For a moment it was a flash of what it could have been: Harry and Meghan walking hand in hand down St Paul’s aisle, eyes of the world at their every step.
However, when they arrived at their intended places, they did not turn to the front seats at the box office, but instead pushed themselves into the second row with members of the Royal Family.
There they waited, exchanging small conversations with Harry’s cousins until the real stars of the series arrived, William and Kate, accompanied by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.
As a theatrical piece, it was impressive. But while this was the public reality of Harry sliding down the royal order, it was overshadowed by the only thing millions watched, longing for a sign, however simple, that two brothers who had once been so close they could finish sentences could patch each other up. differences. Unfortunately, that sign did not come.
Perhaps the Thanksgiving service will never be the most appropriate place. But if not then, when?
If pure physical distance precluded a handshake, a hug, or the shortest chatter, then a safe nod of the head or a smile or even a lift of the thumb would not be impossible. Prince Charles demonstrated enough what can be achieved when he gave a gentle kiss to his daughter-in-law Kate.
The tragedy of it all was that separately, and with their wives, Harry and William radiated goodwill – two princes who are charming to everyone, it seemed, but to each other.
It had been more than two years since Harry and Meghan had last come out as members of the royal family at the Commonwealth Office in Westminster Abbey when the depth of the rift between the princes was astonishingly clear – where they could barely look at each other, let alone speak.
From that glacial moment, things only got worse. From their sitting with Oprah Winfrey to interviews for American TV networks and friendly podcasts, they began attack after attack on the royal family and monarchy.
Their incendiary ‘truth bombs’ Oprah included claims that an elderly member of the family was a racist, that Buckingham Palace ignored Meghan when she committed suicide during her first pregnancy and that Prince Charles financially interrupted Harry.
It was the result that William was forced to publicly defend the royal family from accusations of racism.
The brothers last saw each other in July at the unveiling of their mother’s statue, where their coldness was hard to hide – until yesterday.
No one would want to see the return of that fraternal bond of affection more than the Queen, who hoped that by including Sussexes in her platinum jubilee celebrations could bring about rapprochement.
Nothing would give her greater pleasure than seeing this bitterness aside and reuniting her family.
There is, of course, more time – but two days after the jubilee long weekend and the signs are not good.
On Thursday, Harry and Megan studied the efforts to avoid attention during the Trooping the Color ceremony, where they were reduced to mere spectators, they were confusing. Given that William spent most of the day on horseback presiding over the Trooping, there was no opportunity.
So yesterday the focus shifted to St Paul’s, the cathedral where their parents were married 41 years ago and certainly the perfect location for royal reconciliation.
Could the two princes have brought the clock back to a time when their mutual reliance was such a lasting and endearing part of the royal story?
As children, there was a closeness forged out of adversity – the very public breakdown of their parents’ marriage, and then the devastation of their mother’s death.
In Eton, William looked after his younger brother who was running home, and later, when he was struggling with his suspicions that Kate would become his wife, Harry was there for him. They were both acutely aware of the importance that Princess Diana attached to them by taking care of each other.
Their lives were so intertwined that when things between them began to go wrong, the consequences were still unforeseen. No one expected them to live in each other’s pockets forever; but, also, no one expected Diana’s boys to take such different paths.
Nothing illustrated how the exile of Sussex in California turned their old world upside down other than the way – and the time – of their arrival in St. Louis.
As non-working members of the royal family, they are now largely in another league. And although they were spared the insult of sharing a coach who brought a bunch of smaller members of the royal family who do not perform official duties in a similar way, such as the son of Princess Michael of Kent, Lord Frederick Windsor, they were just behind them.
This at least allowed them to walk along the nave on their own. And, looking at the 2,000 congregations, it must have reminded Meghan of that glorious May day four years ago when they were the center of attention at their wedding in Windsor.
This time, however, instead of taking their seats in front of the cathedral, they turned left and took their seats behind the obedient Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and between the husband of Princess Eugenie Jack Brooksbank and the Queen’s niece, Lady Sara Chatto.
It was a painful 19 minutes before William and Kate arrived to take their seats. If the reality of his new life had so far escaped Prince Harry, it must have sunk then. There was no confession between the brothers, no sign of forgiveness from one or remorse or apology from the other.
Nothing. It was really hard to escape the conclusion that the gap between the princes was as deep as it had ever been and that nothing had changed.
It is quite possible of course that the two of them met privately or at least talked. But to end this schism, a public demonstration is needed, not a private one.
These are, remember, two men who have always been the most tactile brothers since childhood, hugging or wrestling, giving five and punching.
The very fact that the movements of Sussex have been so mysterious since their arrival in Britain tells its story. And how do we explain those events they go to and those they don’t?
After yesterday’s service, all members of the royal family came to the Guildhall reception, the scene of so many historic royal moments. It was here in 1992 that the Queen uttered that memorable phrase of ‘annus horribilis’ and where in 1997 she paid great tribute to Prince Philip as her ‘strength and remnant’ on the occasion of the anniversary of their golden wedding.
Can he host another equally important role in the history of the monarchy – the meeting of two warring brothers?
Unfortunately, it is not. Harry and Meghan were the only members of the royal family who did not show up.