They walked into Westminster Abbey—him in a navy blue suit, her in an emerald green Emilia Wickstead dress and fascinator. She smiled; he looked forward, steadfast. For the few seconds it took to get from their Range Rover to the church, they held hands.
Yesterday, nearly a year and 10 months after their wedding at Windsor Castle, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made their last formal appearance as working senior royals at the annual Commonwealth Service in London, an event that celebrates the far-flung former British Empire. They greeted church and government officials—due to coronavirus concerns, no one shook hands—and waved to a group of children before sitting down beside the Earl and Countess of Wessex. Shortly after, they were joined by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Video footage appears to show all parties engaging in curt pleasantries. (Those looking for some kind of drama or snub were disappointed—the Windsors, experienced by generations of scandal, know how to carry on. But as royal historian Sally Bedell Smith tells Vogue, “it must have been an especially unhappy day for the Queen.”)
Last year, the Sussexes and Cambridges were both part of the Queen’s procession (usually, senior members of the royal family walk through the Abbey together). But this year, the couples were shown to their seats separately. The news of the change broke this morning. Neither Buckingham Palace or Kensington Palace commented on why.
They sat through choir performances, prayers, and a reading by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Every time the camera panned to them, they were listening attentively, executing their role of dutiful attendees. In a blink of an eye, it was all over.
That’s not to say, however, that it was forgettable. In fact, the couple’s last round of royal appearances reminded the world of their undeniable star power. A photograph taken at the Endeavour Fund Awards on Thursday that showed the couple walking in the rain, joyful and besotted, quickly went viral on Twitter. That was followed up by an appearance at the Mountbatten Music Festival on Saturday, where the Duchess stunned in a fire-engine-red dress by the London designer Safiyaa. Her skin was glowing—was that her makeup, one could ask, or palpable happiness? Inside, the couple received a standing ovation.
So what will the duo do now? There’s talk of a charitable organization that will focus on supporting veterans. There’s talk of a production company. There’s talk of talks—Harry already spoke at a J.P. Morgan conference in Miami. There’s talk of a base in Los Angeles. And with a glamorous, well-connected group of friends, who include Oprah, Serena Williams, and Amal and George Clooney, they’ll socialize among American A-listers.
But as they depart out on their own—no longer working members of the monarchy—their financial future is very much up in the air. They’ll have to make their own income and do so without the Sussex Royal moniker. And they’ll no longer have the institutional backing of Buckingham Palace—arguably one of the biggest, and most venerable, brands in the world.
And what to call them now? While at an event for his sustainable travel initiative, Travalyst, in Edinburgh, the Duke was introduced to the crowd by his first name. (Said the host: “He’s made it clear that we are all just to call him Harry, so, ladies and gentlemen, please give a big, warm Scottish welcome to Harry.”) Perhaps he just felt it was an informal occasion. Or perhaps it was to assuage any confusion: Come March 31, Harry won’t be using the “His Royal Highness” honorific anymore.
So will regular “Harry” and “Meghan” have the same shine as the House of Sussex? That remains to be seen. However, this is a couple with 11.3 million Instagram followers, who enchanted the world with their fairy-tale wedding at Windsor Castle. For many, their charm is still there—albeit on another continent.
Originally published on Vogue.com