“Never complain, never explain”—that was the late Queen Elizabeth’s mandate for members of the Royal Family, a maxim that was very publicly disregarded by Princess Diana in a blockbuster interview upon her divorce from Prince Charles, and a generation later, by their son Prince Harry with his confessional memoir Spare and docuseries Harry&Meghan. But the other royals have essentially followed tradition in response to Spare, namely by not responding to it.
So far, King Charles, Prince William and his wife Kate, and others who come in for criticism in the book have offered a stiff upper lip to weeks of sensational headlines about the revelations contained in Spare—most prominently that the family was frosty and even overtly unkind to Harry’s wife Meghan Markle. But it’s unclear if the family’s strategy of silence will serve them well in the long run, as details in Spare harden into gospel. And some royal experts told The Daily Express and CNN that some members of the family have been making subtle digs in response.
Making Fashion Statements of Solidarity
In Harry&Meghan, Meghan said she chose to wear dark colors at public events not to stand out and that female members of the family were advised not to wear the same color. But last Christmas, Kate, Princess of Wales; Princess Charlotte; and William’s cousin Zara Tindall all wore deep burgundy to the same choral event, in what observers are calling a symbolic show of togetherness.
“It was simply a fashion flex of resilience, showing the world that they shall not be brought down and that they shall keep calm and carry on while looking elegant and stylish in the process,” celebrity stylist Miranda Holder told Express.
Showing More Affection
In Spare, Harry wrote that the “older generation” of royals had a “nearly zero-tolerance prohibition on all physical contact.” In the docuseries, Meghan claimed the Princess of Wales was taken aback when she moved in for a hug in their first meeting.
Experts say that during a recent Christmas concert, members of the royal family were seen affectionately greeting each other to refute those claims. Kate and William were seen exchanging cheek kisses with Charles and Queen Consort Camilla, and Charles was seen kissing his grandchildren.
Being More Accessible in Public
In Spare, Harry wrote that the royal family were required to keep a distance from members of the public. “When working a crowd, you always keep a discreet distance Yourself and Them,” Harry wrote. “Distance was an essential bit of being royal, no less than standing on the balcony, waving to the crowds outside Buckingham Palace, your family all around you.”
Perhaps in response, Kate and William were recently photographed communing shoulder-to-shoulder with the public during their official visits. Kate posed for selfies with parents at a nursery school, while both Kate and William put their arms around members of the public during a hospital tour.
Working Together, Separately
In Spare, Harry wrote that Charles and Camilla were jealous of the younger royals and didn’t want William and Kate “drawing away from them and their causes.” This month, Charles and Camilla and William and Kate were seen carrying out their first royal engagements on the same day—Jan. 12.
Seeming Social and Happy
One covert response the royal family may have taken is getting out and about and seeming unbothered. “What we have seen is the Windsors throwing themselves into lots of walkabouts and meetings as they embarked on their first engagements of the year,” CNN analysts reported last week, noting that two days after Spare was released, King Charles “laughed heartily with members of the public while at a local community space aiming to combat rural loneliness.”
“The same day, William and Kate appeared at ease as they called in at the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital and the mental health charity Open Door in Merseyside, northern England,” CNN added. “There were no signs of apparent sadness over their disgruntled relative in California.”
Creating Positive Headlines
King Charles might be trying to reframe the narrative by concentrating on policies benefiting the British people, who are in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis. This month, he announced that a portion of revenue from the country’s offshore wind farms would no longer be allotted to the Sovereign Grant (essentially, the monarch’s expense account) and instead be used for “the wider public good.”
“And without complaining or explaining, the family have chosen their response – to lean into their value through service rather than engage in a war of words that would do them more harm than good,” CNN analysts said.