The Queen’s first outing in nearly five months carried with it a meaning that might not be lost on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Today is a perfect day for two adorable puppies named Fergus and Muick (pronounced Mick). Not only were they recently adopted – by the Queen – and given some particularly spiffy digs to call home – Windsor Castle – but now, courtesy of the Royal Australian Air Force, they have two bespoke RAAF dog jackets coming their way.
Overnight their owner undertook only her third event outside of the 1000-year-old castle she has called home for since the COVID-19 pandemic began, swaddled in something affectionately dubbed HMS Bubble. (Well, aside from the months in summer when HMS Bubble decamped north to her Scottish bolthole Balmoral so she could see gadabout in tartan.)
Taking to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Air Forces Memorial in Surrey for a short service, the Queen proved she had not lost her regal touch when it came to her good pastel hat game or making charming small talk with grown men on their very best behavior. (At one stage, she asked a RAAF officer if they were “being sent off to chase the Russians”, to which he replied, “That’s correct, Ma’am, it’s a lot of fun for us.” Hear that, Vladimir?)
While the outing, her first public appearance in nearly five months, represents the world inching closer to a resumption of blessed normalcy – you know, back when royal engagements were gloriously dull, and the most outre thing a Windsor would willingly do in front of cameras was accidentally insulted the Scottish or fall asleep during the Highland Games – the world, the royal world included, is profoundly different now.
As the Queen thanked the Air Force with her signature restraint for her pooches’ new coats, this engagement carries with it far more weight and meaning. Because today marks the first anniversary of Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s first day of ‘freedom’, their first day on civvy street, the first day they were no longer officially royal nor have they bound palace strictures.
Now, while the timing of Her Majesty’s military excursion was entirely coincidental, it is impossible to ignore the implicit symbolism of her visit about the Sussexes.
Let’s start with the most prominent aspect: while the monarchy might currently represent a bastion of whiteness and incredible privilege, it is also inherently bound up with the Commonwealth.
During the 94-year-old’s 69-year reign, the last remnants of the empire have been rightly dissolved and replaced with the voluntary union of the Commonwealth nations. It comprises 54 countries and represents 2.4 billion people, 94 percent of whom live in Asia and Africa.
The Queen’s lifelong, steadfast commitment to this organization is one of her greatest legacies and is a poignant reminder of what Harry and Meghan could have accomplished.
Given the drama and the Sturm und Drang of the last month, it could be easy to forget that barely two years ago, the sovereign tried to help her grandson and his wife by offering the embattled duo the chance to dramatically re-imagine their royal roles and to even move away from the UK.
In April 2019, reports first surfaced that Buckingham Palace was considering a plan for the Sussexes to set up home in Africa. The thinking was simple – they would be able to escape the UK while still serving the crown, a perfect balancing act of regal deference and service and personal happiness.