What Prince Harry is up to on his surprise visit
Smiling broadly, it was as if he had never been away - let alone written a bombshell autobiography that has torn the Royal family in two.
Yet if Prince Harry expected the royal red carpet to be rolled out for his somewhat shock appearance at the High Court on Monday for the start of his case against Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers for unlawful information gathering, then he was sadly mistaken.
No sooner had the Duke, 38, landed in London from Montecito, California, than his nearest and dearest had made their excuses for not seeing him.
Despite France having postponed Monday’s visit by the King and Queen Consort due to ongoing pensions protests, Buckingham Palace apparently made it clear there would be no time for a meeting between father and prodigal son. Although he did inform the monarch that he would be in the neighbourhood, he was told his father was “busy” - despite having a last-minute, two-day gap in the royal diary.
It is perhaps ironic that while Prince Harry is fighting the Daily Mail publisher in court, the King’s communications secretary is former Mail executive Tobyn Andreae.
Meanwhile, his brother and sister-in-law, the Prince and Princess of Wales, would also be “out of town” due to Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis having already broken up for the Easter holidays. The former Cambridge clan like to escape to Anmer Hall, their Norfolk bolthole, at such times and it seems unlikely an invitation for Harry to revisit the delights of the leafy Sandringham estate will be forthcoming.
Yet as has ever been the case with Harry and Meghan, timing is everything.
Their Oprah Winfrey interview raised eyebrows for going to air while the late Duke of Edinburgh was still recuperating in hospital in March 2021 at the age of 99. Their six-part Netflix documentary caused consternation after it emerged they had started filming private videos on the same day as “Megxit”. And Spare sparked controversy for hitting bookshelves four months after Queen Elizabeth II had been laid to rest at St George’s Chapel.
While he can have had no control over the court date, had the father of two decided to attend in person believing his “dearest Papa” would be out of the country? Emmanuel Macron only pulled the plug on Paris on Friday, and the royal couple are still travelling to Germany for the second leg of the tour on Wednesday.
And had the tour to France gone ahead, were the Sussexes aware that Harry’s surprise High Court appearance would almost certainly have upstaged the King’s European charm offensive?
The court case also comes amid speculation that Paul Dacre, Associated Newspapers’ editor-in-chief, is about to receive a peerage from former prime minister Boris Johnson.
Harry had expressed a reluctance to travel to the UK amid an ongoing row over his taxpayer-funded protection. The former Army officer, who revealed in his memoir that he had killed at least 25 Taliban, is suing the Home Office over its decision to cut his Metropolitan Police operatives, arguing it compromises his family’s safety when they return to Britain.
Flanked by his own personal bodyguards, he appeared willing to risk a high-profile appearance - motivated, seemingly, by his undisguised hatred for the tabloid media (and his somewhat contradictory thirst for publicity, perhaps?).
Had the Home Office struck a deal with the fifth in line to the throne for this particular trip?
As with the couple’s Oprah outing, these are questions to which we will probably never get any answers.
The Telegraph has been told the Duke flew over to show his “support” for the case, which has been brought by a group of celebrities including the singer Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish, as well as the actresses Elizabeth Hurley and Sadie Frost. Baroness Lawrence and former Liberal Democrat MP Sir Simon Hughes also allege the newspaper group is guilty of unlawful information-gathering.
Whether he will be minded to show similar “support” for his father and stepmother when they are crowned on May 6 remains to be seen.