Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex (aka Meghan Markle), attended their first official royal event in more than two years on Friday: a National Service of Remembrance in honor of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.
Although Harry returned to the UK for two official royal events in 2021 (his grandfather's funeral and the unveiling of a statue of his mother), this is the first time that Meghan has attended a public event with other members of the royal family since the couple left their lives as working members in 2020 and moved to the US.
Since then, the couple has generated controversy due to their blockbuster interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which Meghan claimed the harassment she received in her life as a royal resulted in anxiety and suicidal thoughts. She also said that a high-ranking member of the royal family questioned what color her and Harry's child would be.
Harry and Meghan's content creation deals with Spotify and Netflix have also raised eyebrows with royal watchers. Harry unveiled even more about his royal life and Meghan's suffering in the 2021 documentary series The Me You Can’t See, accusing his relatives of "total neglect" and alleging that the palace and the media were working together to smear him and his wife.
Their presence on Friday, however, was not as significant as one very important absence — the Queen. Buckingham Palace announced Thursday night that the 96-year-old monarch would not be attending the service after experiencing "some discomfort" while viewing Trooping the Colour and a ceremonial military flypast from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
"Taking into account the journey and activity required to participate in tomorrow’s National Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Her Majesty with great reluctance has concluded that she will not attend," the Palace said in a statement on Thursday.
For those interested in fashion, Meghan was dressed all in Dior.
She wore a Dior Haute Couture spring–summer 2022 greige set composed of a long trench coat and skirt in wool and silk with an organza shirt. Meghan paired this with a Lady Dior bag, Dior gloves, Dior shoes, and a Dior hat designed by Stephen Jones.
Harry and Meghan appeared relaxed as they greeted church officials and made their way into St. Paul's Chapel.
The couple was seated in the second row reserved for members of the royal family with Harry's cousins Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York and their respective husbands.
Beatrice and Eugenie's father, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, was forced to miss the event; according to a Buckingham Palace statement on Thursday, he tested positive for COVID-19 and had to self-isolate.
In the pews, Meghan sat next to another one of Harry's relatives: Sarah Chatto, daughter of the Queen's late sister Princess Margaret.
The service was broadcast live on BBC, and the Archbishop of York's sermon even included a cheeky reference to the fact that, in a rare turn of events, the Queen was watching a royal event in the same format as most of her subjects.
The theme of Friday's church event was public service, and, according to a statement from the palace, more than 400 of the attendees were recipients of honorary royal awards who were invited "in recognition of their contribution to public life at both a community and national level."
Among the many politicians in attendance were former prime ministers Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, and Tony Blair. The current prime minister, Boris Johnson, delivered a reading from the New Testament during the service.
After the service, Harry and Meghan were seen having a friendly chat with his cousins Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall and Zara's husband, Mike Tindall.
There was a reception hosted by the Lord Mayor at the nearby Guildhall for service attendees, but Harry and Meghan chose not to attend, leaving immediately after the event at St. Paul's Cathedral concluded.
The couple likely returned to their UK home, Frogmore Cottage, which is located on the grounds of Windsor Castle about 22 miles outside of London. (A spokesperson for the Sussexes confirmed to BuzzFeed News that Harry and Meghan traveled to the UK with their children, Archie, 3, and Lillibet, who turns 1 on Saturday.)
Although it is expected that Harry and Meghan will go to more than just one Platinum Jubilee event — we're only on day two of a four-day celebration — their representatives have yet to confirm their attendance at any of Saturday or Sunday's celebrations.