There were curtseys and kisses, candlelight and carols. A sea of co-ordinated burgundy and cream festive outfits, and the impeccably behaved royal children at the heart of the family fold.
In some ways, the Royal family’s arrival at Westminster Abbey on Thursday evening for a Christmas carol concert could have been a scene plucked from any time in the last century. That it actually came in the hours after a very modern Netflix documentary did not escape anyone.
Following genuine bombshell accusations from Prince Harry – that his brother “bullied” him out of the family, his father lied and the late Queen sat silent as it all unfolded – all eyes were on the reaction of the remaining members of the family so exposed to the public gaze.
But if a fascinated public hoped for tit-for-tat retaliation to extend the drama, they have so far been sorely disappointed. The watchword for the Royal family? Dignity. Exhaustion behind the scenes, certainly, but dignity in public before all.
For those wondering what comes next for a divided family and the quartet once known as the “Fab Four”, there could be no clearer sign.
“The plan is to keep calm and carry on,” shrugged a royal source. “It’s very distressing, it’s very wearying, but it’s not going to distract them from the work.”
Quite what the Duke and Duchess of Sussex made of it all from California is anyone’s guess.
They are said to be relieved to finally have their side of the story of their departure from Britain out there, hoping it helps people understand how they had “no choice” but to leave. They are, Harry told viewers, “moving on”.
“I’ve had to make peace with the fact that we’re probably never going to get genuine accountability or a genuine apology,” Harry said of the Palace and his family. “You know, my wife and I, we’re moving on. We’re focused on what’s coming next.”
What he did not say is what exactly does come next: a 416-page confessional memoir with the provocative title of Spare, to be published on Jan 10. If the King got off lightly in the couple’s six-hour docuseries, and the Queen Consort avoided any mention at all, they are not expected to fare the same in the book.
Promising “raw, unflinching honesty”, it will delve into Harry’s childhood, the breakdown of his parents’ marriage and the trauma of his mother’s death. The Palace is said to be unaware of its contents, resolved to “deal with it when it comes”.
Friends of the King reiterate that Harry is “much loved”, with a door “always open” for his return. Indeed, the Sussexes are to be invited to the Coronation. “If they choose to attend, that’s up to them,” says a source.
Others are less phlegmatic. “They say they want peace, and yet they’re about to go and do it all over again,” says another. “Two hours of Oprah, six hours of Netflix and a book to come. And what does it boil down to? I got shouted at once by my brother? How much more of this is anyone going to care about?”
Remarkably, the Sussexes are said by some to hope for “reconciliation” next year, after their grievances have been aired in full and the Royal family compelled to heed them. As the dust settles after Netflix and Spare, the theory goes, there is a path back – although admittedly, Harry and Meghan themselves showed little sign of wanting to take it in front of the cameras.
“They are still so angry,” says one who knew them during their time in Britain. “The depth of their anger and upset is so evident, along with this notion that they’re deserving of some sort of apology.
“But there’s zero recognition of their own role in all of this, no accountability, no concessions.
“They say all these things about the whole family, then turn around and think the healing can begin? While the aftershock and ripples of this bomb they’ve just let off are still going? Have they ever turned around and said we’ve learned some things too and how can we grow?”
Critically, they add: “Why aren’t they having these conversations privately, why – after everything – are they having them via the media?”
The Palace itself, for now, seems determined to answer that question with silence at their end. The thoughts of the King and Prince William have not been aired; any update to the late Queen’s memorable “recollections may vary” response after that Oprah interview has not been issued.
“There’s no point engaging,” one source says. “Now they [the Sussexes] have got it off their chests, perhaps they can move on. But heaven forbid you challenge it, [or] we’ll all have to start the cycle all over again.”
Multiple sources cite hopes for the “law of diminishing returns”: the more the couple say, the theory goes, the more it loses currency. Or, as one puts it: “At this point, they’re just scratching at the wound they created themselves.”ORDER A COPY OF ROB’S NEW BEST SELLING BOOK! Called “America’s Number ONE Gossip Columnist” by The National Enquirer. Rob ‘Naughty But Nice’ Shuter breaks celebrity news every day on his website NaughtyGossip.com where he delivers all the dish about the stars we love in his naughty but nice signature style. You can also catch him co-hosting and breaking celebrity news on Good Day New York, The Today Show, The Talk, Wendy Williams Show, CNN, Extra and Z100’s ‘Elvis Duran.’ Previously, Rob was the Huffington Post’s only celebrity columnist and the former executive editor of OK! Magazine. Rob has also hosted his own Saturday night talk show on Mark Cuban’s channel and his own daily morning show, ‘The Gossip Table,’ on VH1! Breaking some of the biggest entertainment stories, including Jamie Lynn Spears’s pregnancy news, Britney’s first post-meltdown interview, Eva Longoria’s wedding, and baby exclusives for Jessica Alba, Tori Spelling and Mathew McConaughey’s tots, Rob always knows where to find the best scoop. Before Rob was one of the world’s most successful entertainment reporters, he was a publicist working for Jennifer Lopez, Alicia Keys, P. Diddy, Jessica Simpson and Jon Bon Jovi! Now he is bringing all this experience to his new show on I HEART MEDIA in his unique cheeky way, that is always a pinch and never a punch!