Royal life might have gotten a whole lot less bloody in the centuries since then however when it comes to internal feuds and rifts, things have gotten no less messy or protracted in the digital age.
This week saw Harry and Meghan the Duke and Duchess of Sussex say goodbye to official royal life after barely 40 months on the job as a megawatt double act.
Their final outing was the annual Commonwealth Day service held on Monday, UK time, at Westminster Abbey, an event that for years was a soporific exercise in just how dull vast swathes of HRH life can be.
However not the 2020 service, with Prince Charles greeting people with namaste prayer hands thanks to coronavirus fears and UK tabloids having lip readers on standby to catch every stiff, leaden moment as the Sussexes and William and Kate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge came face-to-face in public for the first time since November.
Is it any surprise then that, given the maelstrom that has been the last few months of royal life, there was right regal drama brewing even before the first organ revved up to belt out a few hymnal bangers?
The brouhaha started when it was revealed over the weekend that while William and Kate would join the Queen, Prince Charles and Camilla in the official procession to their seats, Harry and Meghan had been left out. Instead, they would be escorted to their second row spot prior to proceedings in the same way that Edward and Sophie the Earl and Countess of Wessex would be.
This would stand in direct contrast to last year when both the Cambridges and the Sussexes were tapped to join Her Majesty in the procession.
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According to the Daily Mail, Harry and Meghan were “very upset” (the paper’s words, not the Sussexes) when they found out about the procession plan. Despite being president and vice-president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust respectively, the couple were essentially being denied entry to the VIP group.
One royal source told the paper, “It seems that they were quite sensitive and emotional about it,” while another source opined: “Although they are adamant about wanting to step down, they seem quite preoccupied with what status they will retain and the fact that Harry remains sixth in line to the throne, as they made a point of saying on their new website the other day.”
The upside to this set up would have been that the former Fab Four would not be forced to make polite chitchat in front of live TV cameras as they waited for Her Majesty to arrive and the procession to start. However the downside would have been that this version of the events would have created a PR nightmare for everyone involved, given they are a family for which symbolism and proximity to the sovereign are heavily freighted.
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The day however, according to the Daily Mail, was saved by the Cambridges who stepped in to defuse the situation, offering to also walk to their seats also, despite the fact that 2,000 Orders of Service had already been printed – and were still handed out.
What is so extraordinary about this simple gesture is everything that has gone before: Harry’s TV interview seemingly confirming rift rumours, telling a reporter that he and William were “on different paths at the moment”; William in January this year telling a friend, according to the Times, “I’ve put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can’t do that anymore; we’re separate entities.”
Despite all of this, here was a moment that fell somewhere between fraternal devotion and Princely pragmatism. It was a gesture that, it could be argued, reflected both maturity and the desire to help his brother save face as the prying, curious world watched.
Interestingly, the Cambridges also went a step further, making another magnanimous gesture towards the departing Sussexes with their official @KensingtonRoyal Instagram account also featuring shots of both Harry and Meghan. The Sussexes’ account, by contrast, only featured pictures of themselves.
At a time when there is a lot of talk about kindness floating around on social media, and given the reported acrimony between the brothers, it is truly heartening that Wills and Kate would go so far as to demote themselves from the procession to save Harry and Meghan from facing the relative humiliation of being left out of the Queenly procession.
So, here we are. After three tortured and emotional months, Harry and Meghan have finally won their freedom. And Wills? Wills who has been left to pick up the royal slack and carry the regal can with only Kate by his side? I reckon he has won too, by showing Harry that he still has his brother’s back.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.