When Lilibet meets little Lilibet… The image that might heal the royal rift, writes RICHARD KAY

Not the first time in the Queen’s long reign, all eyes will be on Buckingham Palace balcony at lunchtime today as Trooping the Color ceremonies give way to the roar of the RAF’s air fly.

Over the years, this painting has offered an inviting glimpse of who’s in and who’s out, as once-familiar characters have been mixed up on the fringes of royal life.

But this time around, the scene is set to rival another event, with more focus on the outcome.

Because it will provide us with a wonderful sight of Prince Harry and Meghan meeting in public with other members of the royal family for the first time since they left Britain more than two years ago.

It should also display a view of their children: Archie, three, and her daughter, Lillipet, one on Saturday, who is due to meet her great-grandmother for the first time. Although her grandson and his children were excluded from the palace gathering, the Queen insisted that they receive the same compliments that are extended to larger members of the royal family.

They will join the Duchess of Cambridge and her three children, cousins ​​to Archie and Lillibet, with an included view of Horseguards Parade, where the forces are taking place.

Harry and Meghan, along with her mother Doria Ragland, presented Archie to the Queen and Prince Philip in May 2019

The first photo of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's daughter (above) appeared in last year's Christmas card

The first photo of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s daughter (above) appeared in last year’s Christmas card

The importance of this olive branch invitation cannot be overstated. Because it provides a real opportunity not only to address the breach between the Sussex family and the royal family but also to repair the House of Windsor brand, which, in America at least, has been badly tainted by the feud between Harry and Meghan.

Moreover, it could ensure that the couple, who cannot be sure of the reaction they will get from the audience during the four days of the platinum jubilee celebrations, will be met with warmth rather than rocky indifference.

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Good intentions are never guaranteed. The couple’s recent approval ratings couldn’t have escaped their attention: According to survey data from YouGov, the Duke is viewed positively by only one Briton in three, while more than half are viewed negatively, giving him a net approval rate of minus 26. . Meghan was even worse off, with her approval rating going from -39 in March to -42.

So if there is a convergence, it will take more than just a photo opportunity, however artistically arranged. With their accusations of racism, allegations of cold indifference by both family members and staff, and the memory of the Oprah Winfrey interview still going strong, confidence in the Duke and Duchess still lacks.

But the Queen is adamant that the jubilee should be a time to put differences aside and unite the country and her family – hence her offer of ringside seats to Harry and Meghan.

A picture of Harry and Meghan during their controversial interview with Oprah Winfrey last year

A picture of Harry and Meghan during their controversial interview with Oprah Winfrey last year

Harry and Meghan are photographed together at a volleyball event during the Invictus Games at Zuiderpark in April

Harry and Meghan are photographed together at a volleyball event during the Invictus Games at Zuiderpark in April

The Sussexes are expected to stay at Frogmore Cottage, where they will throw a small party for Lilibet that the Queen may attend.

The Sussexes are expected to stay at Frogmore Cottage, where they will throw a small party for Lilibet that the Queen may attend.

Baby Lilibet’s role could be crucial. When the couple announced they were naming their daughter Lilibet, the Queen’s family surname, it was seen as a cocky choice for a child who, although eighth in line to the throne, would grow up on the other side of the world, speaking with an American accent.

Courtiers saw it as a somewhat brazen and cynical exercise to secure the Sussexes’ long-term future as members of the royal family. Some wondered if they had asked the Queen’s permission.

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But time is a wonderful treat and I know the Queen, 96, is eager to meet her eleventh grandson. Although such a meeting may be today, it may be delayed until Lillipet’s birthday on Saturday.

If so, this would almost certainly happen in the Queen’s private apartments at Windsor Castle. But the timing will depend on whether there is a late change of plan and the Queen will go to the derby after all, despite reports that she is not expected to attend.

And if that happens, imagine if a photo was posted. The photo of Lillipet meeting with Lillipet would be a more eloquent symbol of family unity and tolerance than any anonymous briefing.

It can also be a powerful metaphor for things to come. Even Prince Philip’s decision to drop his hostility to the Duchess of York and pose for pictures at Princess Eugenie’s wedding was seen as a sign of sympathy for the wayward Fergie.

It’s no coincidence that the Palace reissued that memorable photo of Harry and Meghan presenting their new son to the Queen and Philip at Windsor Castle, for the birthday of her third grandson Archie last month, with the Duchess’ mother Doria. Look for.

It’s one of the Queen’s favorite photos since the bittersweetness of Harry and Meghan’s departure to California was so far-fetched and the royal family’s portrait was all-encompassing and diverse. How times have changed.

Harry and Meghan landed at London Airport this afternoon, with a small team of staff, Page Six reported

Harry and Meghan landed at London Airport this afternoon, with a small team of staff, Page Six reported

Through television interviews, the couple painted the royal family as distant, indifferent and out of touch. Despite this, other members of the family, including Prince Charles, support the Queen’s gracious gesture towards the Sussex family – although there are nerves among the royals.

These concerns center on what goes on in Harry’s “intimate and honest” memoir. It was originally said to appear this fall but there is no sign of that in any of his pre-release books list. His aides do not know whether the manuscript has been sent to the publishers or whether the Prince and her ghost writer are still working on it.

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Influential commentator and author Tina Brown suggested that the palace take steps to persuade Prince to give up the book. Someone should go to Harry and try to say, “We’ll give you a check for whatever fee you negotiated for the book, and in return, we’re asking you not to.” “

In light of the fact that Harry was given £16m up front for the book, that could cross even the deep royal pockets. But at the very least, they might be able to encourage him to soften his content.

Aides are also looking into reports that Harry and Meghan may be tempted to return to the royal fold if their media work turns out to be less durable than they had hoped. Their deals with streaming giant Netflix under pressure no longer look very promising, while the arrangement with Spotify has yet to materialize.

For now, there is no doubt that the couple is under surveillance during their four-day stay.

What no one knows is how, no matter how generous the Queen appears, Harry and Meghan will react to their much-reduced roles in this jubilee story. Ten years ago on the Diamond Jubilee and 20 years ago on the Golden Jubilee, Harry was a central figure at the festivities and every financial shot on the balcony.

Today, the distance he had come to the edge of royal life would be annoyingly obvious to him. But it is possible that the daughter, who was named after his beloved grandmother and son, has stuck to the way back to the way it was.

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