King Charles’ Snub for Prince Harry May Be Costly Error

King Charles III appeared to twice snub Prince Harry on the first day of his youngest son’s visit to Britain—even as the duke shone a spotlight on the needs of veterans.

The Duke of Sussex is in London to mark the tenth anniversary of the Invictus Games, his tournament for wounded armed forces personnel, including through a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday.

Hours after Harry arrived on Tuesday, his spokesperson confirmed he will not be able to meet the king due to Charles’ schedule and “other priorities.”

Prince Harry, William and King Charles
Prince Harry is seen in a composite image alongside Prince William and King Charles III. Harry visited London to mark ten years of the Invictus Games on May 8, 2024.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images for The Invictus Games Foundation/Max Mumby/Indigo/Samir Hussein/WireImage

Speculation had been building in the British media that father and son would see each other in what would have been a positive sign for their relationship and in a context where the king is still recovering from cancer.

A spokesperson for the Duke of Sussex said: “In response to the many inquiries and continued speculation on whether or not the duke will meet with his father while in the UK this week, it unfortunately 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.”

There has been no official comment from the palace side to explain why Charles is not meeting Harry, leaving his motivation somewhat open to interpretation.

Hours after that revelation, though, Buckingham Palace announced a ceremony to give Prince William an accolade that would once have been destined for Harry.

Multiple aspects of the engagement, due on Monday, appear—whether intentionally or not—tailor-made to rub Harry’s nose in it.

Prince William will be officially made colonel-in-chief of the Army Air Corps, Prince Harry’s former regiment, in which he served as co-pilot gunner of an Apache helicopter on the front line in Afghanistan between September 2012 and January 2013.

The appointment was announced last summer but the announcement of the ceremony itself and choreography on the day may sting for Harry not least because of the timing and the wide interpretation in the British media.

Even the relatively sober Independent presented it as a “snub” and broadsheet The Times went with the headline: “King favors William over Harry for air corps honor.”

The king will unveil a plaque relating to an Apache AH Mk.1 that was in battle in Afghanistan in 2007, which is included in an exhibition at The Army Flying Museum.

That is the very same year that Harry began his first tour of Afghanistan, and Charles and William will go on to pose together in front of an Apache.

A palace press release reads: “Finally, The Prince [William] will depart the base by embarking on an Apache capability flight to deepen his understanding of the capabilities of the equipment and to learn more about the people that fly and support it.”

Of course, had Harry still been a working royal there would have been no need to “deepen his understanding of the capabilities of the equipment” as he was trained to operate the Apache in combat.

Charles and William could, of course, defuse any potential offense caused if they were to commend Harry’s service on the front line in Afghanistan during the engagement itself.

Royal fans will have to wait and see what happens but some may think it does not feel particularly likely given the fact Charles has not been able to meet Harry.

One major risk factor for the king and the palace, however, is the perception that they are in fact attacking Harry on his strongest subject—his military career.

Prince Harry in Apache Helicopter
Prince Harry sits on an Apache helicopter at the British-controlled flight-line at Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan, where he was serving with the Army Air Corps, on December 12, 2012. Prince William will become Colonel-in-Chief of…

John Stillwell – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Harry served on the front line in Afghanistan, whereas Charles and William did not, and has for ten years hosted a major, internationally respected tournament in support of veterans, which they do not.

And, for all the hostility towards Harry, there remains respect in both Britain and America for his military work both as a soldier and an advocate.

In the run-up to Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, even committed Harry and Meghan Markle critic Piers Morgan defended Harry’s right to wear his military uniform in support of his grandmother after he was initially denied the opportunity by the palace.

The symbolic messaging in relation to William’s new role also serves as a reminder that honorary military titles can be given out to any royal family member irrespective of whether they have earned their stripes.

And that risks making the business of monarchy look like an elaborate game of dress up. Graham Smith, chief executive of anti-Monarchy campaign group Republic, told Newsweek: “It’s all cosplay and it’s all just trying to find ways to make themselves relevant and important.

“To my mind, and the minds of a lot of ex-services who we have among our members, it’s completely inappropriate for them to be dressing up in medals and uniforms they haven’t earned. They need to stop using the military as a play thing.”

Take, for example, Prince Edward who dropped out before ever completing basic training for the Royal Marines. No doubt he had his reasons, but as a working royal he is allowed to wear military uniform during royal events, including the queen’s funeral, while Harry who served on the front line is not.

The reason is because he has been handed eight honorary military titles, including for example Royal Honorary Colonel of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry and The London Guards, because someone needs to hold those titles and he is a working royal.

In a context where Charles and William have already beaten Harry in the court of public opinion in Britain they are now at risk of exposing their underlying weakness and Harry’s strength by picking the wrong battlefield.

On the other hand, if Charles and William are not taking a swipe at Harry then they could do with offering some kind of on-the-record explanation of why Charles is not meeting his son, and perhaps they might even consider recognizing the tenth anniversary of the Invictus Games which exists to support wounded veterans.

The British Government was represented at a conference marking ten years of the Invictus Games Foundation on Tuesday, where veterans minister Johnny Mercer was in attendance and he may well be back out at St Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday.

Yet the royal family so far have said nothing to support Harry’s project, even though it was launched in 2014 while he was a working royal, and the king has found no time to meet his son.

Jack Royston is Newsweek‘s chief royal correspondent based in London. You can find him on X, formerly Twitter, at @jack_royston and read his stories on Newsweek‘s The Royals Facebook page.

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