Their faces were sombre. The stances dignified. The hats, an exercise in how to spend four figures on velvet and feathers.

Appearing at three separate Remembrance Day events this weekend, we saw the royal family doing what it does to sublime perfection: Being national figureheads reflecting a nation's grief and stoicism, all of which was a powerful reminder of the Windsors' totemic value to a divided nation.

Each event was governed by strict protocol, arrivals, departures and positioning all arranged with the sort of rigorous precision that suggests some poor courtier probably spent days on their hands and knees with a tape measure in the lead up.

However, in all that fiddly attention to hierarchy and convention, something was inadvertently revealed about Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.


Unquestionably, no other members of the royal family have occupied the public consciousness or faced as much scrutiny and obsessive coverage. Over the past 18 months or so, the Sussexes have been the headline stars in the peculiar but addictive reality show that is the royal family.

But images from this weekend, showing the couple seated a row back from the Queen and then Meghan standing between Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence (Princess Anne's husband) are an uncomfortable reminder that the Sussexes' importance from a royal perspective is only shrinking.

With the arrival of the trio of photogenic Cambridge kids, Harry has slipped from being third in line to sixth. He has long been downgraded from "spare" status – should something catastrophic and tragic happen to Charles or even William, there are still plenty of warm bodies between the Crown and Harry.

While William and Kate sat next to the Queen, Meghan and Harry were relegated to the second row. Photo / Getty Images
While William and Kate sat next to the Queen, Meghan and Harry were relegated to the second row. Photo / Getty Images

This is a situation that is only going to get more apparent as time goes on and as George, Charlotte and Louis enter their teenage years and adulthood. It is their outfits, romances, holidays and Instagram posts that will be feverishly reported on and talked about.

The upcoming seasons of the real life version of The Crown have been cast and Harry and Meghan's parts are only going to get smaller and smaller.

All of which is to say that Buckingham Palace isn't going to maliciously sideline Harry and Meghan, rather the natural order of things will start to become more glaring. Being the spare comes with a nearly-guaranteed redundancy.

After all, this is exactly what happened when Prince William and Prince Harry arrived in the '80s. Prince Andrew went from being a central figure to essentially unneeded in terms of ensuring the monarchy's continuity.

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And that is the tricky fate that Harry, and by default Meghan, now face. Their relevance to royal longevity and therefore their seniority in the family is dwindling.

Let me be clear: I am by no means suggesting that public interest or media focus on Harry and Meghan is going to dial down any time soon. Not while their legion of global fans have working thumbs and strong 4G connections. And definitely not while they continue to pioneer a new and thrilling way of undertaking royal duties.

Their ability to connect with younger generations is unprecedented. Only last week a new poll revealed that while overall Meghan is currently the second least liked member of the royal family (Prince Andrew is last), younger Brits think she is doing a splendid job.

The research conducted by UK research outfit Public First found that 66 per cent of 18-24 year-olds and 54 per cent of 25-34 year olds had very favourable views of the Duchess.

This in turn leaves the couple in a very interesting position.

On one hand, the case could be made that the Queen and her cadre of equerries and secretaries should stop fretting about what the so-called Duke and Duchess of Woke are getting up to and just let them be.


Let them live stream to their heart's content, hobnob with Oprah, holiday with Uncle Elton, and guest edit as many magazines as will have them.

Let them execute their vision of what a contemporary member of a royal family looks like because their significance is, uncomfortable as it might be, only going to wane in the coming years and decades.

Then there is the counter argument. That given they are the supporting stars of this grand show, they should embrace, or be forced to embrace, a much more low-key approach and let the light shine on the heir (and his spares).

Whatever scenario plays out, there is no getting away from the thorny fact that Harry, who for most of his life has been one of the most senior members of the Windsors, now faces a future of increasing irrelevance in the royal context.

Perhaps this is the silver lining. With the third season of Netflix's The Crown set to premiere this week, a whole new raft Windsor affairs, peccadillos and squabbles are about to be dramatised to a deliciously entertaining degree.

By the time the hit show gets to say season nine or ten, at least the Sussexes will be able to sit back and know that their PR bungles and controversies will get less screen time.


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