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From the first moment that the world knew about the birth of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s son, Archie Harrison, Harry has spared no effort to make sure that members of his mother’s family have been publicly remembered and included.
The couple made a point of specifically mentioning the Spencers in Archie’s birth announcement, listing them along with Prince Harry’s paternal family and Meghan’s mom as special people who had been apprised of the happy news before the birth was publicly announced.
The message was clear: The Spencers are important.
That message was hammered home when Lady Jane Fellowes, one of Princess Diana’s two beloved elder sisters, was revealed to be among the very first people to meet the baby last week.
The alacrity of her arrival stands in marked contrast to the relaxed schedule of William and Kate, who finally visited Frogmore Cottage on Tuesday, more than a week after the baby was born, a delay that revived talk of a froideur at the heart of the palace.
It is interesting to note that Prince Charles was not due to visit the new family member until the end of the week, and no date has been set for Camilla’s first visit, perhaps out of concern that Diana fans might find the symbolism of such a visit deeply hypocritical.
Lady Jane, one should recall, has been pointedly included in Sussex family set pieces from the get-go. She functioned almost as a stand-in for Diana when she gave a reading at the royal wedding last May, and it will be no surprise if she or other members of Diana’s family are included as godparents.
Diana’s eldest sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, is one of those who might reasonably be expected to make the cut.
Diana’s niece, Lady Kitty Spencer, who bears a strong physical resemblance to her aunt, is also a contender for godparent, if Harry and Meghan choose to commemorate their child’s Spencer lineage with a younger member of the family.
Kitty, 28, who is said to be dating 60-year old Michael Lewis, the founder of the Whistles fashion empire, is a close friend and confidante of Harry’s. Together with the two York princesses, Eugenie and Beatrice, they have often, with Harry, made up a party-loving gang for rowdy ski holidays at Andrew and Fergie’s ski lodge.
Diana’s siblings, including the titular head of the family, her brother Charles, the Earl Spencer, were all introduced to Meghan ahead of their engagement announcement.
It is believed the meeting with his Spencer family came about when Harry took Meghan to see his mother’s grave (which is tucked away out of reach of adoring fans on an island in a lake at the Spencer family estate, Althorp, an hour’s drive from London) before proposing to her. Meghan had reportedly expressed a wish to “talk” to Diana’s spirit ahead of announcing their engagement.
At the engagement interview, Meghan was asked what it meant to her “to have those stones on your finger that once belonged to Princess Diana?”
Meghan replied: “She’s a part of this with us. And I think in being able to meet his aunts and different people who were so important to his mom, I’m able to, in some way, know a part of her through them and of course through him. And it’s incredibly special.”
Harry speculated that Meghan and his mother would be “thick as thieves, without question,” and “best friends” adding, “I think she would be over the moon, jumping up and down, you know, so excited for me... It is days like today when I really miss having her around and miss being able to share the happy news.”
Meghan cut in, “She’s with us.”
It was a touching tribute to Diana, and Harry’s inclusion of her family in the formalities of Archie’s life is another way of making it explicitly clear that he attaches pivotal importance to his mother’s legacy and family history, and that he will resist any attempts to erase Diana or her family from royal history.
And make no mistake, the efforts to whitewash Diana were a primary objective of the office of her ex-husband for many years. Indeed, even while she was still alive, the primary objective of the prince’s spin doctor, Mark Bolland, was to portray her as a crazy obsessive; Bolland briefed the writer Penny Junor extensively on this theme for her biography of Charles, which was a thinly disguised attack on Diana.
After Diana’s death, the palace fiercely resisted public pressure to erect monuments and statues to Diana, instead reluctantly giving permission for a children’s playground and suitably amorphous artificial stream to be built in Kensington Park Gardens. It make a nice place to paddle on a sunny day, but there are no other obvious reminders of Diana’s life and work, aside from the name.
This suits the palace very well.
After Charles remarried, he sought to get on with the business of trying to convince the British public to accept Camilla as queen, unencumbered by visual reminders of Diana, or any other little annoyances such as airports named after her, which might have served as reminders.
The public were not quite so ready to forget Diana as the palace might have hoped, however, as the outpouring of emotion and interest in Diana on the 20th anniversary of her death showed. And Harry and Meghan are doing everything they can to keep her memory front and center. Harry pointedly found time in the days after Archie’s birth to visit a Disability Sports and Leisure Centre opened by his mother in 1989.
Harry and Meghan also made a touching visual reference to Diana in the Instagram picture of Archie’s foot posted on Instagram on Mother’s Day.
The picture was taken against a background of a sea of blue forget-me-not flowers. Harry has previously talked about his mother’s love for the flower, and he named his Lesotho AIDS charity Sentebale after the local translation for the phrase.
Harry also mentioned Diana on one of his few public engagements since the birth, the launch of the Invictus Games, telling Dennis van der Stroom, a former soldier who hopes to compete in the games next year, that becoming a father has given him a new focus.
“Harry talked about how having a small child was his new focus and new goal... Above all he said he was just amazed by the miracles in the world, and how his child has made a lot of people happy,” van der Stroom told People. “I told Harry about my mother and we talked about our shared experience of missing a mom... He said missing a mother is like missing some kind of security, how you need that as a son and it falls away when you lose your mother.”
Harry lost his mother in unimaginably awful circumstances; little surprise that he is determined not to lose the memory of her as well.