Nothing in Royal Land happens by accident. From the issuing of official announcements to the planning of royal engagements, a degree of military precision is applied that would make even the most regimental of sergeant majors blush.
Timing is everything, which makes Buckingham Palace’s 3pm statement revealing that Harry - not Meghan - will attend the Coronation all the more intriguing.
“Buckingham Palace is pleased to confirm that The Duke of Sussex will attend the Coronation Service at Westminster Abbey on 6th May,” read the long-awaited missive, adding to virtually no one’s surprise: “The Duchess of Sussex will remain in California with Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet.”
For the truth is, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have known for months that this was the way they were going to broach the May 6 ceremony. Among their Montecito set, it has been an open secret that Harry was planning to attend without Meghan since Spare hit the bookshelves in January - possibly even earlier.
The signs were all there, from the Duchess being almost entirely absent from her husband’s book tour to rumours of disgruntlement at Archie and Lilibet’s apparent exclusion from the Coronation procession.
If Meghan wasn’t willing to help Harry to promote his tell-all book about the Firm, then why on earth would she be minded to run the gauntlet of potential egg throwers outside Westminster Abbey on behalf of her “racist” in-laws? Especially after that South Park episode?
And in what world would the woman who once told Oprah Winfrey, “The most important title I will ever have is Mom,” be comfortable with skipping her eldest’s fourth birthday in favour of an event that would require her to curtsy not only to her estranged father and mother-in-law - but also her even more estranged brother and sister-in-law?
The Duchess made very clear what she thought about curtseying to Queen Elizabeth II in the couple’s Netflix documentary. She’s unlikely to be any more enamoured with the idea of bending the knee and bowing her head to “cry-monger” Catherine, the pregnancy-hormone princess.
Sussex Squadders will insist she took one for the team for fear of “overshadowing” what Harry has described as the biggest day of his father’s life. But more objective observers may point to even greater fears about being placed in the cheap seats alongside their fellow non-working royal, the Duke of York.
As recent royal history has proved, the Sussexes would only reluctantly play second fiddle when Queen Elizabeth was conducting the orchestra, and now she’s no longer waving the baton - Meghan’s well and truly left the band. Like John Lennon, she very much sees her future in the US, say friends. So it will be left to Harry to suck up the ignominy of being excluded from both the King’s procession and Coronation procession and from the Buckingham Palace balcony. Blood is thicker than water, and all that.
But why has the couple waited until now to formally RSVP?
Harry’s abject hatred of the media will certainly have played a part. The Duke, who made a surprise appearance at the High Court last month for his claim against Associated Newspapers Limited over allegations of unlawful information gathering, likes nothing more than keeping pesky royal reporters guessing. Even better to see them make predictions that later turn out to be false.
Control is key - and in withholding their confirmation for months, Harry and Meghan ensured that the ball remained in their court. The couple seems to relish engaging in games of cat and mouse with the palace - sometimes seemingly against paid advice. On Wednesday night, there was even some confusion over whether they planned to make the announcement themselves initially - before deferring to the palace - or whether the palace planned to announce it all along.
Yet they also knew they would stand accused of “snubbing” the King’s big day if neither of them were in attendance. Having recently announced that they have opted to use their children’s royal titles - which were conspicuous in the palace’s announcement - it would have looked rather hypocritical of the fifth-in-line to the throne (and don’t you forget it) to skip the biggest event in the Court Circular since 1953.
Thoughts will now inevitably turn to whether this presents a third - and possibly final - chance for a royal rapprochement. Both sides tried and failed after the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in April 2021, when a family summit did not resolve matters following the Oprah interview. Queen Elizabeth’s funeral last September was similarly unsuccessful with Harry revealing in his memoir that he and William “barely exchanged a word”. When Harry returned for last month’s court case, he was told his father was “too busy” to see him while his brother was not even in London. They will meet for the first time since #dogbowlgate in a little over three weeks’ time.
Meghan’s absence may smooth the path to reconciliation - but if Harry is still holding out for a royal mea culpa, it seems highly unlikely he will receive one.
Both the King and Prince William are understood to feel deeply betrayed by the many personal family revelations the Duke has made - not only in his warts-and-all book but various interviews.
Many cannot see how the relationship will ever be repaired, with sources close to the Waleses revealing that they are waiting for “some acknowledgement” of the hurt that has been caused “let alone an apology”.
Charles will always be willing to forgive his “darling boy” and suggestions there has been “genuine cooperation” over Harry’s attendance is surely a positive sign.
But one gets the distinct impression that when it comes to deciding whether Harry should be let back into the royal fold, William will be the one wearing the Crown come Coronation Day.