William and Harry: United in Windsor but this is no reconciliation

The Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex waving to members of the public at Windsor Castle. Credit: PA

Despite all the headlines you might read about reconciliation and reuniting in memory of the Queen, William and Harry’s coming together in Windsor might prove to be very short lived.

That’s not to underplay the significance of the two brothers being able to at least breathe the same air on the Long Walk in Windsor.

And it was clear how much the crowd appreciated the gesture from William, Kate, Harry and Meghan.

The Cambridges and Sussexes view flowers outside Windsor Castle gates Credit: PA

But this was a last-minute decision taken by the new Prince of Wales on Saturday afternoon.

He did it for his grandmother and for his father.

In memory of the late Queen, he had just called “Grannie” and to ensure the smoothest possible transition for King Charles.

At a moment of great uncertainty for the country, William knows the strength of his father’s fledgling reign will be greatly helped by the images of the two couples – once dubbed the Fab Four -meeting the crowds of mourners.

The Prince and Princess of Wales and Duke and Duchess of Sussex shook hands with hundreds of members of the public

But, and this is a big but, this is not the two brothers embarking on some sudden path to reconciliation.

It was, I hear, very difficult for both William and Harry to bury their differences and step out in public together in this way.

After all, just two days before, when the Queen became gravely ill, Prince William flew to Balmoral with other members of his family but Harry had to make his own way to and from Scotland.

So if I were to have a stab at Prince William’s thinking when he reached out to his brother and suggested this happen, it would go something like this: when we are living in houses on the Windsor estate just a few hundred metres apart (as Harry and William happen to be doing this week) it’s doesn’t feel right for Catherine and I to view the flowers and remember The Queen with the crowds and do so without Harry and Meghan.

Kate Middleton meets member of the public Credit: PA

And so contact was made, and the Sussexes had little time to prepare for the walkabout they had not been expecting.

William and Harry do share the grief of losing a grandmother and the nation has lost its Monarch, so these images will definitely help.

The Prince of Wales, who will one day inherit the Crown, wrote in a statement that The Queen was “by my side at my happiest moments. And she was by my side during the saddest days of my life.”

And he said that he would honour the memory of “Grannie” by “supporting my father, The King, in every way I can.”  

Writing words about “honouring” his grandmother – might just have been the trigger for William to pick up the phone, or send a text – whatever it was the olive branch had been extended.

There is a long way to go between now and the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on 19 September.

In a family where it is normally frowned upon to overshadow the efforts of senior members – as the Prince of Wales and Duke of Sussex did – the King will not mind one bit that his historic Accession Council is not the most abiding image of the day.

But no one should expect the two brothers and their wives to be sharing dinner in Windsor tonight.

William and Harry putting on a show of unity for 45 minutes in memory of their grandmother, is a far cry from actually being united.

But both sides did clearly agree that their Family –and also the nation - needed to see this right now.

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