The Palace Paper: Part One

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Back in 2007, Tina Brown, former editor-in-chief of Tatler, Vanity Fair, and the New Yorker, wrote what I consider to be the definitive biography on Diana, Princess of Wales. The Palace Papers, released on Tuesday, is essentially its sequel. It picks up where Diana’s life ended, in the late 90s, but it spends the first few chapters strategically weaving around to cover the Diana-adjacent figures and relationships that are informing the current House of Windsor.

So far, I’m only about 150 pages in, but I would say the focus of the attention thus far is on capturing the broad trajectories, relationships, and emotional realities of two rather important royal women today: Queen Elizabeth and her daughter-in-law, The Duchess of Cornwall. There’s also a solid dash of Princess Margaret, the Queen’s late sister, and The Earl and Countess of Wessex (Edward and Sophie). I don’t have a precise agenda for how I’m going to cover this book, but for the purposes of this post, I want to capture the quotes and tidbits that I’ve found the most informative.

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Let’s Catch Up on H&M’s “Secret Meeting”

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Well, we have a lot to catch up on. I was out of town over Easter weekend and then playing catch up with life, so obviously the Windsors took that opportunity to do the absolute most 😉 Today I want to cover Harry and Meghan’s surprise visit to England, as well as a few other odds and ends that have hit the press over the last two weeks. But, let’s start with the big one: Harry and the Queen.

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The Royal Family & the BBC

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Nearly a year ago now, the British Broadcasting Cooperation (BBC) admitted that the famous 1995 interview that the late Diana, Princess of Wales gave to Panorama correspondent Martin Bashir was the result of falsified documents and lies. A inquiry led by Lord Dyson uncovered – and confirmed – that Bashir fed information to the Spencer family that Diana’s staff was leaking information to the press, her security team was spying on her, her ex-husband was having an affair with their sons’ nanny, and – bizarrely – that The Earl of Wessex was HIV positive.

For those unaware, this interview is famously when Diana openly discussed The Prince of Wales’s infidelity with the now-Duchess of Cornwall, her infidelity, and – most importantly – cast doubt on Charles’s ability or desire to succeed his mother to the throne. Following this interview, the Queen “recommended” that Charles and Diana divorce. In other words, this interview had long-lasting consequences for its players, as well as The Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex.

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BRF Attends Duke of Edinburgh Memorial at Westminster

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This morning saw the British Royal Family turn out for a service of thanksgiving honoring the late Duke of Edinburgh. Held at Westminster Abbey, the event not only saw a full array of Windsors, but several visiting representatives of Europe’s royal families as well. With the ceremony lasting roughly 40 minutes, Queen Elizabeth then returned to Windsor Castle.

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Oceans Rise, Empires Fall

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As many of you may have seen, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge just wrapped up an eight-day tour of Belize, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. You may have also seen that this tour went a little differently than we’re used to – specifically, this wasn’t a multi-day deluge of glowing news coverage. So, let’s get into what happened and what this week signifies for the Royal Family. (And for everyone who was offended by my criticism of The Duchess of Sussex in the last post, today’s your lucky day – I am an equal opportunist with criticism, thank you very much.)

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James Middleton Gets Married

This past Saturday, The Duchess of Cambridge’s younger brother, James Middleton, married Alizée Thevenet in Bormes-les-Mimosas, where the bride’s family currently resides. The couple announced their engagement in September 2019 and were due to marry last year, but those plans were postponed due to the pandemic.

Details are sparse, and so far the only photo the public has seen came from James himself when he posted the above pic to his Instagram account. However, courtesy of the town mayor, we do know that William, Kate, and their three children were in attendance along with the rest of the Middleton family.

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The Edinburgh Question

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As we’ve discussed here many times – and as has been widely reported for years, if not decades – The Prince of Wales’s vision for the British Royal Family is a smaller one. That means fewer royals empowered to represent the monarch and the institution, less expense, and fewer titles. This last issue is our topic for today, because the question of whether or not – and when – Master Archie Mountbatten-Windsor would become HRH Prince Archie raised by The Duchess of Sussex in March has had an interesting domino effect.

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Sussex Stuff

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So, a million years ago I promised a follow-up to the Oprah/Meghan interview, but that particular week got away from me and then, well, the Sussex news never really abated. I thought about doing a bunch of mini-sections on various royal activities, but honestly, most of them ladder back up to the same issue: Harry and Meghan won’t stop talking. Since I last chimed in on them, the couple has threatened more news organizations with legal action, briefed the press in direct contradiction of the Palace, sat down for more celebrity interviews that insult the Prince of Wales, and now Harry is apparently writing a memoir. The only positive item there is to report is the birth of a daughter last month – Lilibet Diana – but even that news was blighted by a ridiculous back and forth with Buckingham Palace and the BBC over her name.

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A Royal Family After Philip

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When I first started writing here in January 2017 I was a little mad at myself for not having started sooner. The year felt so random at first, coming on the heels of the relatively quiet 2016 and well after the births of Prince George and Princess Charlotte. In retrospect, that year was the beginning of a new royal era – William and Kate moving back to London, William beginning as a full-time royal, the introduction and then engagement of Meghan, and, of course, The Duke of Edinburgh’s retirement.

His final engagement that summer was one of the more moving I’ve covered here and the images captured during it (such as the one above) were incredible. Philip retiring from public life was in and of itself historical – as has been captured in countless headlines and articles covering his life and death over the last few weeks, he was the longest-serving consort in British history. For the three years after his retirement he remained primarily at Wood Farm, a smaller residence on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, while the Queen split her time between Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Last March, so as to ensure safety during quarantine, Philip joined his wife at Windsor.

His presence has thus been behind-the-scenes, of late. Very much a part of the family, but not necessarily the institution. Decisions and machinations that will drive how the Royal Family functions going forward have fallen to the Queen and The Prince of Wales – we saw this with how the two handled The Duke of York and The Duke of Sussex, the latter situation also roping in The Duke of Cambridge. Philip’s death, therefore, feels even more so like a family’s private loss. He took his leave of us, the public, a few years ago now.

With that, let’s turn to the funeral and what’s come out of it.

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William Defends the BRF

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge carried out an engagement at an East London school today. Candidly, I haven’t been closely tracking their schedules since everything shut down and the Zoom photos don’t do much for me, but I *think* this is their first live joint appearance since their mini-domestic tour a couple months ago. Whatever the case, they were out and about today and it was good to see something normal-ish in the royal world.

I heard a wildly unsubstantiated rumor that I will go ahead and repeat that this was originally meant to be a Kate only appearance, but once it became clear when the Sussex interview would air, it was re-calibrated to include William so she wasn’t handling awkward questions on her own. If true then fair enough because exactly that happened.

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