King Charles will “do the right thing,” and seat his son Prince Harry “prominently” at his coronation, friends of the king believe, despite Harry’s latest broadside at his family, whom he accused in open court this week of conspiring with British newspapers and withholding information about phone hacking from him.
In a witness statement Harry said: “The Institution [the monarchy] was without a doubt withholding information from me for a long time about NGN’s [News Group Newspapers—publishers of The Sun and now-defunct News of the World] phone hacking and that has only become clear in recent years as I have pursued my own claim with different legal advice and representation.”
He also accused the Palace of “conditioning” him into accepting he couldn’t object to media mistreatment. Harry added: “The Institution made it clear that we did not need to know anything about phone hacking and it was made clear to me that the Royal Family did not sit in the witness box because that could open up a can of worms.”
However, the royals appear to be taking the latest salvos in their stride.
“Nothing that happens between now and then will make any difference to the seating plan,” a friend of the king told The Daily Beast. “Charles has always said that he loves both his sons. He wants them both there. Harry and Meghan are invited and will be seated prominently.”
Harry and Meghan have not yet confirmed their attendance at the May 6 ceremony. However, if they do show up at Westminster Abbey, most observers believe that the seating layout will favor William, as the heir to the throne, with the best spot at his father and Camilla’s side (when the king and queen are sitting with the congregation, as they will be for part of proceedings). He will be accompanied by his wife, Kate, and their three children, which will account for all the seats on the right of the aisle (assuming they go 14 abreast as they did at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral) and will neatly keep the king and the first four in the line of succession together visually.
To the left of the aisle, expect to see his sister Princess Anne, who was by her mother’s bedside with Charles when she passed away in September last year, and her husband Sir Tim Laurence. Edward and his wife Sophie, newly elevated to the position of Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, seem a shoo-in. This leaves three spots available, assuming they are not given to the children of Edward (Louise and James) or Anne (Zara and Peter).
Those three spaces could be filled by Harry, Meghan and Andrew. There seems to be broad agreement in royal circles that uncomplaining Edward may have to take the hit of being seated next to Andrew, meaning that peeling away from the aisle you could have Harry, Meghan, Anne, Sir Tim, Sophie, Edward, and Andrew.
The inclusion of Andrew in this pivotal event seems to be what the public has been being softened up for ever since he escorted his mother to her seat at the memorial for her late husband. It would cement a narrative of Charles the Magnanimous.
Putting Harry front and center would certainly be a striking visual counteraction of the core complaint Harry made in his book Spare that he and his wife were not treated respectfully by the family. It would be good for Charles not to be seen to be snubbing his second son, who is fifth in line to the throne, a position he will retain until William has grandchildren, which could easily be over 20 years away given that his eldest son, George, is only 9.
Attempting to banish Harry, Meghan, and Andrew behind a pillar a few rows from the back would succeed only in making Charles look extremely petty, and give credence to every word Harry has written.
But if Charles does put Harry and Meghan in the front row, he won’t be doing it only for PR reasons. Another friend, who said they believed seating arrangements had not as yet been finalized, told The Daily Beast: “Charles has a strong sense of tradition, and tradition dictates that Harry ought to be in the front row. I am sure he will do the right thing. Despite everything that has happened, he is his son.”
Speaking to friends of the king and queen, this is the message that they are keen to get through time and again; Charles loves Harry; he is his son and of course he is wanted at the coronation. Even the most ardent supporters of Harry don’t dispute these core claims—indeed, Harry’s book was surprisingly tender towards his beleaguered father. There is no malice and little duplicity in the “Pa” of Spare, rather his failures as a dad seem to stem from very human weakness.
Spare certainly dented the mystique of the monarchy but it notably failed, unlike Diana’s book with Andrew Morton, to rock the institution to its foundations. The guiding principle of the Palace in relation to Spare increasingly appears to be, “Book—what book?”
There is of course still the potential for Harry and Meghan to capsize the Operation Golden Orb, as the coronation is codenamed, by turning down the invite—which they have acknowledged receiving but declined to confirm if they will accept. It would be foolish to rule it out, given their capacity for surprise, his demands for an apology or a summit as a condition of attending, and his excoriation of his family in the Netflix films, his book, and again in court this week.
But if Harry does go—sitting center stage with a family he loathes—it would likely be very relatable for the millions watching, who at Thanksgiving and Christmas likely find themselves in a very similar spot.