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King’s mes­sage clear in turn­ing blind eye to Sus­sexes

Whether or not the King agonised over mentioning the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in his first Christmas broadcast, we will never know.

But in opting not to acknowledge them at all, he perhaps sent a message more powerful than any other.

This was a deeply personal tribute to selfless dedication and service, to multicultural Britain and those of all faiths and none. Included in that carefully worded tribute were all senior members of the family, shown conducting their own public duties in all four corners of the UK.

Yet, only the heir to the throne and his wife were singled out for a specific mention: a gentle, reassuring nod to the future of the Royal family.

In a message heavily focused on the late Queen’s legacy, the reference to the Prince and Princess of Wales was designed to offer a sense of continuity, a reminder that the institution will always evolve.

Harry and Meghan are no longer part of that institution in any meaningful sense. While the King – and his mother before him – have long sought to insist that the couple remain much-loved members of the family, the landscape has irreversibly changed. As the damaging, personal attacks from California continue to rain down on the Royal family, the prospect of reconciliation has ebbed ever further away.

In the second tranche of the Harry & Meghan Netflix documentary, released a fortnight ago, the Duke of Sussex suggested that they were bullied out of public duties by Prince William and that palace aides had lied to protect other members of the Royal family at their expense.

Buckingham Palace did not react to the six-part series in any way, as astute aides chose instead to rise above the fray, aware that even the mildest reaction would only serve to fan the flames.

The message was clear: the Royal family is getting on with the job in hand and had no time nor inclination to respond to the unseemly airing of dirty laundry.

The King took the same approach to his Christmas message, opting to focus on the good work not only conducted by his family, but, perhaps more importantly, by the nation as a whole.

It was different in September, when the new monarch made his first historic address to the nation just hours after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, “his darling Mama”.

Then, he spoke not only as head of state but as a son, husband and father. He included a message of compassion towards his youngest son and his wife, saying: “I want also to express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas.”

The King of today has a steely focus on the future. In a clear break from tradition, he chose not to be surrounded by framed family photographs as he delivered his first Christmas message, which would likely have been heavily scrutinised, interpreted as messages of support, or otherwise, for certain relatives.

Instead, the King used video footage to highlight the work of senior, working members of the Royal family.

As O Little Town of Bethlehem was performed by the choir of St George’s Chapel, footage was shown of the King, the Queen Consort, the Prince and Princess of Wales, the Princess Royal and the Earl and Countess of Wessex conducting various public duties, making clear who is in and who is out in the slimmed-down Royal family.

While the King sought to put his own personal stamp on the broadcast, the general format was similar to the many messages of decades past.

The late Queen traditionally summed up the year gone by but also looked to the future and sought to deliver a message of hope.

In her final Christmas broadcast she delivered a heartfelt tribute to her “beloved Philip”, the Duke of Edinburgh, as she spoke of the comfort she had found in “passing the baton” of their values on to the next generations.

It was particularly poignant then, that her elder son would then take on that baton, in turn paying tribute to his own “beloved mother”.

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