The British royal family may not be entirely simpatico at the moment, but they presented a reasonably united front Monday as they gathered for the annual Commonwealth Day service in Westminster Abbey.
Queen Elizabeth II and her family came together for the first time since a series of shocking decisions splattered the image of the world’s most famous royal clan.
Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan of Sussex were among the first to arrive. Harry was in a blue suit and tie.
Meghan was in kelly green from head to hem, in a fitted dress by Emilia Wickstead featuring a cape over one shoulder and a matching green oval hat with netting perched on the left side of her head. She carried a green bag but had on cream heels.
Her outfit continued the pattern she established Thursday evening when she and Harry attended the Endeavour Awards, she in a fitted blue dress. She was in a scarlet red caped gown on Saturday night at the Mountbatten Music Festival, matching Harry’s Royal Marines uniform.
Prince William and Duchess Kate of Cambridge followed soon after, he in a dark suit and Kate in a red Catherine Walker coat trimmed in velvet with a burgundy and purple pie-style hat and a red velvet clutch.
Who among the senior royals wasn’t there? Prince Philip, the queen’s husband of 72 years, who is 98 and frail and who hasn’t been seen much in public except for family occasions since his 2017 retirement.
It may be the last time we see the key royals together in this way for some time, especially the beloved sons of the late Princess Diana and their wives, once dubbed the “Fab Four.”
The Commonwealth service was the first all-hands royal get together since the queen’s third-eldest grandson and his wife, Harry and Meghan, chose to “step back” from being senior working royals so they could move to Canada with baby Archie and become financially independent “free royals.”
The gusher of furious abuse this unleashed in the British tabloids, mostly aimed at the American former actress Meghan Markle, has been remarkable even for the tabloid media already in a feverish state over the queen’s second-eldest son, Prince Andrew the Duke of York.
Andrew was forced to “step back” from royal duties last year after a BBC interview in which he failed to convincingly explain or apologize for his long-ago relationship with a convicted American sex-offender, the late Jeffrey Epstein, and allegations that he had sex in 2001 with a teen “sex slave” paid by Epstein.
The queen’s Commonwealth Day message featured her traditional themes of diversity, connectivity and conservation, and how technology and modern media have allowed more people to experience advances in education, medicine and protection of the environment.
“For many, this awareness awakens a desire to employ our planet’s natural resources with greater care, and it is encouraging to see how the countries of the Commonwealth continue to devise new ways of working together to achieve prosperity, whilst protecting our planet,” her message said.
The Commonwealth is a global network of more than 50 countries, ranging in size from Canada and Australia to tiny Pacific islands, many of them former colonies of the old British Empire.
The organization is extremely dear to the queen, who turns 94 in April and was 26 when she took over as head of the Commonwealth in 1952, the year she became queen. Since then, the Commonwealth has grown from just seven nations to 54 members, and the queen has made more than 200 visits to member countries.
As head, she has plays a symbolic and unifying role, personally reinforcing the links by which the network joins people from around the world. The annual Commonwealth Day service is a big deal, considered a must-appear ritual for front-line royals.
It could be the last time we see Harry and Meghan together with the family until possibly June for the annual Trooping the Color parade honoring the queen’s birthday. That ritual always concludes with the extended family filling up the balcony at Buckingham Palace and waving to the cheering crowds in The Mall below.
The Sussexes have been winding down their roles as senior working royals with a series of engagements in the U.K. before they take up new lives as financially independent “free royals” living in Canada with baby Archie, who turns 1 in May.
Their new status officially begins April 1. They will be free to pursue commercial deals with business partners, aimed at monetizing their world-famous brand to support themselves.
They have said they intend to return to Britain frequently to support their charity endeavors and patronages. They are expected to be in The Hague in the Netherlands starting May 9 for the week-long Invictus Games 2020, the popular sporting competition for wounded warriors that Harry founded.
The Invictus Games are close to Harry’s heart for several reasons, including his own service in the British Army and his passion for supporting wounded military personnel.
The Invictus Games in Toronto in September 2017 was also the first time he and Meghan were photographed together at a public event following a year-long relationship in which they had mostly eluded all but the most relentless paparazzi.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, meanwhile, have just returned from a successful three-day official visit to Ireland, where they were greeted by excited crowds as they explored the pleasures of Eire, including Gaelic football and quaffing beers at local pubs.
Later Monday, Kate is scheduled to host a dinner gala at Buckingham Palace for one of her child charity patronages, Place2Be.
Prince Charles is busier than ever, taking on more responsibilities for the aging queen as well as his own considerable roster of philanthropic projects. He is due to attend his annual Prince’s Trust Awards this week, and next week he and his wife, Duchess Camilla of Cornwall, embark on their spring tour.
He will visit Bosnia and Herzegovina, during the 25th anniversary year of the genocide, where he is expected to highlight reforms to improve citizens’ lives. Then he and Camilla will visit Cyprus to celebrate traditional Cypriot culture and recognize the work of the UN Peacekeeping Forces, and will also visit Jordan to learn what the Hashemite Kingdom is doing to support refugees and showcase its rich cultural history.