Prince Harry was 'tense' in final public engagement, says body language expert

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent
The four royals were once dubbed the Fab Four. (Getty Images)

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have made what is thought to be their final appearance as senior royals in the UK, and all eyes were on how they would interact with their family.

The couple attended the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey, an annual event of utmost importance to the Queen, who is passionate about the 54 countries included in the network.

Prince William and his wife Kate were due to be in the royal procession, but at the last minute, were dropped from the line up.

Harry and Meghan were not due to be in the procession this year. It’s not uncommon for royals to appear one year but not another.

It meant the royals all took their seats in the abbey, with William and Kate sat in front of his younger brother and wife - making conversation potentially difficult.

According to Press Association, Meghan was seen to mouth “hi” and wave to Kate, and then add “hello”, while Harry greeted his brother briefly.

The line of succession dictates where royals sit, so William is in front of Harry. (Getty Images)
William and Kate spoke to Edward and Sophie, but don't seem to engage with Harry and Meghan. (Getty Images)

But photographs don’t show much brotherly affection between the two. William and Kate did spend time talking to Prince Edward and his wife Sophie.

Body language expert Judi James told Yahoo News UK Harry went through a “whole range of mixed emotions” during the service.

Read more: The 360: Has it been a good week for the royals?

She said: “Sitting in the second row of seats he must have been treated to the backs of heads of all the family members he has previously been so close too, meaning his signals of sadness and reflection were hugely understandable. 

“His tension signals built as his brother got closer. Once he dropped hands with Meghan to walk into the Abbey he began to perform stomach-touching barrier gestures and he also grabbed at his ring finger in a way that suggested he needed his wife’s support.

“Meghan managed to smile and wave confidently but once William and Kate arrived behind Harry and Meghan in the line-up Harry’s hand-clap suggested a desire to move on, although Meghan looked in no hurry as she chatted with PM Boris.”

Harry and Meghan appeared to share a giggle together in their seats. (Getty Images)

The couples arrived separately, as would be expected at the occasion, and James noted how long it was before there was interaction between them.

She added: “There were no initial signals of greeting or recognition and it wasn’t until William and Kate took their seats that we saw any signs of connection between the two couples. Both Meghan and Harry smiled ‘hello’ to Kate, with Harry using an open-mouthed smile of genuine pleasure, but his lips closed as he greeted his brother.

“It might have been a moment of genuine or even performed affection and reconciliation between the two brothers but there was little apart from some awkward social smiling to suggest any re-bonding before Harry leaves the UK.”

But, she did suggest there was a better relationship between Harry and his sister-in-law, Kate.

Harry grinned at his father during the service. (Getty Images)

She said: “Harry and Meghan looked a lot more genuinely cheerful, and Harry, especially through a really affectionate smile at Kate.

“But when it was William you could see Harry was slightly more rigid and his lips were closed.”

Read more: Duke and Duchess of Sussex get standing ovation at Mountbatten Festival of Music

James continued: “Meghan dropped curtsies to the Queen and Charles and we saw polite greetings exchanged but their exits did seem to have been choreographed in a way that avoided any need for chatting or farewells.

“Once William and Kate had driven off Harry’s tension did evaporate and he looked reluctant to leave the venue and the country he clearly loves. He became animated and chatty, speaking to Craig David and Anthony Joshua like old friends, and it was a loving arm pat and then a hand clasp from Meghan that seemed to steer him into his car and away.”

The couple held hands as they arrived together. (Getty Images)
The duke looked relaxed a few paces behind his brother and sister-in-law. (Getty Images)

Read more: Canada to stop paying Harry and Meghan's security costs in coming weeks

The Commonwealth Day Service was the last planned engagement on the Sussexes whirlwind farewell tour.

They have been staying at their home, Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, and joined the Queen at church there on Sunday, but it’s not clear if they caught up with any of the other royals while they have been in the UK.

There may have been little time to see William and Kate either, as the Duchess of Cambridge hosted a gala dinner for Place2be, one of her patronages, at Kensington Palace on Monday evening.

And Charles and Camilla are guests of the Commonwealth Secretary-General at the evening reception at Marlborough House.

Royal author Penny Junor said of the Sussexes: “We will miss them. They just look as if they belong.

“They have had a very successful few days, you know, the last engagements have all gone amazingly well.”

She added: “I would imagine it would have been an emotional day for Harry. But I thought they looked glorious, they looked happy.”

Harry dropped his head at one point, staring at the floor. (Getty Images)
Meghan and Edward had a brief chat as they waited for the service to begin. (Getty Images)

Ms Junor told the PA news agency: “I hope that Harry doesn’t feel bereft of everything that he loves – he will have his wife and child – but everything else in his life, when the door closes on this period of business.”

Read more: Schoolboy says 'sorry Harry' after hugging Duchess of Sussex in her surprise school visit

Posting about their commitment to the Commonwealth on Instagram after, Sussex Royal wrote: “From working to protect the earth's natural resources and preserving the planet for generations to come, to championing fair trade and empowering the youth of today to transform the communities of tomorrow, the Service celebrates the Commonwealth's continued commitment to delivering a peaceful, prosperous and more sustainable future for all.”

While the Sussexes just shared two pictures of Harry and Meghan at the event, the Cambridges added more of the wider audience, and even included a moment of Meghan looking up at Anthony Joshua, and Harry bumping elbows with Craig David.

She praised the Queen for the way she has dealt with the Megxit crisis.

“I do think the family has handled this whole situation very well,” she said.

Harry offered a wave as he got back into his car after the service. (Getty Images)

“Harry and Meghan may not have quite got what they wanted but I think the Queen made absolutely the right decision in that they couldn’t be semi-detached. It was all or nothing.

“It is a historic moment. For people watching today, it was the last time we’ll see Harry and Meghan for the foreseeable future with other members of the family.”