COMMENT

There is one crucial way that Meghan, Duchess of Sussex - mother, activist, and former cable star - is united with her mother-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales. Both women have a unique ability to loom over royal proceedings even from far, far away.

Overnight Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was laid to rest with his funeral service taking place at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

While Meghan's husband Prince Harry had returned to the UK for the sombre event, his first trip to the UK since the couple's dramatic exit from royal life last year, the Duchess was unable to join him. Due to give birth soon, reportedly in June, doctors had advised her against travelling.

Yet still, despite being more than 8500km away, Meghan managed to play a role in the historic funeral.

In a moving tribute to the 99-year-old Duke, a handwritten note penned by the Duchess, a former professional calligrapher, was attached to the wreath sent by Harry and Meghan, one of the only nine family wreaths in the chapel.

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The arrangement, we know, included Eryngium, or sea holly, to represent Philip's ties to the Royal Marines, Acanthus mollis, the national flower of Greece in a nod to his heritage, Campanula, to represent "gratitude and everlasting love", and roses to signify the royal consort's June birthday.

All incredibly touching and thoughtful.

And all information that somehow - miraculously - has found its way out there in the public domain.

According to The Telegraph, "a source close to the Sussexes confirmed that (their wreath) had been designed and handmade by Willow Crossley, a Cotswolds florist known for her natural, rustic arrangements".

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What is bewildering here is why and how, on a day which should have been resolutely, solely focused on celebrating the Duke, that still something Sussex-related has managed to end up in the headlines.

These symbolic and meaningful blooms by Ms Crossley - who was in charge of the flowers for the Sussexes' wedding reception and son Archie's 2019 christening - included deeply personal touches.

But why did anyone feel the need to share this information with the world?

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While Buckingham Palace has released a cavalcade of specifics about yesterday's proceedings, everything from precise timings to where exactly Philip's valets would be standing, no particulars about the other eight wreaths that were placed in the chapel have been released.

In fact, according to The Times, "the rest of the royal family kept details of their floral tributes private".

Yet the particulars about the Sussexes' wreath have hit the press.

The unavoidable conclusion here is that the details of the Crossley-created salute are known today, and making headlines, because someone wanted them out there. (It's not as if any eagle-eyed member of the press was ever going to cotton on to the fact that say Eryngium or Acanthus mollis featured in the arrangement.)

And that is deeply problematic.

The appearance here is that even at this moment of mourning someone Sussex-adjacent has seen the wreath and Meghan's note as an opportunity to drum up some good PR, hardly edifying stuff.

 

Previously, the now California-based royal couple has chosen to publicise two meaningful royal family-related occasions which could have remained private.

In early September they visited a local preschool to plant forget-me-nots in honour of the anniversary of Diana's passing while in November, to mark Remembrance Day, the couple visited Commonwealth war graves in Los Angeles.

In both instances, a photographer was on hand and images of the couple were made public.

In recent months both Harry and Meghan's approval ratings in the UK have cratered to record lows, with both the Duke and Duchess hitting negative figures, according to a poll done in the wake of their explosive Oprah Winfrey TV interview last month.

Perhaps it was too much to expect that this weekend's proceedings could have gone off without something Harry and Meghan-related in the mix.

All of this comes as the Queen offered up would be read as a jewel-encrusted olive branch to the self-exiled Sussexes. Her Majesty had been expected to wear a brooch to today's service that had some connection to her husband of more than 73 years, however instead she opted to don the Queen Mary pearl and diamond Richmond brooch.

The last time she had worn this particular number it was to the Sussexes' 2018 wedding, suggesting that this could represent something of a subtle peace offering.

 

In less than two months brothers Harry and Prince William will be reunited again in London for the unveiling of the statue they commissioned to honour their mother Diana on what would have been her 60th birthday.

Let's hope the city's photographers and florists are on standby - they just might be getting a call from the West Coast about then.

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

 

Originally published as Meghan's bewildering funeral fail