Meghan and Harry’s new Lilibet photo feels like a desperate move
Tuesday - 07/06/2022 17:55
After Meghan and Harry attended the Service of Thanksgiving, that was the end of their Jubilee attendance. Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Meghan and Harry have released a beautiful new photo of little Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor – but the story behind the snap speaks volumes.
Look, let’s get one – no, two – things straight, right now: Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor is absolutely adorable and those Spencer redhead genes must be the biological equivalent of tungsten.
Early on Tuesday morning, Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a portrait taken of their daughter Lili on her first birthday on Saturday during “a casual, intimate backyard picnic at Frogmore Cottage” held while the family were back in the UK for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. A second black and white shot of a group of people including Meghan and Lili was also released. (Nothing says “intimate” gathering like later releasing shots to the world!)
Now, these Lili snaps are the sort of heart-melting images and memories parents the world over treasure. And they are the sort of heart-melting images and memories parents the world over happily keep in a photo album or maybe share with loved ones.
But when have the Sussexes ever stuck to the quotidian course?
The most obvious question to ask yourself here is, why?
Harry and Meghan are no longer working members of the royal family, having long fled the royal cage where there is an expectation they will regularly share carefully controlled snippets of their children’s lives with the public.
While they did post a video of Meghan reading a story to Archie on this first birthday in 2020 to raise money for charity, since then they have done things their own way. For the little boy’s second birthday last year they only released a picture of him holding balloons taken from the back. (Ditto their Christmas card that year which rendered them all as illustrations.)
For his third birthday last month, the Sussexes released precisely nothing. Nor did they release any sort of image when Lili was born last year.
In December last year, they did share a Christmas snap of the family but it did not show that much of either child’s face.
It appeared that the Duke and Duchess had made the eminently sensible decision to protect their tots’ privacy and had decided not to allow the nosy media into their kids’ lives. Smart.
But now, these Lili photos.
The timing of their release is the key to understanding this surprising change of tack on the Sussexes’ part with the shots coming out only about 24 hours after the family arrived back in the US after there ice-cold trip back to his homeland. (And which curiously surfaced only hours after William and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridgereleased a series of touching behind-the-scenes shots of their kids during the Jubilee.)
Lili’s birthday aside, the four-day stint back in the UK was nothing short of a PR disaster for the couple who were sidelined by the royal family in the most humiliating – and blatant – way possible.
During Trooping the Colour, the only Windsors they were seen with were Princess Anne’s grandchildren and the 86-year-old Duke of Kent. One report has suggested they were not invited to the family lunch that followed, however, given that the Queen is unfailingly polite I find that a bit hard to believe.
When the pair rolled up at the Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s the following day, it was to some boos from the assembled crowd outside (there were cheers too). Things really took an embarrassing turn when they got inside. The Queen might have offered the concession to their former elevated positions by allowing them to arrive via their own car, and not the bus put on for her other grandchildren and they were given their own individual procession to their seats, but there any kindness bluntly stopped.
Images of them being led to their second-row seats in the middle of a clutch of B and C-list Windsors, with Harry’s cousins Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and their husbands having to stand up to make way for them, were about as ignominious as they come.
Live TV cameras captured the couple being literally and figuratively sidelined.
They, like the rest of the congregation, then had to wait about 20 minutes for the first-string royal players to turn up. When Prince Charles as well as William and Kate arrived, there has not been a single report to suggest that there was any sort of eye contact between them and the Sussexes. The ghost of Oprah Winfrey loomed large inside the Christopher Wren-designed church.
Meghan might have kept a smile plastered on her face from start to finish and there might have been a few images of Harry laughing with his York cousins, but the strain and discomfort of the couple was as clear as day.
And then? Harry and Meghan disappeared from view. They did not attend a single other Jubilee event though courtiers would surely have been willing to co-ordinate things so that they could have attended without having to come within hissing distance of the Cambridges.
Then on Sunday, as tens of thousands gathered to line the parade route for the Platinum Pageant and the rest of the Queen’s family was basking in the warm Jubilee glow of cheering crowds and the fizz of national pride, the Sussex famille were winging their way out of the country.
Details that have come out subsequently only paint the Sussex’s trip in a bleaker light.
They travelled, of course, via private jet, a trip that would have cost them around $278,000, according to The Sun. That works out at them having spent (assuming they personally footed the bill and this wasn’t a loaner from a billionaire mate) at about $69,500-per-day to be publicly cold-shouldered.
Then came another report from The Sun, claiming that the Queen had “banned” the couple from bringing along a snapper when the 96-year-old met her tiny namesake for the first time during the visit.
“Harry and Meghan wanted their photographer to capture the moment Lilibet met the Queen,” an insider has said. “But they were told no chance. It was a private family meeting.”
In short, it’s very hard to see how the Sussexes’ Great British Return could be viewed as anything other than disastrous. No PR wins, family rapprochement or unmissable Netflix footage in the can (they did not bring any cameras with them) and all at the expense of their egos and, potentially, their bank balance too.
Which brings us to the release of Tuesday’s Lili images which, given the preceding days’ events, start to look like a fairly transparent attempt at righting the publicity ship and changing the prevailing Sussex narrative from embarrassing flop to, ‘Ooh! BABY!’
Would we be seeing these images if Harry and Meghan’s UK jaunt had been an unmitigated success, all glowing coverage and flattering opinion pieces? If they had come out looking like the bigger people, willing to overlook the palace’s alleged multitudinous sins of institutional racism and cruelty, to celebrate his granny’s big moment?
At least both Lilibets looked like they had a smashing time over the last few days. Though when, if ever, they might be both in the same country again is another question entirely…
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.