Meghan Markle and Prince Harry did not publicly interact with Prince William and Kate Middleton during their time together in in the U.K. “It was meant to be all about the Queen, and it didn’t give people the chance to speculate about their relationship,” a royal insider tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.
On Friday, the royal family continued the Platinum Jubilee celebrations with a service of thanksgiving honoring Queen Elizabeth at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Harry and Meghan — who shared the strain they’d experienced within the family in a 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey — arrived ahead of Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William and Kate. It was the first time the three couples have appeared together in public in more than two years.
As Prince William and Kate made their way to their seats in the front row, there was no eye contact between the couple and Prince Harry and Meghan, who were seated in the second row alongside Princess Eugenie, Princess Beatrice and their husbands. There was also no interaction between the Sussexes and Cambridges as they left the service. Harry and Meghan chatted with Harry’s cousins Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral before leaving.
In addition, when Prince Charles passed by the row with Meghan and Harry, he was photographed looking away. In contrast, Charles, 73, was seen warmly greeting Kate, 40, with a wide smile at the service and at one point blew her a kiss.
Last Thursday, Meghan and Harry joined extended members of the royal family for Trooping the Colour. Since they are no longer senior working royals, they were not invited to appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace or to take part in a carriage procession during the parade. Instead, they viewed the event alongside other extended members of the royal family from the Major General’s Office, which overlooks the Horse Guards Parade.
“They aren’t part of the [working] royal family anymore, and that’s a decision they have taken — but maybe [the public] hasn’t quite accepted that yet,” says a source who knows the couple. “Yes, they were low-key. They paid their respects and went home.” The source adds, “They were really here to see the Queen, and they did.”
The complex dynamic between William, 39, and Harry, 37, has had a ripple effect across the wider family — including, of course, Meghan and Harry’s decision to step back from senior royal duty and relocate with their family to California. Some who know the brothers feel there were several issues that built upon one another, while one well-placed source previously told PEOPLE that the rift can’t be easily put down to one thing.
Meghan, 40, and Prince Harry brought their two children — 3-year-old son Archie and 1-year-old daughter Lilibet — with them to the U.K. The trip gave Lili the opportunity to meet her great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, for the first time. (She is named for the monarch, as Lilibet was the Queen’s childhood nickname.)
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex invited close friends and family to gather for a “casual, intimate backyard picnic” on Saturday at their Frogmore Cottage home to celebrate daughter Lili’s first birthday. On Monday, they shared a candid photo of Lili in honor of her milestone birthday.