Of all the tributes that have poured in for our greatest ever monarch Queen Elizabeth II the past 24 hours, it was a heartfelt Instagram post by her former daughter-in-law that stuck with me the most.
Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, was, as we all know, exiled from official royal life following her divorce from Prince Andrew and a series of mortifying indiscretions better left in tabloid history.
But, even as her beloved husband Prince Philip refused to be in the same room as Fergie, the Queen remained steadfastly loyal on a personal level.
To her, once a Windsor, always a Windsor.
Grief-stricken Fergie confirmed as much last night, as she wrote following a more formal tribute: ‘To me, she was the most incredible mother-in-law and friend. I will always be grateful to her for the generosity she showed me in remaining close to me even after my divorce. I will miss her more than words can express.’
If the life of Elizabeth II has taught us one thing it is that blood is thicker than water.
For that reason, this death of a public figure, has brought us closer to our own families in so many ways, as we memorialize lost loved ones who somehow seemed to share an intrinsic connection to the Queen.
That’s why I can’t shake the sadness I feel that she leaves a divided family, with those open wounds exposed to the entire world as she passed away at Balmoral yesterday afternoon.
Surely now, with a nation united in grief, Prince Harry will be able to put his differences with his blood relatives aside for the good of the institution for which his grandmother gave so much.
Indeed, the greatest tribute the Duke of Sussex could pay to the late Queen is to reconcile with King Charles and Prince William.
Sadly, the signs are not good.
Harry was the last to arrive at Balmoral yesterday and the first to leave.
He travelled alone, not on the RAF plane shared by his brother and the Queen’s sons Prince Andrew and Edward, even though there were 12 empty seats on the Dassault Falcon jet, and Harry was waiting for news at Frogmore Cottage, just a short drive away from his relatives.
Then, even as the Queen was close to the end, there was another unseemly family row.
A spokesperson for the Sussexes had announced that both Harry and Meghan ‘will be travelling to Scotland’.
But after senior royals intervened, pointing out that even Kate would be remaining in London, he eventually agreed to make the trip alone on a Cessna private jet, having unsuccessfully attempted to book a helicopter, according to reports.
That unfortunate delay meant that Harry was mid-air, still approaching Aberdeen Airport, when Buckingham Palace announced the news of the Queen’s death to a heartbroken nation.
He eventually joined his family members on the Balmoral Estate at 7.52pm, before being the first to depart this morning at 8.28am, leaving just over 12 hours to grieve with his closest relatives.
I realise I’m probably being naïve but, in my heart, I hope those few hours were enough for Harry to feel the wave of love for his family that I know is there, under all the unnecessary bitterness about leaks, tiara rows and security.
Just imagine if the Duke, in the ultimate sign of respect to his grandmother, publicly pledged to move on from the acrimony that has defined the past two years to declare his unwavering support for the King, who will need all the help he can get to transition the monarchy out of the Elizabethan era.
The British public would be overjoyed if the Sussexes announced a new era of royal harmony by cancelling publication of Harry’s multi-million pound autobiography – expected to include damning criticism of the Royal Family – which caused Charles much anguish over the past few months.
When I think with my head, however, Harry’s swift exit this morning Balmoral – again on his own – makes me fear we could be about to enter a period of even more royal disharmony.
After all, as the Queen’s health faltered earlier this week, Meghan’s mouthpiece Omid Scobie was publishing an incendiary column making it clear that Harry had refused to meet up with his relatives on their Netflix trip to the UK, not the other way around.
But God intervened and I pray the Queen’s death will change the priorities of the Sussexes.
Harry will understandably feel utterly heartbroken at the loss of his grandmother, a woman who risked her own popularity to stay with him and his brother at Balmoral following the death of their mother Princess Diana in 1997 as the public demanded she return to publicly grieve at Buckingham Palace.
There’s only one person who can understand the torment of those memories colliding with this new wave of grief: His brother.
Diana would be devastated at the idea of her two sons mourning the Queen without the support of one another.
She’d also be horrified at William taking on the great burden of becoming heir to the throne without Harry to lean on; she always imagined they would become a double act. As did we.
My heart is aching at the loss of the Queen, a woman who felt like a security blanket to all of us, so I can only imagine the interminable grief facing the new king and his two sons.
The death of Prince Philip caused Charles to enter a period of deep reflection, with the loss of his father hitting him far harder than the public ever understood.
I am certain that Charles needs both his sons to become his security blankets at this dark and overwhelming moment in history.
And the country needs to see these three senior members of the Royal Family reunited and unbreakable once more.
For the memory of the Queen and the future survival of the monarchy, I pray they can put their divide to one side and make that happen.