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Harry and Meghan’s Christmas showdown

In 2017 the royal family marked a milestone that went largely unnoticed, with the house of Windsor notching up 100 years. While the actual British throne can be traced back to King Egbert in 825 (strangely none of the younger royals who traditionally look to history for baby names have taken inspiration here), ‘Windsor’ only…

In 2017 the royal family marked a milestone that went largely unnoticed, with the house of Windsor notching up 100 years. While the actual British throne can be traced back to King Egbert in 825 (strangely none of the younger royals who traditionally look to history for baby names have taken inspiration here), ‘Windsor’ only entered the monarchical vernacular in 1917.

At that time, King George V was on the throne, a sovereign whose surname just happened to be the distinctly Germanic Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. (The family acquired the surname when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840.)

With World War I raging and anything even vaguely-German facing stiff public disapproval, the king made the savvy decision to change things to Windsor.

Since then, the current royal family’s Teutonic roots have largely been consigned to the annals of history, that is, until we get to Christmas.

Despite symbolising quintessential Britishness in so many ways, when it comes to marking the holiday, the Queen and her family still to this day still celebrate in a distinctly German fashion, following the tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve.

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This year’s celebration will most likely be a serious departure from previous occasions, the large family gathering at Sandringham replaced by a small gaggle of relatives who may or may not make the annual public pilgrimage to St Mary Magdalene, the church on the estate.

However, this year’s festivities might be tricky for reasons that go beyond the current pandemic, with reports that Prince Harry may be set to return to the UK in the near future, raising the possibility that Her Majesty’s errant grandson may be in the country for Christmas.

Recently a source told The Sun that “Staff at Windsor have been told to prepare for the possibility Harry could come back. They are told that it could be within weeks but Meghan’s name was not mentioned.”

While this is all a bit speculative, it would make sense for Harry to return to the UK in coming weeks, given it would mean that he could attend the Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph on November 8.

Similarly, later in the same month, Walking with the Wounded, a charity that Harry has closely supported for years, will kick off a 400km, 21-day charity trek through Oman. Given that the Prince took part in the organisation’s 2011 expedition to the North Pole, some have raised the possibility of whether there is any chance he might take part in this year’s outing.

And, even if they don’t make it back to Blighty in 2020, it has been reported that Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, will at least be back in the country in January when her lawsuit against the Daily Mail’s parent company is heard in a London court.

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The thing is, when it comes to Harry and Meghan’s return to the UK, it’s a matter of when not if, COVID notwithstanding. And when they do, they could face both a potentially rough private and public reckoning.

In recent months, ensconced in their $20 million Santa Barbara mansion, the duo has managed to ruffle feathers and raise eyebrows across the Pond thanks to a number of video appearances and one megabucks deal.

In July, the couple made comments about the Commonwealth needing to deal with its “uncomfortable’’ history, including the legacy of the slave trade; in September there was Harry’s urging of Americans to vote in the upcoming Presidential election and to “reject hate speech,” a comment interpreted as a tacit show of support for Joe Biden; before in an interview in October they called for an end to “structural racism” in the UK.

The Sussexes’ forays into the more political realm have not gone unnoticed in London. In the wake of Harry’s “hate speech” comments, Buckingham Palace put out a terse statement saying that “The Duke is not a working member of the Royal Family and any comments he makes are made in a personal capacity.” (Anyone else hear the beep, beep of a swiftly reversing vehicle?)

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At the time, a royal aide told The Times the couple’s voting commentary was a breach of their promise that “everything they do will uphold the values of Her Majesty” given that the royal family, by convention, remains resolutely apolitical.

“The (royal) family are all wringing their hands, thinking: where is this going and does this abide by the deal to uphold the values of the Queen?” the aide has said. “The feeling is it’s a violation of the agreement.”

Earlier this week, Meghan referred to the royal family somewhat cooly as “the institution” during a Fortune magazine conference appearance, a move hardly likely to warm the cockles of courtiers’ hearts.

Likewise, the former-HRHs’ mega Netflix deal (the exact value of which remains unknown but vast sums such as $130 million have been thrown around) is also reported to have made waves, especially given the streaming service is home to The Crown. Next month the fourth season of the hit drama will launch featuring the introduction of Diana, Princess of Wales.

In the wake of the news of the Netflix deal being made public, a source told The Sun: “William and other senior royals are incredibly uncomfortable about this drama (The Crown) and livid Harry is now in partnership with the company that’s airing it.

“It’s the latest in a long line of flashpoints between the brothers, but there are few more sensitive subjects than the plight of their mother.”

There is also the fact that the clock is ticking down to the end of the 12-month review period that Her Majesty, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry agreed to earlier this year after the Sandringham Summit.

According to a report in The Times last month, Harry and Meghan’s roles as the president and vice-president respectively of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust “will also now come under review” and the future of Harry’s (beloved) honorary military appointments remains unresolved.

To some extent, the Duke and Duchess have been existing in something of a rarefied bubble since landing in California in March, having gone on to earn a steady stream of plaudits from the US media and being feted by some of the biggest names in the corporate and political worlds.

However, once they are back on British terra firma, and no matter whatever happens behind palace doors, they will have to face both a dyspeptic public and a vituperative press.

A poll conducted last week by the Express newspaper found the tide of public sentiment has turned against Meghan with 95 per cent of more than 17,000 respondents saying they thought the Duchess should have her titles removed.

(This is leaving aside the fact that only parliament could strip them of their gifted Sussex titles and even if they did, which is not even remotely likely, he remains a Prince of the realm in which instance Meghan would be known as Princess Henry. However, the couple could always agree to not use their titles as they did with their stylings as His/Her Royal Highness earlier this year.)

Likewise, Fleet Street is hardly likely to start putting out cheery colour supplements hailing their return, given the increasingly antagonistic relationship between the Sussexes and the British fourth estate. (The three lawsuits they are currently waging against major UK newspapers probably didn’t help things.)

It hardly takes a crystal ball-wielding psychic to predict they could face something of a media mauling.

In essence, when the Sussexes – or even just Harry – head back to Frogmore Cottage, their home on the Windsor Great Park estate, they face dealing with the fallout from their new, far more outspoken US life.

With the weeks ticking down to the one-year anniversary of their bombshell announcement that they wanted out as working royals, and whether there is eggnog on hand and sleigh bells ringing or the tinsel has come down and we are into the new year, it seems unlikely there will be much cause for celebration.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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