Well, here we are. Relieved. Slightly dehydrated. Ready for a nice lie down.
Prince Harry the Duke of Sussex has had his first face-to-face meeting with King Charles since 2022 and as of yet there have been no reports about Clarence House peacocks scattering as yelling could be heard from the House back garden.
We can now say that father and son have definitively been in the same room and exchanged words of some stripe and all have lived to tell the tale.
Except the devil of course is in the details and it’s the particulars about this intergenerational dialoguing, as Californised Harry might put it, that can tell us so much about how things really stand.
Let’s start with how briskly Harry got himself back to Britain and the urgency of his turning up directly to Clarence House, the London home of His Majesty and Queen Camilla.
Harry, we now know, booked his flight back to Britain and left the US on the same day that Buckingham Palace revealed that Charles is being treated for an unspecified form of cancer.
Then, having made the trans-Atlantic dash, Harry stepped off of the 11-hour overnight flight from Los Angeles, shower be damned (I’m assuming) and went straight to see his father, arriving dressed like a Malibu producer on his second divorce – a black T-shirt and a black blazer.
That this series of rapid-fire events transpired even after Harry’s Charles and Camilla take-down courtesy of his memoir Spare and its very large attendant cheque is particularly worrisome. Let’s not overlook here how much damage its publication did to father-son relations with Charles’ best friend Lord Nicholas Soames having said the book left His Majesty “very, very sad, tragic” and that it was “a terrible blow”.
However, it’s what happened next that is really striking.
Harry arrived at Clarence House at 2.45pm and yet by 3.35pm Charles and Camilla were already leaving, Harry having made his exit.
According to the Sun’s royal editor Matt Wilkinson this father-son reunion “lasted less than 45 minutes”.
Given the sheer volume of events that have taken place since the last time the King and the Duke of Sussex were in the same room and scone-chucking distance of one another, this doesn’t bode particularly well.
Forty-five minutes wouldn’t even get you halfway from Casa Montecito to the chi-chi climes of West Hollywood’s San Vicente Bungalows, Harry’s “escape place”, according to the Telegraph.
Nor could you even watch episode one of Netflix’s Harry & Meghan in such a short window of time.
That Charles couldn’t quite find or was unwilling to spend a full hour with the son he has not seen properly in 18 months really says a heck of a lot now doesn’t it?
(It’s worth noting that Camilla was in situ at Clarence House while the reunion took place too, though whether she was a part of things, it is not known.)
Another concerning sign in all of this was that Harry arrived to see the King in a fleet of cars with a full police escort. Last year the father-of-two revealed that the Met Police had told him he needed to provide them with 28 days notice of any trips to the UK if he wanted security, so, the willingness of authorities to move so fast on this matter is alarming too.
So, less than an hour after Harry turned up on their Clarence House doorstep, Their Majesties were off, hot-footing it via helicopter to the Sandringham estate in Norfolk. It seems no more father-son meetings are planned for the coming days.
However, it is Harry’s movements in the coming hours and days that will really give the game away.
The biggest question – how long will he spend in the land of the Greggs sausage roll aka the UK?
On the four occasions that the 39-year-old was in Britain last year, each time was a breakneck, bare bones, in-and-out job, the Duke hardly having hidden his aversion to being back under any sort of bushel.
In his 2021 mental health series The Me You Can’t See, Harry said that returning to London “triggers” him and that flying back has “always” left him feeling “worried, concerned, a little bit tense and uptight”.
Then in December last year, as part of the Duke’s legal stoush over the removal of his official police protection, he said in a statement that he was “reluctant to unnecessarily put myself in harm’s way too” and that it was “not possible to keep (his children) safe” in the UK.
Therefore, if we see Harry on a return LAX flight soon, having pre-ordered the low-cal, gluten-free meal option and packed his IBS-supporting slippery elm patches, then we can all breathe a tad easier. The obvious inference – that the exact nature of Charles’ cancer and his prognosis are not that serious and thanks to the miracle of modern medicine he will be back out there chewing the ear off of deacons and Welsh dairy farmers any day now.
The inverse is true too. Should the Duke of Sussex plant himself back in the UK for a trip longer than one that can be measured in hours then it will be a bit of a rotten portent.
The same goes for where Harry might stay.
Last year, reportedly within 24 hours of Spare being released, the King decided to boot the Sussexes out of their infrequently used Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage. Now, with the keys having long since been handed back, where exactly might Harry park his Rimowa suitcases?
Should we find out that the duke is currently being put up in one of the many royal apartments at Kensington Palace, St James’s Palace or Windsor Castle (Buckingham Palace has the builders in and will until 2027, so that’s off the table), again, that would be a significant change in the royal weather and attitude towards Harry. Seeing Charles in a newly forgiving and magnanimous mood wouldn’t exactly augur well.
So now we watch. We wait. We rehydrate. And we keep our eyes peeled and our peepers peeped to see how Harry plays the coming days. And if anyone is particularly into prayer or crystals or summoning higher powers via a spot of chanting, now might be the time to do a spot of that. Even Kings are human.
Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.
Read related topics:King Charles IIIPrince Harry