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Prince Harry in London, but not meeting King Charles

By Germain MOYON / AFP Published May 09, 2024 8:23 am

Prince Harry was in London Wednesday, May 8 to mark the 10th anniversary of his Invictus Games for wounded military veterans, but no meeting was scheduled with his estranged father King Charles III.

As with all his trips to the UK since he moved to the United States in 2020, his three-day visit to the British capital has sparked a fresh round of speculation about a reconciliation with his family.

A possible end to four years of rancour and score-settling was seen as on the cards in February, when Harry jetted in from California to briefly see his father after it was announced that he had cancer.

But the palace doors look firmly shut to him this time round.

A spokesman for the Duke of Sussex, as Harry is also known, said on Wednesday that a meeting this week "will not be possible due to His Majesty's full program."

"The duke of course is understanding of his father's diary of commitments and various other priorities and hopes to see him soon," he added.

The king's "diary of commitments" has been less full than usual in recent months, as Charles, 75, receives chemotherapy for cancer.

But it is filling up again after doctors said they were "very encouraged" by the progress of his treatment, allowing him to ease back into official public engagements.

On Tuesday, May 7, the king was pictured meeting Fiji's Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka at Buckingham Palace, as Harry attended a discussion on the Invictus Games in London's financial district.

The following day, the British head of state attended the first garden party of the year at Buckingham Palace, while Harry was just under three miles (five kilometers) away at St. Paul's Cathedral.

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex greets well-wishers as he leaves after attending a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Invictus Games, at St Paul's Cathedral in central London, on May 8.

The majestic dome of St. Paul's was where Charles married Harry's mother, Princess Diana, in 1981.

Outside the church, one onlooker told AFP the king was "quite right" not to agree to meet, suggesting Harry was on a publicity trip and acting as if he was still a working royal.

"I think they're quite right to say, 'no meeting'. Can't have it both ways," they said.

But one woman, who gave her name as Tracy, said she was a fan and suggested public opinion was being manipulated by the media against Harry.

"At the end of the day, we don't know if there's any truth in what they've been saying. But if there's any truth in it, I think it's sad," she said.

'Regal middle finger'

The lack of meeting—even for a short time—has been interpreted as a snub for Harry, compounded by an announcement that Charles will appoint his elder son and heir Prince William as colonel-in-chief of Harry's old regiment.

Former army captain Harry served as a helicopter pilot with the Army Air Corps in Afghanistan.

No meeting is planned either with William, who is due on a visit to Cornwall in southwest England, and the Isles of Scilly on Thursday and Friday.

William's wife Catherine is also undergoing cancer treatment and has not made any public appearance since December last year.

The brothers, once close, are reportedly no longer on speaking terms due to Harry's criticisms of royal life in a succession of high-profile interviews, TV documentaries, and his autobiography.

After Harry's three-day visit, he is due to join Meghan on a trip to Nigeria.

Harry, 39, was characterized by the British media as a "party prince," who had none of the responsibilities of William, 41, who will become king after Charles.

But since marrying Meghan, an American former television actress, and quitting royal life, he has faced a sustained backlash in the UK, led by the tabloid press.

Former Daily Mirror editor and CNN host Piers Morgan, one of the most vocal critics of the couple, said Charles had given "a big regal middle finger to his treacherous younger son."

"It's clear from his 'scheduling issue' that Charles would rather impale himself on a rusty sword than meet up with someone who has wrought such vengeful misery on the Royal Family for so many years now," he wrote in The Sun. (AFP)