With all the fuss surrounding which family members will or won’t be appearing on the Buckingham Palace balcony during next month’s Platinum Jubilee, you would be forgiven for thinking that this year’s Trooping the Colour parade is about everyone but the Queen herself. It certainly felt that way following the palace’s jubilee media briefing last Friday, when - after communications staff spent most of the day fielding questions about the Sussexes - headlines quickly revolved around Her Majesty’s “shock” decision to only invite working members of the family to witness the famous RAF fly-past from the second floor of Buck House.
To those who have been around this beat long enough, the news shouldn’t have been a huge surprise. Similar to Prince Charles’ 2012 decision to limit family members on the balcony for the finale of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations (in order to show the world his slimmed-down vision for the Firm), this year’s approach to the guestlist revises the rule to now include every family member currently carrying out royal duties. More importantly, it also solves the dilemma of keeping a certain disgraced royal at bay. Impatiently waiting for a comeback moment, sources say Prince Andrew was eager to stand by his mother during such a poignant and sympathetic scene. Instead, the appropriate image being presented on June 2 is a lineup of part-time and full-time working family members who are all responsible for continuing the Queen’s legacy beyond her reign. Makes sense to me.
Of course, the confirmed list of royals (18 including the Cambridge and Wessex children - not working just yet, but will all one day be primed for it) didn’t take long to become a perceived snub to two of the 30-odd family members who won’t be appearing: the Sussexes. Given the ongoing negative narratives about them in the British press - often spurred on by gossipy palace aides still incandescent about the couple’s decision to leave or speak out - stories about Harry, Meghan and their kids being “DRAMATICALLY CUT” would have probably felt believable to any tabloid reader. As is often the case, the reality is much less severe when you hear that Prince Harry had already spoken with his grandmother about the possibility of not attending Trooping the Colour long before last week's announcements. I’m told by a source that the Duke of Sussex had actually expressed some time ago that he and Meghan were very keen to be a part of the Jubilee engagements, including the National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, but less so for the formal balcony moment, which was felt on both sides to be more appropriate for their lives prior to stepping back.
Watch: Queen sends 'Fantastic Five' on Jubilee tour
Drama is, of course, what often makes the story of the royal family so compelling to millions around the world. But, regardless of the insatiable appetite, there are times it needs to just be accepted when major spectacle or scandal isn't there.
Still, the fact hasn’t stopped some national newspapers - those same outlets ironically wringing their hands over fears of attention being “stolen” from the Queen by the Sussexes. Pot-stirring polls already include asking members of the public if they planned to boo Harry and Meghan, and you won’t be hard pushed to find fantastical commentary speculating that evil Netflix cameras might swoop in and gatecrash events (for what show I’m not exactly sure, given that the only Archewell production currently in development is a documentary about the Invictus Games). You will struggle, however, to find much said about Andrew though, but I suppose his recent multi-million settlement with a woman accusing him of sexually assaulting her at 17 years old is nothing compared to the audacity of two people who moved abroad.
There is still great uncertainty over just how much we will see of the 96-year-old monarch during the extended Jubilee weekend, especially after her absence at Tuesday’s opening of Parliament due to ongoing “episodic mobility problems”. Palace officials tell me that the Queen still plans to take part in the celebrations, however, no appearances will be confirmed until nearer the time or the day of. But what is clear is that these four days might just be one of the last chances the nation and the world will have to see the Queen in public like this. A potential final opportunity to celebrate the achievements of a woman who, despite being thrown into an almost-impossible role at the age of 25, has navigated her seven-decade reign with commitment, dignity and grace. A woman who, unlike a number of other family members or some working for the institution, has diligently upheld the values and principles that the royal establishment is supposed to represent.
Members of the royal family are certainly no strangers to drama created by themselves. But, right now, the biggest threat to the jubilee isn’t coming from within the Windsors or House Montecito, it’s the sections of media hellbent on joyriding the focus towards soap opera-style drama and embellished tales. Whether you are a royalist or not, Her Majesty deserves better than this.