With King Charles’ coronation just weeks away, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle seem to be caught in a royal mess.
It’s been a tense few months since the couple aired some of the royal family’s dirty laundry in their Netflix docuseries and in Harry’s autobiography Spare, and lost national and global favor in the process, according to multiple polls. Naturally, much of the world is keen to see if the couple awkwardly reunites with their family for Charles’ historic event on May 6. But it looks like the couple will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
A spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess confirmed on March 5 they had been invited to the historic event via email, but they did not comment on whether they would be attending.
During the coronation, Charles will be crowned alongside Camilla, Queen Consort, at Westminster Abbey in front of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and other British politicians, heads of state, and royals from around the globe. The weekend will also feature a concert with a currently sparse lineup on May 7, and Brits will observe May 8 as a public holiday.
While Harry and Meghan weigh up the pros and cons of attending, here are all the reasons that might sway their decision.
Why Harry and Meghan should attend
It makes professional sense for the couple and King Charles
The most obvious draw for Harry and Meghan to attend the coronation is because it sends a message to the world that they retain a sense of duty to the royal family and can be called on to respectfully participate in major events. Their royal connection is also what has led to most of their recent projects so it would also be a business savvy move. For King Charles, it sends a message of unity to the world.
Kinsey Schofield, a royal commentator from the U.S., describes this as a “win-win” reason to attend and for Charles to welcome them. “The King doesn’t have the stain of an absent child in the history books and Harry maintains that royal connection that has proven to be so lucrative for him in the states,” she tells TIME.
They still have strong connections to some family members
Prince Harry has always had a close relationship with the York sisters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, who featured in Harry’s Netflix documentary in December. The cameo showed Eugenie and Harry enjoying a bike ride. The duke is also close to his cousin Zara Tindall, who chose him to be the godfather to her youngest child Lena Elizabeth in 2019.
While the world watches a lot of royal drama play out it is important to remember that the couple still have relationships with other family members who may welcome them and want to be around them.
The event is so historic that attention may be on other things
“The scale of interest in the coronation worldwide is such that they simply could not possibly overshadow such a huge event which has so much significance for Britain and the Commonwealth,” says Richard Fitzwilliams, a long-standing royal expert.
The last coronation—Queen Elizabeth II’s on June 2, 1953—was the first major world event to be broadcast internationally on television.
While there is interest in Harry and Meghan’s attendance, viewers will have a lot to keep up with on the day. The public’s attention will likely turn to other guests, quirky British traditions, and the luxurious pomp and circumstance of the event. As such, the couple should be able to play their small part in the same way they did during Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations last June that marked 70 years on the throne.
Their children now have royal titles
All three of the Prince of Wales’s children are expected to take part in the King’s coronation procession, which will exclusively feature working royals, the Times of London reported. But the Sussex children have yet to be invited to the coronation, according to the report, most likely because they are too young.
With Harry and Meghan’s children formally using their prince and princess titles as of March, it may be in the couple’s interest to attend the coronation and keep their royal connections alive for their children’s future.
Why Harry and Meghan shouldn’t attend
They could be iced out
While acknowledging that there are royal family members who have great relationships with Harry and Meghan, there are those who don’t. In Schofield’s estimation, the couple will be “iced out” by many if they do attend. “We will likely not see them engaging with the most prominent senior royals, especially the individuals that took hits in Spare,” she says.
“They would sit a few rows back, be spotted in the windows of the palace during the processions, and likely not invited to all of the celebratory events,” Schofield adds.
Harry is locked in a deep feud with his brother and heir apparent Prince William.
Fitzwilliams predicts a similar outcome, and expects that any conversation that does take place will be small talk. “No one in the royal family will trust them and say anything substantial to them for fear of it being leaked,” he says.
Critics may accuse them of hypocrisy
The couple’s Netflix series, and especially Harry’s memoir, leveled criticism at select members of the family, as well as the royal institution as a whole. The couple has repeatedly accused “The Firm” of racism that drove them away.
With this in mind, some may call the couple hypocritical for wanting any part in an establishment they have been major critics of. When asked about this, Schofield says it can be viewed two ways: “There are critics that will say [they are hypocritical], yes. However, the same critics might accuse him of being a coward if he doesn’t attend,” she says. “Harry is in a very difficult position.”
It won’t be the time or place for reconciliation
There may be a temptation for Harry and Meghan to view the coronation as an opportunity to reconcile with members of the royal family, but the timing makes that difficult.
When asked in an ITV interview to promote his memoir in January, Harry said: “There’s a lot that can happen between now and then. But you know, the door is always open. The ball is in their court.” He added: “There is a lot to be discussed and I really hope that they are willing to sit down and talk about it.”
But the reality is that a coronation likely won’t be the time or place for these types of conversations because the family is focused on the pressure of hosting a major diplomatic event. “There will be no scheduled reconciliation as this event is not about them,” Schofield says. “King Charles has waited his entire life for this moment. He will want to avoid any and all drama.”
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