No real harm has been done, except, perhaps, to the ego of the British pop star Liam Payne.
Payne had patriotically agreed to perform at Queen Elizabeth’s beloved annual Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey, and rustled up a perfectly acceptable rendition of the John Mayer track, “Waiting for the World to Change.”
It was a worthy performance, if lacking in novelty or excitement, but nobody, especially the queen, goes to Westminster Abbey expecting to hear genre-defying experimental rock.
But as Payne finished up the track and the crowd broke into polite applause, one loved-up couple couldn’t resist trading a silent exchange.
Harry has many fine qualities, but thinking things through is not one of them. He impulsively turned to his fiancée, who was under the microscope at even higher magnification than usual as she was at an official event with the queen for the first time (although the two were not photographed together), and skeptically lifted an eyebrow.
You can see the exact moment in the last few seconds of the video below.
Harry’s message was pretty clear, and surely many people watching at home felt the same way. It’s often a little awkward when the Church of England tries to make itself accessible to the younger generation by harnessing the power of pop music.
Meghan rocked forward in her chair as she laughed at Harry’s silent cringe.
Unfortunately, a camera was trained on the couple.
Of course one was. They are getting married in eight weeks in the biggest and most eagerly anticipated royal wedding since William and Kate. Meghan is the most fresh and exciting newcomer to the British royal family in living memory.
Among any normal, private couple, such a gesture would not matter in the slightest. It might even be a touching way to affirm a secret bond. And in one sense this little moment, caught on camera, has served to humanize Harry and Meghan.
But the coverage of this tiny gesture in the media today should be a wakeup call to Harry and Meghan about the importance of never letting the mask slip. Even more so than any previous generation of royals, their every movement will be recorded and scrutinized in high definition.
Can one imagine Barack Obama making such an expression to Michelle at a public event? The queen making a private joke with Prince Philip in church?
Of course not.
But Harry and Meghan are young and in love and getting married soon. It was funny, he made her laugh, and us, too. We got to share a genuine private moment.
That wasn’t what Tuesday’s event was meant to be about, but, no real harm has been done.
Still, Harry and Meghan might be well-advised to start preparing for the day when the outrage-hungry media are not so ready to give them a pass.
There are many perks to the job of being a royal: free driving lessons, great holiday houses, and a varied schedule.
One of the tradeoffs, as Tuesday’s little moment shows, is that when Harry and Meghan are in public, their lives are not their own.