How Harry and Meghan could return to ‘the royal fold’

As Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made their public return to Britain at Thursday’s Trooping the Color ceremony, some royal experts expressed hope that their reunion with Harry’s relatives during the queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations could help heal deeply fractured family relations.

More than that, one expert has mapped out how this reunion could make room for the couple’s possible return to royal duties.

The idea that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex could ever again have a role in the monarchy seems improbable to many, given their acrimonious exit from royal life two years ago. As the world faces the inevitable and difficult transition of power in the U.K., from the long-reigning Queen Elizabeth II to Charles III, the royal family will need to pull off an “epic rebranding” effort in order to stay relevant in the 21st century, famed editor and royal author Tina Brown said in an interview this week with the Times UK.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 02: (L-R) Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Louis of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge on the balcony of Buckingham Palace watch the RAF flypast during the Trooping the Colour parade on June 2, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Alastair Grant – WPA Pool/Getty Images) 

If Charles is smart, Brown suggested, he’ll work to mend relations with his famous son and his biracial American daughter-in-law. Charles could also find a way to bring the couple back into the royal fold, perhaps by asking them to represent the monarchy in its changing relationship with the Commonwealth, Brown, author of the new book, “The Palace Papers,” said.

“It’s not too late to have another go,” Brown said. “(Meghan) and Harry have a great connection to the young and could be successful ambassadors for ‘the new Commonwealth.’ Meghan can speak to the need for diversity in a way no one else in the royal family can.”

Once Charles becomes king, he should “get ahead of history” by announcing he’ll no longer be the head of state in those countries unless they ask him to fill that role, Brown said. He could put Harry and the politically minded Meghan in charge of this reform effort. Brown pointed out that this is similar to the role the queen had once envisioned for the couple, when she appointed Harry and Meghan president and vice president, respectively, of the Commonwealth Trust.

Brown said that the duchess, a successful TV actor before marrying Harry, had good, “modernizing insights” that could have been beneficial to the monarchy. Unfortunately, she was impatient about acting on those insights before she left after 20 months of royal duties, Brown said.

Brown’s idea for how the Sussexes could return to royal duties came a few days before Thursday’s Platinum Jubilee parade.

On Thursday, Harry and Meghan watched the parade from a window at the Major General’s Office, which overlooks the parade grounds near London’s Buckingham Palace. They did so with senior members of the royal family, the Sunday Times royal editor Roya Nikkhah told the BBC.

Harry and Meghan, traveling from their home in California, were set to bring their children, Archie, 3, and Lilibet, 1, to the parade. At the event, Archie and Lilibet were expected to finally meet Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis and other cousins. Lilbet has yet to meet the queen, her great-grandmother and namesake.

Somewhat uncharacteristically for the Sussexes, they mostly kept out of limelight during the parade, except for a few photos captured by photographers. They had promised the queen that they would keep “a low profile” during the four-day  jubilee celebrations, the Daily Mail reported earlier this week.

While the queen wanted to have all members of her extended family “come together” to celebrate her 70 years on the throne, she also didn’t want any “dramas,” including any surrounding the Sussexes or disgraced Prince Andrew, the Daily Mail reported. Per the queen’s wishes, only senior working members of the royal family and their children joined her on the balcony at Buckingham Palace for the spectacular show of RAF planes flying overhead.

Harry, Meghan and Andrew had been fixtures on the balcony in years past, but this year, they and other non-working royals were absent, leaving Prince Charles, Kate Middleton, Prince William and their three children to be front and center with the queen on the balcony.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 02: (L-R) Prince Louis of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge watch the RAF flypast on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Trooping the Colour parade on June 02, 2022 in London, England. The Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II is being celebrated from June 2 to June 5, 2022, in the UK and Commonwealth to mark the 70th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II on 6 February 1952. (Photo by Aaron Chown - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Prince Louis of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge watch the RAF flypast on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Trooping the Colour parade on June 02, 2022 in London, England.  (Photo by Aaron Chown – WPA Pool/Getty Images) 

In “The Palace Papers” and in interviews, Brown has asserted that Harry and Meghan could have been “tremendous asset” to the monarchy and to the Commonwealth. However, many royal commentators can’t see how their return to royal duties is possible.

After the Sussexes moved to the United States, they excoriated the monarchy in a bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey. While never directly criticizing the queen, Harry and Meghan alleged that one family member made racist comments about their children, claimed that Charles cut them off financially, and said the monarchy was cruelly indifferent to Meghan’s thoughts of suicide as she struggled to adjust to royal life and the harsh scrutiny of the U.K. tabloid press.

Harry also has a memoir in the works, which Brown has heard will be “tough” on the royal family. The Times UK recently reported that the book hasn’t been given a publication date.

For the sake of healing, Brown suggested that the royal family move past the Winfrey interview and “take steps to persuade (Harry) to abandon the book.” She said someone needs to cut Harry a check that will cover the reported $20 million he received as an advance for the book.

“As a sweetener,” the royal family should also agree to pay for the security the Sussexes lost when they moved to the United States, Brown said, but the Sussexes may have plenty of other reasons to return to “the firm.”

In failing to thus far release any podcasts or streaming shows to fulfill their multimillion-dollars deals with Spotify and Netflix, Harry and Meghan may have realized that it’s a lot harder than they thought to become successful media moguls., Brown said.

“The decision to bank all on entertainment deals is hazardous,” Brown said. “You can be as boring as you like if you’re in the royal family. You’re still going to have status and top the bill. But if you’re in entertainment, you need hit after hit and there is a limit to how many even the biggest stars can generate.”

Notably, a struggling Netflix recently canceled the development of “Pearl,” an animated series created by Meghan. The streaming giant continues to work with the couple’s Archewell Productions on a documentary about the Invictus Games but, Brown said, “documentaries are never that big in terms of the money they bring in.”

Page Six recently reported that the couple are working on another Netflix project, a docuseries about their life in California. Observers suggest that this show could be a hit, but it depends on how much they let cameras into their home in Montecito and share more insider information about life in the royal family.

Brown said in an interview with the Washington Post that Meghan, more than Harry, is “flailing” as she struggles to find a non-royal purpose. “Unlike Harry with Invictus, Meghan has not really developed a post-royal ‘brand’ yet,” Brown said. “She’s all over the place with assorted causes from vaccines to mentoring — all worthwhile but not original, unifying or focused. She’s struggling for relevance. There’s been a dimming of the halo.”

Controversially, Meghan turned up in Uvalde, Texas last week to pay respects at a memorial set up for the 19 children and two teachers killed in a mass shooting at an elementary school. While Meghan was reportedly there in a private capacity to support survivors, and tried to keep a low-profile at a local volunteer center, she was criticized by some for using the tragedy as a P.R. stunt, Newsweek reported.

If Meghan has a brand right now, it involves “slagging off the snooty royals,” the Times UK said. There’s also “a major issue” of trust between William and Harry, and the conflict between them is “still an open wound,” Brown acknowledged.

Certainly, Charles will have to overcome series challenges if he adopts the idea that Harry and Meghan could help him lead “a modern monarchy” and better represent “a diverse 21st-century Britain,” Brown said. Charles also probably has personal reasons for wanting to welcome back “his prodigal son” and his wife, Brown said.

“The biggest sadness for Charles is ‘losing’ Harry,” Brown said.

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