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As the various working members of the Royal Family fanned out across the country yesterday – the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Wales, Princess Anne at Epsom, the Earl and Countess of Wessex in Belfast – the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were celebrating their daughter Lilibet’s first birthday in Windsor.
Might they have popped over to the castle to visit the Queen? One can imagine Her Majesty – who had never met her great-granddaughter until last week – would have been delighted.
Under normal circumstances it might even have been turned into a bigger occasion, a chance for several generations of the family to come together and create some memories, as she herself put it recently.
After all, the Queen is not the only relative Lilibet – or, for that matter, her older brother Archie – has had little chance to get to know.
Uncles, aunts, cousins, their grandfather Prince Charles – all remain virtual strangers to the Sussex children. Which is a shame because, as Prince Harry knows from his close friendship with his own cousins, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, family ties do matter.
Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, pictured leaving the Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral yesterday
There’s a shared experience that can be invaluable, especially when things get tough. It seems sad to deprive the little Sussexes of that.
But it was not to be, not on this occasion anyway. Although we don’t know for sure, it seems unlikely that Princes George and Charlotte attended Lilibet’s birthday given that they were in Cardiff with their parents.
As for William and Kate themselves, one gets the distinct impression that they would rather attend the opening of an envelope on Mars than come face to face with Harry and Meghan.
That was certainly the impression given at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday, where not a single glance passed between the two couples.
Fair enough, they were on opposite sides of the cathedral and arrived separately. But you would never have known the brothers were even related, let alone once so close they used to finish each other’s sentences.
Prince Harry, pictured, was stoney-faced at the Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday
The only thing they seemed to have in common were their stony-faced expressions.
If there was ever a time to bury the hatchet, this celebration of the Queen’s very special Jubilee was it. After all, no one understands better than Her Majesty the need sometimes to set aside one’s own emotions for the greater good.
It would have been a grown-up and meaningful gesture, a genuine tribute to her sacrifice. And yet not even for her could they manage it. Quite honestly, I felt like banging both their thick skulls together.
That said, I still harboured a vague hope that it was protocol, not pride, keeping them apart at St Paul’s. After all, it was a highly formal setting, and some things are much easier done in a more relaxed environment.
Last night’s Buckingham Palace concert, in the presence of rock royalty, might have been the perfect chance to clear the air more casually. A hug, a shared lyric, a bit of a bop – everything seems less serious when you’re having fun. But no. Not even that. Harry and Meghan were reportedly holed up at Frogmore Cottage (current cost per stay somewhere north of a week at The Ritz).
A cynic might say the only reason the Sussexes showed up was to get that all-important snap of Lilibet with Lilibet, and to recharge their Royal status for Netflix.
Equally though, it’s clear that Prince William is in no mood for compromise. Perhaps he knows something we don’t. After all, the much talked about tell-all memoir by Harry was scheduled for publication this autumn. It’s hard to imagine any revelations more damning than those in the Oprah interview, but you never know.
And why should the Cambridges always be the ones to offer the olive branch, especially when they only end up getting poked in the eye with it?
Either way, one thing is clear. Not even the Queen herself, with her remarkable ability to bring people of all different backgrounds together, can bridge the current abyss between these two brothers. A sad footnote to an otherwise joyous weekend.