Amid the personal family tragedy on Thursday, a small domestic drama was playing out.
Unsurprisingly, it involved the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
It was a fortunate coincidence of sorts that Harry and Meghan were in the country when the prince’s grandmother passed away, sparing him an emotional and undoubtedly traumatic transatlantic dash as the Queen’s health failed.
Despite the rancour of the past few years, no one would begrudge him the chance to mourn his beloved ‘Granny’, with whom he had always enjoyed a warm and fun-loving relationship.
But as the royal households were consumed in concern for the ailing monarch, the Sussexes prompted an unprecedented flurry behind the scenes by announcing that Harry and Meghan would both be travelling to Balmoral.
News of their plans came via the small group of media the Sussexes deem it appropriate to deal with and tweeted out by journalists at 1.53pm. The statement read: ‘From a spokesperson: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be travelling to Scotland.’
This was, of course, news to the Palace and it did not go down well. Many behind royal walls, frankly, were incredulous.
There was half an hour on Thursday following the Sussexes’ initial announcement during which matters quickly came to a head.
It is still unclear how much pressure was brought to bear by the Palace itself – or whether senior royal were involved – but a spokesman for the couple frantically began to ‘clarify’ their position, informing those same journalists that ‘only the duke was travelling at the moment’. Exactly what happened is open to speculation. Some say that Harry and Meghan hadn’t considered that William’s wife wouldn’t be there, with Kate staying in London instead, and when it was pointed out that she wouldn’t be, they realised how bad it looked.
Others believe Meghan was effectively banned, using the argument that Kate – now the Princess of Wales – was staying at home.
Either way, their hurried announcement that only Harry would be making the trip north from the capital prompted a sigh of relief among aides.
Putting aside the anguish of the past few years, the initial decision in itself, that both Sussexes would travel, was seen as wholly inappropriate, according to palace insiders, for one very simple reason: this was a private, family moment.
Only the two oldest children of the elderly monarch – Charles and Anne – were present when the Queen passed away.
Her other children, Andrew and Edward, arrived as soon as they could afterwards on a plane with Prince William, who is now first in line to the throne.
Edward was accompanied by his wife, Sophie, but she is adored by the Queen, who views her as a second daughter, and is likely to have been there at her request.
Although most have assumed that Kate stayed behind because it was her children’s first day at school, which is in part true, she instinctively knew this was an occasion for the Queen’s blood family.
It is impossible to forget that events are taking place against a backdrop of unimaginable bitterness. So deep is the rift between the two brothers that even though Harry and William have been temporarily living just a few minutes’ walk from each other at Windsor this week, there has been no attempt at contact from either party.
Relations are little better with any other members of the family either – King Charles, in particular, has been left bewildered and deeply hurt by his younger son’s incessant attacks.
While no one wants an all-out war, few are in a hurry to forgive or forget Meghan’s series of laser-guided and deeply harmful accusations against family members, as well as the institution of the monarchy itself.
It was noticeable that there was no invitation for Harry to join the family party that headed north on Thursday, taking off from RAF Northolt bound for Aberdeen.
He made his own way to Balmoral by private jet and faced a lonely drive to the castle, finally arriving at 7.52pm – an hour and a half after the palace’s historic statement informing the nation of the death of Her Majesty.
He was seen being driven out at 8.28am yesterday, little more than 12 hours later.
During that time he would have had to kiss his father’s hand, curtsey to his step-mother – and break bread with those he has caused so much hurt.
The brothers now face seeing a lot of each other as they prepare for the Queen’s funeral.
Harry made his way separately back to Windsor yesterday and there was no word last night as to whether the pair have any plans to meet – although it seems Harry will remain at Frogmore Cottage until after the funeral on September 19.
It is unclear whether Meghan is still in the country, but she has two young children back in the US and may well fly back to them, returning for the funeral.
Grief is often said to bring a family together – whether it does when it comes to Harry and the rest of the Windsor dynasty remains to be seen.