On a recent episode of the Royally Obsessed podcast, my co-host Roberta Fiorito and I had the privilege of welcoming Omid Scobie, royal expert and author of Finding Freedom to the show. As we’ve been doing with our guests for the past several months, we were chatting Platinum Jubilee predictions (Queen Elizabeth’s banner toast to 70 years on the throne kicks off the first weekend in June) and asked Scobie for his thoughts on whether or not Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would attend.

At the time, concerns about Harry’s security were making headlines; so were non-stop takedowns opinion pieces about the state of Harry’s relationship with his family, post-Oprah. But Scobie’s assessment of the promise the Jubilee could hold for royal family relations still rings ‘round my head.

“I think that it’s a real shame if [the Sussexes can’t join for the Jubilee] because I think sometimes all it takes is those picture moments where you can see the couple co-existing alongside the rest of the family for others to move on from this story of a fractious relationship that has existed for so long,” Scobie reflected in the episode.

royal family trooping the colour
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Eight weeks later, we’re no longer making predictions: Queen Elizabeth—and a spokesperson for the Sussexes—confirmed last week that, yes, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (and, delightfully, Archie & Lili, too) will be in attendance at the Platinum Jubilee. But when it comes to the most iconic “picture moment” of all, the Buckingham Palace balcony appearance by the royals during Trooping the Colour? As non-working members of the royal family, the Sussexes will be sitting that part out. (To Scobie’s credit, he accurately predicted all this weeks ago on the pod.)

But here’s what pains me about this choice: Of all the occasions tied to the Platinum Jubilee, Trooping the Colour commands the eyes of the world. As a longtime royal watcher—Princess Diana was my entry point—I agree with Scobie: The Jubilee is the moment to showcase unity and fences (moats?) being mended. To me, the balcony shot is the pinnacle. I want to see Harry side-by-side with Prince William; Prince George stirring up mischievous trouble with Archie; heck, I just want a clear shot of the entire family together again, fascinators on.

No, it’s not the royals’ job to appease my interests; or manage my need to know that the kids (mainly, William & Harry) will be alright. But, as a brand—and the royal family is a brand—Trooping the Colour reads like a campaign for the monarchy. As Scobie said, visually speaking, it’s a chance to publicly right the ship.

harry and meghan at invictus games 2022
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Instead, the choice to limit the balcony moment to “working royals only” makes the Sussexes seem like a casualty of a PR plan designed to solve the Prince Andrew problem (hello, his rape case makes him the only one who truly deserves to be banished) and, as the U.K. tabloids venomously dramatize it, prevent Harry and Meghan from stealing the spotlight from the queen.

The latter feels like the biggest eye roll reasoning of all. The Sussexes, with their high-wattage star power, would only amplify the attention on Her Majesty. And, if a picture is worth a thousand words, it would demonstrate progress and yield royal wedding-levels of good will toward the Windsors overall.

Of course, we don’t know the full calendar of the weekend just yet. There are royal rumors circulating that there could in fact be a second family balcony appearance, scheduled for Sunday that weekend, in which more of the family could take part.

In addition, the Sussexes could also have had their own stipulations in regards to their attendance, unbeknownst to us. They could have declined Trooping the Colour and preferred to take a back seat throughout the occasion—after all, there are no doubt still plenty of issues that need to be worked through following allegations of racism, a lack of mental health support and more. But we also know that the pair recently made the effort to meet with Queen Elizabeth and Charles en route to the Invictus Games in the Hague. And per Harry’s limited revelations to Hoda Kotb on TODAY, the reunion—at least the part with his grandmother, which was all that he mentioned—went well.

But that’s just it and why, long-term, I believe the monarchy will view this decision to leave them off the balcony with regret. As we know from countless accounts, the queen has always had a soft spot for Harry. (He, in turn, has deep affection for her.) Also, after the death of Diana, William and Harry have, for the most part, enjoyed an impenetrable bond.

Bottom line: Decades from now, looking back on this moment, Harry and Meghan’s exclusion only heightens the drama. Instead, it could have been an olive branch. For optics? Sure. But also because, ultimately, it will matter to the queen, Prince Charles and William that Harry was by their side.

To be clear, I’m also still very much looking forward to cheering on the queen and the Cambridges, even Charles and Camilla, throughout the weekend whether the Sussexes appear on the balcony or not. 70 years! This is a big deal.

But as far as royal strategy goes, this still feels like a miss and a source of unnecessary drama. My only hope is that the weekend proves me wrong.

For more about the royals, listen to the Royally Obsessed podcast with co-hosts Rachel Bowie and Roberta Fiorito. Subscribe now or follow us on Instagram @royallyobsessedpodcast.

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