This week, only two years ago, the royal family and the Sussexes gathered in public for the very first time and one shot captured the brutal reality… And the Crushing Harry and Meghan photograph is going VIRAL!

Throughout the service Meghan’s poise never wavered.


This week in 1953, freshly crowned that very day and with her lippie still in place, Queen Elizabeth sat down in Westminster Abbey’s Lady Chapel to pose for photographer Cecil Beaton.


Throughout the service Meghan’s poise never wavered.

The image that came out of that brief shoot would have to be one of the abiding images of her reign: A young monarch, then only 26 years old, a small smile on her face, the weight of the Imperial State crown. “Heavy is the head,” typed a thousand newspaper leader writers while they smoked and furiously filed copy … (Look, it was 1953).

If that image marks the beginning of the late Queen’s reign then we could bookend it with another image taken nearly 69 years to the day later of her grandson and granddaughter-in-law Prince Harry and Meghan the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The first days of June 2022 saw Platinum Jubilee celebrations sweep London and the Sussexes were back in town, freshly arrived from California, where they had washed up after the great rupture of Megxit and were in the midst of speaking their truth – Speaking their truth to Oprah Winfrey, to Netflix cameras and to Harry’s ghostwriter. The truth would set them free – and set them free from part of their mortgage, I wouldn’t wonder.

So, it was against this backdrop that they arrived in June 2022 for the service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral for what would be their first public reunion with his family in two-and-a-half years. The popcorn all but made itself.

The couple arrived, Meghan in bespoke Christian Dior and looking like the world’s chicest private detective, only for them to make their way up the aisle to be seated in … gasp! The ignominious second row.

This, their major return to the royal bosom after their conscious uncoupling from Crown Inc and here they were, being lumped in with the York princesses and their husbands and Lady Sarah Chatto, Princess Margaret’s daughter (29th in line to the throne back then).

And so, throughout the hour-long service, the Sussexes were left staring at the backs of the heads of the Duke of Gloucester and James, then the Viscount Severn (now the Earl of Wessex), 16th and 35th in line to the throne respectively at the time, sitting in the front row.

The ostracisation of the Duke and Duchess by Buckingham Palace seemed indisputable and complete. Off to Coventry they had been shunted as the BBC broadcast live.

Royal revenge appeared to be a dish best served via seating chart.

History is littered with these sorts of pivot points – moments where a single choice like taking the next bus or missing a flight can change everything.

Now, from the position of 2024, I think we can say that that moment and their seating inside St Paul’s was one of them.

Throughout the service Meghan’s poise never wavered, proving that four years of a theatre major at Northwestern and seven seasons on Suits had not been for nought, while Harry gave off, at moments, a certain of constipated gloominess. Then, they had to process out of the cathedral behind Peter Phillips and Earl Snowdon (19th and 26th in line to the throne).

Later, when the milling part came as the extended family gathered outside St Paul’s, the same dependable clutch of cousins – Mike and Zara Tindall, Princess Beatrice and her husband Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi and Princess Beatrice and Jack “Tequila” Brooksbank – made chitchat with the Duke and Duchess of So-Cal, a service they have been repeatedly called on to provide in the years since then.

But let’s play counterfactual. What if someone had understood that seemingly needling the Sussexes and issuing a set-down for the benefit of the viewers at home was not ultimately in the royal family’s best interests?

When aides and courtiers had sat down with their cooling mugs of oolong in the weeks leading up and were working on the seating chart, had cooler heads prevailed and had a longer view been taken, then would things stand where they are now?

With things so bad that when King Charles was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year Harry took a 22-hour round trip to be afforded a slim half-hour window with his father and with Queen Camilla present?

Also this week, the Sussexes’ daughter Princess Llibet turned three. She has never spent a birthday with her British aunt or uncle or cousins or grandparents and has never spent a summer at Balmoral or celebrated Christmas at Sandringham. It seems highly unlikely she will any time soon.

But did things necessarily have to end up in such a state?

Back then, in 2022, watching the Sussexes have to take their seats behind a teenager and a 77-year-old Duke who had gotten front row, prime real estate seating, looked like a badly dinged and embarrassed institution delivering a very public set down to Harry and Meghan.

The Duke and Duchess had not only huffed off to the New World but they had then gone after the royal family. Here was the reaping what they had sown part of proceedings. (The Duke, via his lawyer, would later tell a London court they had “felt forced” to leave Britain.)

But from the perspective of 2024, I think we can clearly say, dumping the Sussexes in that second row was not the wise play. How might things have played out if the royal family had instead done a spot of killing with kindness during the Platinum Jubilee?

At that point in time, Harry and Meghan were still filming their six-hour Netflix soft-focus cathart-a-thon and he was still scribbling away on Spare. Realistically, the couple turning up in London and being shown all the due deference as the next King’s son and daughter-in-law with all the bells, whistles and welcome muffin baskets would not have prevented these projects going ahead.

But, a couple of things. Firstly, Operation: Kindness could have led to a softening of the Sussexes’ attitudes towards Crown Inc and secondly, and more importantly, it would have gone some way to undermining the couple’s ability to portray the institution as out to punish them.

Meanwhile, the royal family would have come across as the bigger people, the adults in the room, willing to extend the hand of mature, caring, concern for the lost-sheep Sussexes who had strayed so far from the flock.

Instead, that St Paul’s moment set the tone and tenor for the Sussexes’ deeply awkward and uncomfortable interactions with the royal family that we have seen since then, including at the late Queen’s funeral and Harry at his father’s coronation. (I have two words for you: Third. Row.)

The Duchess has not visited the UK since September 2022 (aside from transiting through Heathrow on occasion). Really though – do we ever see her willingly, voluntarily going back for any length of time?

I wonder if that photo from June 2022, of Harry and Meghan being shown to their second-row seats is an image that will come to haunt the troubled psyches of the plucky sorts recruited to work for the palace in the years and decades to come and as they contend with the ripple effect of this particular hard line stance?

And I wonder if that Meghan outfit has already ended up in the Montecito dress-up box?

Throw in a magnifying glass and Lili has the perfect Carmen Sandiego look for book week.

Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.