in line to the throne, have been almost non-existent. They are hardly better with her father Prince Charles, heir to the crown.
Since their departure to California in 2020 and their sensational interview on American television, experienced as a betrayal in the United Kingdom, Harry and Meghan have been among the most unpopular members of the royal family, Meghan in 14th place at 23% of opinions favorable, Harry in 11th place with 36%. Only Prince Andrew does worse, at 12% (recent YouGov poll).
– Rare appearances –
Second son of the queen, Andrew has no longer any official role, since accusations of sexual assault in connection with the Epstein affair in the United States, which he put an end to by paying several million dollars.
Last March, her appearance on the arm of the sovereign at Westminster Abbey, for the ceremony in memory of Prince Philip who died last year, was poorly received by part of British public opinion.
Neither he nor Harry and Meghan had been invited to the balcony of Buckingham Palace on Thursday, from where the Queen was cheered on by tens of thousands of Londoners on the first day of her Jubilee celebrations. Meghan and Harry were spotted from afar watching the Salute to the Colors military parade from another building, Andrew was invisible.
The Queen, in a dove-blue outfit, appeared on the balcony smiling, leaning on a cane, along with 17 members of the royal family.
The appearances of the sovereign, who ascended the throne at the age of 25 on February 6, 1952, are increasingly rare.
Some 400 people are expected at the religious service on Friday, all distinguished for their contribution to the life of the country, including teachers, health personnel, representatives of the armed forces or charities.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Church who was to officiate, canceled because he was suffering from Covid. He was succeeded by the Bishop of York.
The celebrations will continue on Saturday with a large evening concert in front of Buckingham Palace, before thousands of lunches and popular parties between neighbors on Sunday, and a huge parade in the streets of London in the evening, with nearly 10,000 participants.