LONDON — When Queen Elizabeth II kicks off the Platinum Jubilee, celebrating 70 years on the British throne, next month, she will do so with a slimmed-down royal family behind her: Neither Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, nor Prince Andrew will get a place on the balcony at Buckingham Palace to wave at the crowds.
Even the queen’s presence is not a certainty: The 96-year-old monarch rarely ventures into the public these days, after surviving a bout with the coronavirus and lamenting her trouble walking. But people with ties to the palace said she was intent on appearing on the balcony, the ultimate royal photo opportunity.
For that reason, the question of who appears alongside the monarch is laden with, well, palace intrigue. Officially, the queen’s decision to leave out Harry, her grandson de ella, and Andrew, her disgraced second son, is purely a function of their revised job descriptions de ella: neither are full-time working royals anymore.
Prince Harry gave up that status when he and Meghan moved to Southern California in 2020. Andrew lost the status after the queen exiled him from public life because of his ties to the financier and sex predator, Jeffrey Epstein. In February, he settled a sex abuse lawsuit brought against him in New York.
But the decision to exclude them — particularly Harry and Meghan — was perhaps inevitably interpreted by London’s tabloids as a snub of family members who have generated reams of unflattering headlines over the last two years.
The decision also suggests that Harry has not repaired the breach with his father and brother that opened after he and Meghan declared they wanted to pull back from royal duties, and that deepened after they granted an interview to Oprah Winfrey, in which they accused members of the family of callous and even racist behavior.
The lineup on the balcony will be limited to “members of the royal family who are currently undertaking official public duties on behalf of the queen,” according to a palace spokesman, who did not mention Harry, Meghan, or Andrew by name.
That circle includes her eldest son and heir, Prince Charles, and his wife Camilla; his eldest son, Prince William, and his wife Catherine; the queen’s daughter Princess Anne; her youngest son of her, Prince Edward, and a handful of others. The queen has also invited assorted grandchildren.
Prince Harry and Meghan are not letting the decision keep them away. In a statement, a spokeswoman for the couple said, “Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are excited and honored to attend The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations this June with their children.”
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It would be the first time the couple’s daughter, Lilibet, meets her great-grandmother, for whom she is named. Lilibet was Elizabeth’s childhood nickname for her. Their daughter’s middle name, Diana, honors Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car accident in Paris in 1997.
Harry and Meghan are expected to attend a thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral on June 3, as is Andrew. They might also attend other events. But the balcony appearance on June 2 is the symbolic centerpiece of the four-day jubilee festivities, coming just after a military parade that honors the queen’s birthday, known as Trooping the Colour.
Harry and Meghan had tea with the queen at Windsor Castle a week before her birthday in early April. Harry said the meeting had reaffirmed his close relationship with his grandmother. But he ruffled feathers in Britain by telling NBC’s “Today” show, “I’m just making sure she’s protected and got the right people around her.”
The image of a streamlined royal family underscores the influence of Charles, 73, who functions as an unofficial prince regent for the queen these days, carrying out many of her public duties. Charles, royal watchers say, has long pushed to reduce the number of family members with full working status.
Buckingham Palace has begun to share details of the jubilee, which will include a televised party on a circular stage in front of the palace on June 4 and a pageant the next day. The decision to announce the balcony lineup now, a palace official said, had been calculated to prevent it from overshadowing the festivities.