Queen Elizabeth’s son Prince Andrew, her grandson Harry and his wife Meghan will not join her on the Buckingham Palace balcony for this year’s Trooping the Color, royal officials said on Friday. Instead, the 96-year-old monarch has decided to limit numbers to working royals only for the traditional set-piece appearance after the military parade for her official birthday celebrations.
“Only those members of the royal family who are currently undertaking official public duties on behalf of the queen” will join her on June 2, a spokesman said. The decision was taken “after careful consideration”, he added. Speculation had mounted that all three could be at the event, which kicks off four days of celebrations for the queen’s Platinum Jubilee, including tea parties, a pop concert and people’s parade through central London.
Andrew, 62, in March made his first public appearance since settling a US civil claim for sexual assault, and after public outrage at his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The former Royal Navy helicopter pilot provided his mother, who has been in ill health and had difficulty walking and standing, with a steadying arm at a memorial service that month for her late husband, Prince Philip.
His prominent role at the televised Westminster Abbey event was seen as a sign that his mother believed he still has a part to play at family occasions. But his appearance caused controversy-and dominated coverage of the memorial service-and Friday’s announcement may be seen as a sign the palace does not want a repeat. Andrew, officially known as the Duke of York, has strenuously denied the assault claims and remains stripped of his honorary military titles and charities, giving him no official royal role.
Speculation that Harry would return from his self-imposed exile in California has also increased after he visited his grandmother at her Windsor Castle home last month. The 37-year-old former British Army captain is the second son of her eldest son and heir Prince Charles, 73, and his first wife, Princess Diana, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997.
He quit royal life and moved to the United States with his wife Meghan, 40, where both have publicly complained about life in Britain’s most famous family, and even accused them of racism. The couple, who still use their titles of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are now involved in charitable and philanthropic work, and have signed lucrative media deals. Denying them a place on the balcony will likely be seen as the queen refusing to accept a “half-in, half-out” approach to royal duties.
There was no immediate word on whether all three would be involved in the other public events to mark the queen’s record-breaking 70 years on the throne. But a spokeswoman for Harry and Meghan indicated they would be in the UK with their children Archie, who turned three on Friday, and Lilibet, who was born on June 4 last year and has yet to meet her great-grandmother. The couple were “excited and honored to attend the queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations this June with their children”, she added.
The decision means the queen will be joined by Charles, his second wife Camilla and 15 other senior royals on the balcony for the end of the military pageant and ceremonial fly-past. Harry’s older brother Prince William and his wife Kate will be there, with their young children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. The queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, will be accompanied by his wife, Sophie, and their children Louise and James.
Her only daughter, Princess Anne, will also be on the balcony. The queen has allowed her second husband, Tim Laurence, even though he is not a working royal. The palace spokesman said the queen recognized him as a “frequent attendee and support for the Princess Royal (Anne) on official engagements”. The Trooping the Color is believed to have first been performed more than 250 years ago during the reign of King Charles II and marked the official birthday of the British sovereign. – AFP