Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s coronation pact

Bowing to no one, the couple is spared embarrassment with their clever tactic

As decisions go, this one seems to be a sensible compromise. Prince Harry is going to the coronation of his father the King, while his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex is staying home to celebrate son Prince Archie’s fourth birthday.

Harry, 38, gets to be a tiny part of his dad’s big day, while Meghan, 40, avoids having to interact with the in-laws. It’s a win-win situation, surely.

Some royal commentators agree. “I’m glad Harry is coming to what is probably the most important day of his father’s life – it would have been churlish not to do so,” says former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond. “I think this was always the best compromise.”

However, reaching this decision hasn’t been easy, and at times it has been touch and go whether Harry would agree to put in a brief appearance (he’ll be at the actual coronation service at Westminster Abbey but won’t take part in the procession or appear on the balcony at Buckingham Palace afterwards).

According to some sources, Harry stalled over RSVPing to the invitation because he had issues over seating arrangements in the abbey. Harry was reportedly not happy about where he and Meghan sat last year at both the Thanksgiving Service that was part of the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebration in June and her funeral in September. Both times they were placed away from senior royals.

Discussions went back and forth between the King’s staff and the Sussexes’ California home like “Transatlantic ping pong”, according to one source. Finally, Harry was persuaded to say yes to attending after having a “heart-to-heart” conversation with his dad. “Harry really does want to show support for his father,” says the insider.

But when it came down to it, Harry really had no choice about whether to show up, say marketing experts. If he and Meghan want to maintain the high profiles that earn them a seven-figure income in the US, they have to keep playing on Harry’s link to the royal family.

“Harry going to the coronation is a wise move on a personal, as well as a brand level,” says PR expert Eric Schiffer. “He has been masterful at merchandising and marketing his royal lineage. But being missing in action from a major family event dilutes his brand. Harry’s whole brand relevance is about proximity to the King.”

Harry’s lavish Californian lifestyle depends on him being at the coronation – and if there’s a hint of drama with The Firm, even better for his US market.

A senior film executive in the US agrees, adding, “The danger Harry and Meghan face is becoming irrelevant. The American public needs to see he is still a part of The Firm because the royal family and their drama is what we’re interested in.”

Some commentators believe Meghan would not have opted to stay home with Princess Lilibet, 22 months, and Archie – whose fourth birthday is on the same day as the May 6 coronation – if there was anything to be gained by being seen at the coronation.

Biographer Tom Bower explains, “She would only come if she was assured of a prominent position. That was deliberately denied to her. She was also told she would have to curtsey to the Queen, [Princess of Wales] Kate and [Duchess of Edinburgh] Sophie. Everyone at Buckingham Palace knew that was too much for her and would be another reason to deter her from coming. She would not want to play second fiddle to Kate.”

Because their Duke and Duchess of Sussex brand is so crucial to their financial survival, Harry and Meghan have to weigh up when is the right time to remind people of their royal connections, and when they should ease off, says PR guru Mark Borkowski. “There is nothing for Meghan to gain from disrupting the King’s big day. She needs to stand back. In the PR game, it’s choosing your battles and the strategy will be to get past the coronation.”

A friend of the couple says not going was the right choice for Meghan because “she’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. As a mother, she’s probably doing the right thing by her children, which should be applauded”.

Prince Archie will be celebrating his fourth birthday American-style.

Meanwhile, Harry may not miss out on his son’s birthday. According to one source, Harry’s planning on leaving Britain as soon as the coronation service is over and because of the time difference could make it back to California in time to celebrate Archie’s big day.

Maybe a dinosaur-themed party could be in order!

“The flight back to Los Angeles takes roughly 10 hours, which means he can be back with his family by 5pm, have a birthday supper with Archie and kiss him goodnight.”

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