The Queen is not a puppet! Her Majesty has never been more in charge or more ready to be ruthless after Harry and Meghan’s claim that ‘men in suits’ run the monarchy
- Queen made it as clear as possible that she, and she alone, remains in charge
- Been made clear on behalf of Queen and her staff that Royal Family disagrees in the strongest terms with Prince Harry and Meghan’s version of events
- Statement said ‘recollections may vary’ but their concerns taken ‘very seriously’
- Sources say this had the full backing of both Prince Charles and Prince William
- Her Majesty will not allow Prince Harry and Meghan to derail the Monarchy
In the refined environment of Windsor Castle, a calmness is slowly being re-established following the tremors of that Oprah Winfrey interview.
When not at her desk working, the Queen is said to enjoy playing cards with her lady-in-waiting.
‘There is a sense of order, not panic,’ a source says. After all, there are more pressing national matters than the Sussexes’ salvo of woes.
Worries about the global pandemic and financial earthquake apart, the Queen was greatly relieved to welcome home her husband after four weeks of hospital treatment.
Prince Philip, less than 100 days shy of his 100th birthday, is said to be in good spirits. Yet for all the outward calm, something profound has changed at Windsor – and decisively so.
Throughout her 69 years on the throne, the Queen has been the soul of discretion when it comes to her private thoughts and opinions. Aside from a love of dogs and horses, her feelings have largely remained a secret. But a little less so now.
For these are extraordinary times for the Royal Family. In response to Harry and Meghan’s incendiary and hurtful accusations – addressed to a global TV audience of millions – the Queen has responded with a show of force.
She has made it as clear as possible that she, and she alone, remains in charge. Such leadership is vital. The Sussexes’ claims are not just hurtful, they are dangerous to the image of the Windsors and of Britain as a country.
At best, our Monarchy was branded stuffy and staid. At worst, cruel and racist. The storm clouds from the Sussexes’ Californian home have been brewing for some time.
And ever since then, we’ve seen the hand and the mind of the Queen more than ever. Take, for example, the uncompromising way in which Harry was stripped of his honours and patronages, the couple banned from carrying out engagements on behalf of the Queen, and from using their HRH titles to further their financial interests.
No longer were the Queen’s views judiciously concealed. She was unhappy and acted swiftly. The Queen let it be known that she was not only ‘disappointed’ but also ‘hurt’.
Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that Her Majesty’s reaction to the Sussexes’ behaviour has revealed more about her decision-making than at any time in her reign so far – apart, perhaps, from the days following Princess Diana’s death.
For the Sussexes’ ‘victim statements’ to Oprah Winfrey were not merely unexpected in their severity but they destabilised the Royal machine. Prince Charles had been targeted. William had been criticised. His wife had been given a verbal mauling.
With the Royal Family under siege from Harry’s Hollywood howitzers – so blatant that one Royal watcher described them as ‘tantamount to treason’ – retribution had to be sharp and very public.
Of course, this doesn’t mean there is no love between the divided Royals. There still is. But with the love there is also deep sadness and a sense of grief. Particularly over the Sussexes’ not-even veiled allegations of racism.
It has been firmly made clear on behalf of the Queen and her staff that the Royal Family disagrees in the strongest terms with their version of events. A statement, noticeable for its brevity, said that while ‘recollections may vary’, the Sussexes’ concerns were being taken ‘very seriously’.
Sources say this statement had the full backing of both Prince Charles and Prince William. Meanwhile, at Buckingham Palace, an inquiry – or a ‘review’ as aides euphemistically prefer to call it – has been launched after an email emerged showing a complaint had been made about the Duchess of Sussex’s ‘unacceptable’ and ‘bullying’ behaviour towards staff when she lived at Kensington Palace.
Meghan denies the claim and her lawyers have dismissed it as a ‘smear campaign’. While it is the Royal Family’s duty to remain calm, the tense mood in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle has been noted below stairs, with Palace servants unsettled by the family ructions and allegations against loyal staff.
As one insider said: ‘The place feels like a crumbling mansion – with no one in charge of the housekeeping.’ With the institution of the Monarchy under attack from 24-hour US news channels, there has been bombshell after bombshell.
The days following the Oprah interview have seen a running commentary on the Sussexes’ gripes from Meghan’s friend, Gayle King, the CBS TV anchor. King told millions of viewers on Wednesday that the conciliatory phone calls from the Prince of Wales and Prince William to Harry in the aftermath of the interview were ‘not productive’.
It is hard to understand exactly what the Sussexes’ friends think the couple might gain from all of this. After all, any future phone calls are hardly likely to be more ‘productive’ if Charles and William fear that details of their conversations – perhaps even verbatim quotes – will be broadcast on prime-time TV within moments of hanging up.
And how must they have felt to learn that part of the deal to screen the Oprah interview involved an agreement that it would be pulled from the schedules in the sad event of Prince Philip’s death.
Perhaps this is considered good PR in California. In Windsor, they are simply baffled. They are also concerned by one particularly dangerous accusation that has, so far, been little-noticed.
This was the insinuation by the Sussexes to Oprah that there is some sort of distinction between the Queen – whom they have been at pains to say is blameless – and the institution of Monarchy itself.
Just two days before the couple announced that they were to step down as working Royals, Harry discovered that despite an earlier invitation to visit the Queen at Sandringham, he was stopped from going.
‘We asked if we could come to see her,’ Meghan told Oprah. ‘Yeah,’ said Harry. ‘“Come up to Sandringham. Love to have a chat. Come for tea. Why don’t you stay for dinner? It’s going to be a long drive and you’re gonna be exhausted.” We’d love that.
‘The moment we landed in the UK, I got a message… from the Queen’s private secretary basically saying, please pass along to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex that he cannot come to Norfolk. The Queen is busy. She’s busy all week.’
While not blaming his grandmother personally, he claimed the Queen had received ‘really bad’ advice from courtiers – the ‘men in grey suits’, as Meghan is said to have described them.
Harry suggested this was a snub and the implication was that the Queen had no free will and was dictated to by courtiers. Incredulous at the idea that Her Majesty’s aides, not her, were calling the shots, Oprah asked: ‘Doesn’t the Queen get to do what the Queen wants to do?’ Harry replied: ‘No. When you’re head of The Firm, there are people around you that give you advice.
What has also made me really sad is some of that advice has been really bad.’ No wonder Palace aides are so furious. To try to separate the Monarch from the Monarchy strikes at everything the Royal Family stands for. One source said: ‘Her Majesty can do – and does do – what she chooses.
The Queen is not some sort of puppet. The Queen is the Monarch. The head of the Monarchy. The head of the Royal Family. Her Majesty is the institution. It’s not run by a sinister organisation, which is what the Sussexes seemed to be suggesting.’ The Sussexes went out of their way during their Oprah interview not to criticise the Queen personally.
Indeed, they repeatedly told warm anecdotes about her. Cynics have suggested that this may have been because they were well aware how their popularity had plummeted in Britain and how much further it would fall if they disrespected the Queen. Regardless, the damage had been done.
It didn’t help either that they had already said – in what was seen as a challenge to a staid, unreformed Monarchy – that they themselves would ‘carve out a progressive new role within this institution’.
Interestingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the episode has given renewed prominence to Prince William, who has played an important role in helping the Palace hold the line.
Like the Queen, his response has been deeply personal. As a future King, he could hardly keep silent when asked about the racism allegations, replying during a visit to a London school: ‘We are very much not a racist family.’
Those who have worked with both William and his father say that William is more likely to address something head-on. Charles feels deeply but by nature avoids confrontation. William is increasingly acting as The Firm’s ‘gatekeeper’ – a role previously performed by Prince Philip.
Royal biographer Robert Lacey describes the task as ‘Royal bouncer’ – a much grander version of a nightclub doorman keeping trouble at bay.
William was said to be incandescent that his wife was dragged into the firing line during the Oprah interview and that his subsequent phone call with Harry was leaked and then reported on American television in such a vulgar way.
Confrontation with his younger brother is not something William is fond of, but nor is it something from which he shies away. His ‘bouncer’ duties are bound to increase, with Charles having less of a stomach for the fight and the Duke of Edinburgh having retired from the fray.
Incidentally, a well-placed source has told The Mail on Sunday that the ever-practical Philip has long made his future wishes clear. When the time comes – which all hope will be some way off – there should be a ‘no-fuss’ funeral.
One source said: ‘Philip has told the Queen that he should just be driven off to the Chapel in Windsor in the back of a Land Rover. No fanfare. No fuss.’ There is likely to be plenty more fuss emanating from the Sussexes’ £11 million Montecito mansion, however.
But Her Majesty, a dedicated card player, knows the rules of patience – and will not allow Harry and Meghan to derail the Monarchy she has worked so hard to maintain.
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