Of all the places to play hide and seek, Althorp House in Northampton would be a doozy.
Set on 13,000 acres, the 31-bedroom pile has been the seat of the Spencer clan since 1508. The 115-foot picture gallery still retains the original Tudor panelling. (Fun fact: The home once boasted a 100,000 book library before the 5th Earl Spencer aka the Red Earl was forced to sell them off to settle his debts.)
However, most famously the Palladian behemoth is known as the childhood home of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the location of her final resting place.
It was also the scene, in 2017, of a little known chapter in the long and ultimately tragic tale of Megxit, which saw Prince Harry at loggerheads with his brother William, Duke of Cambridge over Suits star Meghan Markle.
So, let's rewind to 2017.
The year marked two decades since the pioneering, rule-shunning princess had been killed in a Paris tunnel. The princes took part in two sanctioned documentaries about her life and Kensington Palace Sunken Garden, a favourite of the princess', was transformed into a sea of white blooms in honour of her memory and the Diana Award announced the introduction of the Legacy Award.
All fitting given her profound legacy and all very public. Away from the cameras and the prying eyes, Diana's family had also planned a private tribute to celebrate her life. On July 1, the day that would have been her 56th birthday, they gathered at Althorp, with the Archbishop of Canterbury (as you do) for an intimate service to rededicate her grave.
With the benefit of hindsight, the events surrounding that day may have gone some way to sowing the seeds of discord that would ultimately see the couple now known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex quit royal life in spectacular, incendiary fashion.
But before we get into what happened, you first have to understand what had happened in the months prior.
By May of 2017, Harry's relationship with Meghan was going full tilt. After having dated for nearly a year, contending with the exigencies of a trans-Atlantic romance, it seemed less of an 'if' but a 'when' that the duo would end up in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury (him again) saying 'I do' at some point in the near future. That month, Harry had procured a conflict-free diamond for a ring during a conservation trip to Botswana and had started to tell his inner circle he planned to propose. (Quick: We need someone on dove duty!)
When June rolled around, so too did Meghan's appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair, giving an interview about her relationship with the Queen's grandson, and marking the first time a royal girlfriend had ever openly spoken to the press before an engagement.
(Unbeknownst to Megan, even her bosses were planning on her tying the knot and that as of the beginning of 2017, as Suits executive producer Aaron Korsh later revealed, they had already started working out how to write her character out of the series. "Collectively with the writers, we decided to take a gamble that these two people were in love and it was going to work out," he later said.)
But despite the lovey dovey rhetoric and the diamonds Harry had tucked away in his sock drawer, Harry and Meghan's relationship was already drawing fire.
Famously, at an unspecified point roughly in 2016 or 2017, William had uttered to his brother the now infamous words, "Don't feel like you need to rush this. Take as much time as you need to get to know this girl," questioning the velocity at which their romance was moving.
Harry is reported to have taken deep umbrage with the brotherly intervention raising his hackles.
Others have interpreted the moment slightly differently. The Sun's then royal correspondent Emily Andrews has written that "[William] just wanted to stress that becoming part of the royal family is a massive undertaking and the pressure and scrutiny is unrelenting. Was Meghan the right one?"
The older brother also dragooned their uncle and Diana's brother Earl Spencer to the cause, reportedly asking him for help. "The result of the Spencer intervention was an even more bitter explosion," veteran biographer Robert Lacey wrote in Battle of Brothers.
So had Harry's lifelong friend Tom Inskip queried things. Around April, he reportedly had a heart-to-heart with the royal, arguing that "Harry and Meghan were moving too quickly". He was "pretty blunt" with Harry about whether he was "rushing into things", a source told the authors of Finding Freedom.
In May, Kate's sister Pippa Middleton was set to wed. Meghan was "a reluctant addition to the guest list", Freedom's authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand have written. "Both the bride and her mom, Carole, privately harboured concerns that the American actress's presence alongside Harry might overshadow the main event."
Ultimately, the then 35-year-old only went to the reception.
And that glowing Vanity Fair profile? While Harry is reported to have approved of the move, the only line from Kensington Palace, per a Telegraph story from the time, was that they were "aware that it would be coming out". Hardly a ringing endorsement.
Which brings us to July 1 and the ceremony at Althorp.
On September 6, 1997, after her funeral, Diana's body made the 120km trip from Westminster Abbey to her family estate to be laid to rest on the tree-covered island on the Round Oval lake. Later that day, William and Harry, along with their father and uncle, travelled north via train, where her coffin draped not in the royal standard but the Spencer standard, was interred. The young princes later planted oak trees and according to Lacey, as adults they have returned over the years with their wives and children.
However, by late 2016, things were starting to look quite shabby on the island and so towards the end of that year, the Earl's third wife, Lady Karen, oversaw an estate revamp.
The family had planned a private service for July 1 to rededicate her grave. On the guest list were not only William and Kate but their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte, Diana's siblings Earl Spencer, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Baroness Fellowes and (who else?) the Archbishop of Canterbury. (Bloke gets invited everywhere doesn't he?)
Notice one name missing? Despite having, according to The Daily Mail, travelled from Toronto to London, Meghan was not there. At the time the situation was framed as it not having been considered "appropriate" for her to attend the service.
Harry reportedly saw things differently. Very differently.
"An upset Harry told Meghan of his family's 'warnings' and a very definite sense of 'us against the world' became entrenched," The Daily Mail reported.
Four months later, Harry popped the question in the kitchen of the Kensington Palace cottage they called home. Less than a year after the private family ceremony that Meghan was excluded from she became the Duchess of Sussex. We now know that already by then, deep fissures had emerged in the relationships between the newlyweds and the royal family.
Looking back, it's so tempting here to play a quick round of 'what if'. What if, despite whatever misgivings they might have, William and Kate had included Meghan on that day at Althorp? What if they had decided, no matter their personal feelings about the relationship, that Harry would be hurting on the day and he would need someone there for him? What if they had faced reality and seen Harry and Meghan's marriage as a fait accompli and had done more to make her feel welcome?
Or, we can go the other way and ask, what if Harry had decided to ignore his older brother's raised eyebrows and simply focused on the amazing thing he had going on with the actress and activist? What if he had had the perspective to see that his brother, a man who had taken nine years to propose, was never going to truly understand the notion of throwing himself with such abandon and passion into a relationship? What if he had realised that William's warning was less driven by snobbishness but simply an inability to see things from another perspective?
There are so many moments, so many proverbial forks in the road, that maybe could have headed off the escalating and multiplying hurts that ultimately lead the Sussexes to bail on palace life and huffily start again in California.
Time and again over the years, anyone who had even a passing acquaintance with Diana has been quizzed about what she would have thought of Meghan. Likewise, I wonder what she would have made of the events of July 1, 2017.
On the wall of the temple on the island at Althorp where Diana lies are two plaques, one of which includes a quote from her: "Nothing brings me more happiness than trying to help the most vulnerable people in society. It is a goal and an essential part of my life – a kind of destiny. Whoever is in distress can call on me. I will come running wherever they are."
Was Harry's destiny to end up in the US hustling for paying gigs and becoming the world's most famous royal refusenik? I'm not so sure. If only so many moments had played out differently. If only on that July day, Meghan had been there too …