The question of who would wear what to Saturday’s ceremony has been a hot topic in Britain since the Duke’s death on the 9th of July, posing an awkward dilemma for the royal family trying to stem several public crises at once.
Earlier this week, Britain’s tabloids reported that Harry, who announced he would step down from his role as a functioning royal last year, could possibly be the only member of the family in civilian clothes after losing his honorary military titles in February – despite for having served in the British Army for a decade and serving the role of General Guard for the Royal Marines.
Harry has lived in the United States with his wife, Meghan – who is unable to travel to the UK for the funeral because she is pregnant – and their son, Archie.
The pair were beaded in an explosive CBS interview with Oprah Winfrey last month, in which they described racial hostility in the family and talked about their struggle with incessant attention in the tabloid. Meghan revealed that she was experiencing suicidal thoughts and added that she was not offered adequate support by the palace. She also claimed there were conversations within the family before the birth of their son Archie about “how dark his skin could be.”
British news outlets also reported this week that the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew, who holds the rank of Vice Admiral of the Royal Navy, requested to wear an Admiral’s uniform to the funeral.
He was to be promoted to this rank of honor on his 60th birthday last year, a plan outlined after a disastrous interview in which the now 61-year-old tried to defend his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
In the interview, Andrew was grilled over demands from Virginia Roberts, now Virginia Giuffre, who has said Epstein went on to have sex with Andrew several times. He denied having sex with her, but admitted that he lived with Epstein, even after Epstein had served a prison sentence for sexually abusing children because it was “practical.”
Public anger followed the interview, and Andrew then resigned from royal duties, saying he would do so “for the foreseeable future.”
On Thursday, Buckingham Palace tried to put an end to swirling theories about funeral attire, announces it “Members of the royal family will wear a bathrobe with medals or day dress on.”
“That is, members of the royal family will not be in military uniform,” a spokesman said.
While some see the funeral as an opportunity for the divided family to unite in grief and smooth over bubbling tensions, British media reported on Friday that the relationship between brothers William and Harry, who have not been seen together in public for more than a year, has never been so strained.
“Brothers in Arm’s Length,” read a headline in the sun, a British tabloid, over an article noting that the two princes would be kept art at the funeral. “Brothers will not go side by side in procession from Windsor Castle,” the front page of the Daily Telegrh reads. The Daily Mail reported that the brothers would walk with their older cousin, Peter Phillips, between them while the family followed behind the duke’s coffin on Saturday.
Harry and William have not always walked side by side at funerals before.
Royal experts speculated this week that with a split reported between the brothers, having one in military uniform and the other in suit would have drawn attention to further tensions within the family.
On Harry’s wedding day, he and his brother both played blues and Royals, a regiment from that part of the household cavalry, with the uniform.
In a statement published by the British Daily mail, Buckingham Palace said it “would not be drawn into the perception of drama,” adding that the plans were signed by the Queen and reflected her wishes.
In yet another breach of tradition, Saturday’s ceremony will be significantly smaller than other royal gatherings. Due to the current coronavirus restrictions in the UK, the service will only be attended by 30 guests, the closest to the Duke and Queen.