Saturday, 20 Apr 2024

Charles ‘relieved’ as Harry confirms he will attend Coronation

Forgiving King Charles is relieved Prince Harry will be at his Coronation, having feared their rift might never be healed. The disgruntled fifth in line to the throne ended months of speculation by announcing that he will attend Westminster Abbey on May 6 to see his father King Charles III and stepmother Queen Camilla crowned. The Prince’s wife Meghan will stay at home in California with their two children in a move that lifts a cloud over the occasion. But there will inevitably be a lot of scrutiny of the strained links between Harry and much of his family.

The Duke of Sussex, 38 – who has laid bare his and Meghan’s fraught relationship with the Royal Family in an outspoken documentary and memoir – has avoided irreparable damage and kept alive faint hopes of a reconciliation by accepting the invitation, according to insiders.

Harry’s participation at the event is expected to be marginal and he is likely to be given an icy reception from some relatives who fear any conversations they have may be repeated in a book or TV show.

He is not expected to take part in Coronation Day processions and, as a non-working member of the Royal Family, is unlikely to make an appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony after the ceremony.

The Sussexes’ pal Omid Scobie said as May 6 is also the birthday of their son Archie, it “played a factor” in the decision. He expected it would be a “fairly quick trip”.

The Royal Household said: “Buckingham Palace is pleased to confirm that the Duke of Sussex will attend the Coronation Service at Westminster Abbey.

“The Duchess of Sussex will remain in California with Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet.”

Archewell – Harry and Meghan’s charitable foundation – issued a near-identical statement.

Sources close to the Sussexes suggested that Meghan, 41, decided to stay in the US for several reasons, but mainly because she wanted to celebrate with Archie.

The Prince, who will be four on Coronation Day, and his 22-month-old sister were not formally invited to the big day, partly as aides thought them too young.

But it was made clear that their attendance for all or part of the service was something that could have been discussed if both their parents had accepted the King’s invitation.

Meghan is likely to face accusations of snubbing her father-in-law, but her decision to stay in the US at least prevents the rift overshadowing his occasion.

It will be Harry’s first public appearance with the Royal Family since he condemned the King, Camilla and the Prince and Princess of Wales in his book Spare, in January.

He attacked his father’s parenting, claimed the King was jealous of Meghan and of William’s wife Kate, and accused his brother of assaulting him. He also crossed a red line in his father’s view by calling Camilla “dangerous”.

Harry blamed her for sacrificing him on her “personal PR altar” by trading damaging stories about him in return for good publicity for herself. There was no corroboration for many of his allegations.

The Prince, who agonised for weeks whether to accept the invitation to the Coronation, has been keen to secure apologies from his father and brother but – furious with him over his claims – they made it clear they had no intention of providing one.

When Harry made a surprise return to Britain for a court case last month, the King and William were said to be “too busy” to see him.

The Sussexes were asked by the King earlier this year to vacate their base in the UK, Frogmore Cottage on the royal estate at Windsor, but they have been given permission to use it until after the Coronation.

If Harry stays there that weekend, he will be inside the security cordon. It is not known if he will have taxpayer-funded police protection when elsewhere, but it is likely he will receive security as a high-profile guest at such a major national event as the Coronation.

Harry is taking legal action against the Home Office over its withdrawal of automatic security for him and his family when they make return visits to the UK.

His acceptance of the Coronation invite fills one of the final gaps in the planning of the ceremony.

Organisers say the plans are fully on track – they denied suggestions of rehearsals overrunning by an hour and other alleged problems.

The congregation at Westminster Abbey is currently expected to total 2,300 people.

However, organisers say that it is possible a further 200 may yet be squeezed in, taking the main guest list to as many as 2,500.

In addition, another 400 young people have been invited to a special viewing of parts of the historic ceremony from St Margaret’s Church next door, taking the total potentially up to near 3,000.

The Daily Express revealed in January that the authorities in Parliament were informed that up to 3,000 guests would be invited.

There was also potential to install seating for an additional 700 in medieval galleries above the Abbey floor to increase the congregation further – but it is understood that that particular option has not been acted upon.

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