OPINION:

The royal family are usually quite good at learning from their mistakes. They haven’t let cameras film them at breakfast since their proto-reality TV foray in 1968 nor have they allowed a single HRH to appear on any sort of mortifying game show since 1987 (my prayers for Wipe Out: Royal Edition will likely never be answered).

And yet here we are, only two days away from Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral on Saturday and The Firm has managed to stick their exquisitely-bespoke shod John Lobb foot right there into their mouth.

Does it involve Meghan, Duchess of Sussex? Why of course.

See, all week the official royal family social media accounts have been releasing a steady stream of heartwarming celebrations of the Duke, including by sharing a tantalising smattering of previously unseen images of the nonagenarian and his family, all taken in private.

Overnight, we the double-tapping, like-button-wielding public were treated to perhaps the most touching shots yet, showing William and Kate Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and a young Prince George and baby Princess Charlotte, most likely taken around 2015, and a shot of the Queen, her husband and their then seven great-grandchildren taken in 2018.

The clanger of course in all this is that in the particular post dedicated to paying tribute to Philip and his relationship with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, there was a shot of a smiling, perfectly coiffured Kate and crucially not one of his grandson Prince Harry’s wife, Meghan.

Similarly, every other great-grandchild appears in the larger group image (save for Zara Tindall’s son Lucas and Princess Eugenie’s first child, August, both of whom were born in the last two months) other than Harry and Meghan’s son Archie.

For the love of the dorgies, why?

The conspicuous omission of the Los Angeles-born Duchess was always going to stand out like the wrong tartan on Hogmanay and will most likely be received just as well by her global army of supporters.

With tensions running high this week and Harry back in Blighty, having landed in the UK in the early hours of Monday morning, Australian-time, and who is currently sequestered back in the Sussex’s home Frogmore Cottage ahead of Saturday’s service, the timing here could not be worse.

This lapse was never going to slip by unnoticed (nor the fact the image they chose of Harry with his grandfather was taken in 2014, before the former Suits star came on the palace scene) which makes this move even more of a puzzle.

Why risk inflaming an already febrile situation?

The plans for Philip’s passing have been etched in stone for decades now, though were reportedly regularly updated, including during the last 12 months amid the pandemic (the Queen’s too).

One would assume that these sorts of regular reviews also meant double-checking the palace’s social media plan, dusting off the pre-prepared posts and checking someone still remembers the palace’s TikTok password (okay, that is just wishful thinking, however they are very active on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook).

Surely someone checked – or should have checked – in the three years since Harry and Meghan wed to make sure the royal family’s newest recruit wouldn’t be overlooked at this particular moment when the world’s eyes would be on The Firm.

If the royal family can manage to update their official website post haste for marriages and the arrival of wee, adorable babies (which they recently did for say the birth of Princess Eugenie’s son August) then it would also hold that someone is keeping a weather eye on the senior HRHs’ funeral arrangements.

Factor in too here the extreme sensitivity around all things Sussex-related. The choice of images the official @TheRoyalFamily accounts released this week was always going to be parsed with a microscopic lens.

What I cannot, for the life of me, understand is why Buckingham Palace didn’t foresee this incipient furore and find a shot of the Sussex family to include. Could they not have even dug around and shared an out-take from the day Harry, Meghan and a newborn Archie were photographed with the Queen, Philip and her mother Doria Ragland back in 2019?

Heck, they could even have made some poor Eton student on work experience learn how to use Photoshop to plonk the Duchess and Archie into some stilted snap taken at Balmoral.

Anything just to make sure the royal house couldn’t be accused of cutting both Meghan and Archie, quite literally, out of the picture.

Anything to stave off the inevitable accusations that this oversight was born out of exactly the sort of cold-blooded ruthlessness which the Duke and Duchess accused the palace of during their Oprah Winfrey TV interview last month.

The Queen has twice now referred, via official statements, to Harry and Meghan as “much loved members” of the family however moments like this suggest there is something of a yawning disconnect between her carefully prepared words and the actions of the palace machine.

The bigger takeaway here is that the whole titled lot of them still don’t quite get it.

Every time something like this happens it sets off a barrage of stories – cough cough. At worst, this latest photo situation will be read as further proof of the royal family’s mistreatment of Meghan, if not outright racism, and even at best, that they are hopelessly out of their depths in this brave new post-Megxit world.

What no one in the royal worlds seems to have entirely gleaned is that the old rules and the old crisis handbook don’t apply. Over the last few years the terrain has shifted, both in terms of Meghan joining, and them promptly quitting, their privileged ranks and the world outside the palace gates.

Since 2018, with #MeToo and the Black Lives Matter movements, there has been a global reckoning when it comes to the prevailing power structures in society. The question of privilege, and how it informs our world, now underpin a global, societal re-evaluation.

Buckingham Palace’s usual consciously blinkered ”we’re getting on with the job, chaps!” modus operandi and imperious, wilful ignorance of changing circumstances simply won’t cut it today. They don’t exist in a rarefied void and yet they keep acting as if they do.

What is absolutely befuddling is that for an institution who can take their pick of the world’s best strategists, communications specialists and PR whiz kids they keep making such predictable, easy mistakes.

If the palace’s so-called Men in Grey are so willing to undermine their own hard work again and again, and to keep repeating the same blunders, then I only have one thing to say: Wipe Out: Royal Edition. Make it happen. The world needs a good chuckle right now.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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