Meghan and Harry back in the royal spotlight as they bid farewell to queen

Photo for The Washington Post by James Forde
King Charles III arrives at Westminster Abbey with his family for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 19.

LONDON – They were in the United Kingdom from California for a brief trip and charity event when news broke that Queen Elizabeth II was gravely ill in Scotland.

Prince Harry rushed to be with his grandmother but arrived moments after she died on Sept. 8 in Balmoral Castle, surrounded by her only daughter, Anne, and her heir, Charles. Since then, there have been 10 days of national mourning.

On Monday, Harry and Meghan walked in separately behind the queen’s coffin, in a solemn procession at London’s Westminster Abbey. They followed the new Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Catherine, and their two children, George and Charlotte.

Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have returned to center stage in the royal family since the queen’s death, although in somewhat muted fashion, two years after they stunned Britons by stepping back from royal duties.

In his first national address as King Charles III, the day after his mother died, the new monarch paid tribute to his son and daughter-in-law: “I want also to express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas,” he said in a televised speech.

Another memorable moment for royal watchers came in Windsor this week as Harry and his brother, Prince William, along with their spouses, reunited to greet the public and see floral tributes, in a rare show of unity. Body-language experts tried to glean insights into relations among the four, who were once a common sight at public events.

The brothers have reportedly been estranged since Harry and Meghan moved to the United States. In a bombshell 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Harry said their relationship was best described as one of “space.” The brothers were last photographed together following the death of their grandfather Prince Philip in April 2021 and in July of that year for the unveiling of a statue of their late mother, Princess Diana, to mark what would have been her 60th birthday.

Meghan, dressed in black, and Harry, in a civilian morning suit, were also seen holding hands as they came to see the queen lying in state in Westminster Hall this week. Thousands of Britons braved cold weather and overnight lines to join a queue to pay their final respects.

On Saturday, Prince Harry, this time wearing a military uniform, flanked the queen’s coffin in a vigil along with William and the queen’s six other grandchildren, as she lay in state.

When they lived in the United Kingdom, Harry and Meghan had a bitter relationship with many of Britain’s tabloid newspapers, which they accused of inciting racism against the duchess and targeting the couple for abuse.

They continue to fascinate newspapers and royal commentators on both sides of the Atlantic, and their presence was closely watched as they attended the queen’s funeral on Monday.

Harry is now fifth in line to the throne. His two children, Archie and Lilibet, following the queen’s death and the accession of Charles as monarch, are entitled to the titles “prince” and “princess,” although it remains unclear whether they will actually be offered those titles.