He may languish at a lowly sixth place in line to throne, but all eyes were on Prince Harry this afternoon as he and his brother William came together to lead a vigil by the queen’s eight grandchildren at her coffin on Saturday afternoon.
The gesture represented a gender-blind update on the so-called “Vigil of the Princes” established after the death of George VI, and was the latest determined effort by the palace to show unity between the brothers.
In what has been widely interpreted as an effort to show that Harry was not being mistreated by the Crown, he was permitted to wear his military uniform despite no longer being an active member of the services.
Harry was initially told he would not be allowed to wear uniform to any of the events around his grandmother’s death, but the rules were amended Friday to allow him to wear uniform to the vigil. He is expected to wear a morning suit to the queen’s state funeral on Monday.
Legally in the U.K., only serving members of the forces are allowed to wear uniform, however exemptions can be made.
However the palace were resolute in not suggesting that such a pass would be extended to Harry, who ultimately issued a statement which appeared to grudgingly accept that fact and draw a line under it. It said: “Prince Harry will wear a morning suit throughout events honoring his grandmother. His decade of military service is not determined by the uniform he wears and we respectfully ask that focus remain on the life and legacy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”
Inevitably questions will now be asked as to why Harry, who saw active service in Afghanistan, cannot wear the uniform on Monday.
Harry and William were joined by the queen’s six other grandchildren; Andrew’s children Beatrice and Eugenie, Anne’s children Zara and Peter, and Edward’s children Lady Louise and Viscount James.
In slightly surreal scenes, the public, many of whom appeared disheveled after having faced queues of up to 15 hours to see the coffin and pay respects, continued to file past while the grandchildren held their 15-minute vigil.
Harry looked grim-faced as he stood somberly, head bowed.
He and William stood at opposite ends of the coffin facing outwards. None of the grandchildren made eye contact with any others during the vigil or while entering and exiting Westminster Hall.
The royal biographer and writer Christopher Andersen told The Daily Beast: “Harry admitted that when he walked behind his mother’s coffin—through a ‘tunnel of grief’ as Early Spencer called it—he wondered why people were weeping in the streets when they never even knew Diana. Harry has also previously said that just being in London is ‘triggering,’ so in a sense he is going to be suffering PTSD symptoms over the next few days. It will be harder for William and Harry than people might imagine, because, on a certain level, they will be reliving their mother’s tragic death and its aftermath.”
Beatrice and Eugenie issued a statement shortly before the vigil began in the form of an address to their ‘Grannie.’
“You were our matriarch, our guide, our loving hand on our backs leading us through this world. You taught us so much and we will cherish those lessons and memories forever. For now dear Grannie, all we want to say is thank you. Thank you for making us laugh, for including us, for picking heather and raspberries, for marching soldiers, for our teas, for comfort, for joy. You, being you, will never know the impact you have had on our family and so many people around the world.”