LONDON: Cheers greeted Prince Harry and his wife Meghan outside St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday as they made their first public appearance in Britain for two years.
But opinions were divided among the crowd of fans who waited at the London landmark to catch a glimpse of the royal family, reflecting a generation gap.
The couple’s return for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations was always going to be closely watched as a test of their popularity. They stepped down as senior royals in 2020 and moved to California, and their very public criticisms since have outraged fans of the monarchy.
“They got a lot of applause,” said Ana, a 23-year-old Mexican studying in the UK, who was watching with a friend.
The couple kept a low profile during the Trooping the Color parade on Thursday, which kicked off the festivities to mark the Queen’s record-breaking 70-year reign.
But Ana said the ‘backseat’ role was ‘unfair’. “They should all be treated the same,” she said.
Harry’s grandmother limited appearances on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on Thursday to ‘working royals’ only. The St Paul’s Day service was the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s only official participation in the four-day celebration.
“They are part of the royal family,” said Amy Thomas, 17, who traveled to London from northern England with her mother for the event.
“They should be able to do a bit of a different concept of what the royal family is now. I just think the presentation of the royal family is old fashioned. They’re just a little stuck in their ways. Harry and everything and everything that happened. I think you can say it should be treated differently.
Those views were at odds with a YouGov poll published this week which suggested nearly two-thirds of Britons (63%) viewed both Harry and Meghan negatively.
But there is a generation gap. Among 18-24 year olds, the couple is largely perceived positively. Among those over 65, more than 60% have a negative opinion. Gwyneth Cookson, 65, from Motherwell, near Glasgow in Scotland, proudly said she shook hands with Meghan at Edinburgh Castle. “I’m a fan,” said Cookson, wearing a shiny Union Jack badge. She was there with her daughter and grandson holding a toy corgi. “I hope there will be a little reconciliation.”
Other older royal watchers were noticeably colder.
“I’m not really interested anymore,” said Ruth Horsfield, from Lancashire, in the northwest of England, who came to London on a coach tour for pensioners.
“Nothing against them, but they have their own life now. They no longer feel part of it. They really got rid of it. I don’t think they should be making money off of it,” she said.
“I think they are slowly being forgotten,” added her friend Glynis Morgan from Yorkshire. “As long as they don’t rake the mud and do too much damage to the queen.”
Dressed in a purple jubilee t-shirt and matching cap and a Swatch watch depicting the Queen and a corgi, Coleen, from the Canadian town of Toronto where Meghan once lived, was clearly not a fan. “I don’t think she did anyone any favors,” she said quietly. “I think he picked the wrong woman.”
Sitting next to her, Lorraine Frame from Northern Ireland chimed in: “They have their own agenda. “They come back because they are afraid of missing something and they are not welcome. I certainly booed them.
Wearing a Union Jack t-shirt and reading a royal newspaper supplement, she said she also came especially for the Jubilee. “I don’t think they can be trusted because of their relationship with Netflix, what they may or may not say, and I think they’re ashamed.”
Posted in Dawn, June 4, 2022