Big absence at Archie’s christening

It's not often we know what the Queen is doing on the weekend. When her Majesty is off the clock, there if very little, if any, information ever given about what she gets up to in her free time.

However, this weekend, we know exactly where she is and isn't. She is currently at Sandringham enjoying a weekend with Prince Philip. Where she isn't: At her great-grandson Archie's christening.

Overnight, Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor was christened at Windsor Castle in a ceremony that was shrouded in secrecy. Who attended and which lucky old chums of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor have been tapped to be godparents remains a mystery.

Our only glimpse of the hush-hush event was provided by two shots put out by the Sussexes via their (where else?) Instagram account taken by photographer Chris Allerton, who also took their wedding pics. (Quite how he concentrated on work when Idris Elba was DJing and George Clooney supposedly handing out tequila shots is anyone's guess.) There is both the traditional, posed portrait with the couple's family and a highly-stylised 'intimate' shot of the Duke and Duchess and their infant son.

Glaringly missing from the first shot is Her Majesty (and Prince Philip) as she was not able to attend because of a scheduling issue. And this is a very, very curious state of affairs.

See this week was one of the most important weeks on Her Majesty's calendar. It was Holyrood Week when the Queen makes her annual pilgrimage to Edinburgh for a week of pomp and ceremony. (There is a whole thing where they give her the key to the city and then she hands it back.) While it all sounds a wee bit tedious, this is all a big deal for the Queen.

It is also something she does at the same time of year, ever year: Come the end of June slash beginning of July, Her Majesty packs her best tartan bloomers and heads to Scotland. After a packed week of events, it is usual for the Queen to head to Sandringham for a bit of relaxation.

Making this week even more a biggie on the royal calendar is that the first of July marked the 50th anniversary of Prince Charles' investiture as the Prince of Wales. He too has had a week of red letter royal events to mark this august anniversary. (An unkind person might suggest this also marks 50 years of waiting to get the top job aka become King.)

The Daily Mail reports that originally Harry and Meghan had planned the christening for Friday but moved it to Saturday so Grandpa Charles could be there.

But why even consider scheduling the christening for this week given it was always going to be jam-packed with work events for Archie's grandfather and great-grandmother? This curious situation akin to say planning a party for December 25 and then wondering why no on can come.

Not having the Queen in attendance, given the event was held at her favourite royal palace where she spends most weekends hanging with her beloved dorgis and catching up on Love Island (I'm guessing) seems an egregious misstep.

Just one of two official photos released from inside Archie’s top secret christening.
Just one of two official photos released from inside Archie’s top secret christening.

It's worth noting that while this week was inconvenient timing for both the Queen and Prince Philip, it was the Fourth of July long weekend in the US, meaning it was a very advantageous time for American friends to travel.

True, both the Queen and Prince Philip missed Prince Louis' christening in July last year, but that decision was made as she needed to conserve her energy as she had a whopper of a working week ahead (including her first meeting with Donald Trump).

However this time around, whether it was ineptitude or hubris, the Sussexes have seen fit to hold Archie's christening at a time when the family's matriarch was most likely not going to be available. How this came to pass is even more mysterious given Buckingham Palace's Co-ordination and Research Unit - it's purpose being to prevent diary clashes. (Stellar job this week, chaps.)

This might all be a taste of (muddled) things to come. This scheduling snafu is something that royal courtiers and staff are going to face more often in the future, now that the Sussexes and Cambridges operate as two totally distinct entities.

We have already seen unfortunate Instagram clashes which have done nothing to dull the drum beat of reports suggesting that the two brothers and their wives are embroiled in an ongoing feud.

Places to go, people to see … The Queen is a very busy lady.
Places to go, people to see … The Queen is a very busy lady.

Later this year, both couples are set to head off on overseas tours, with the Wills and Kate set to tour Pakistan and Harry and Meghan jetting to South Africa. While dates for both tours are yet to be announced, making sure they don't clash is a high on royal courtiers to-do list according to royal biographer Katie Nicholl.

"With two very busy working royal couples, inevitably they will be away doing tours and engagements and official duties that will at times clash in the diary," Nicholl told The Sun.

"I think that's just the way it's going to be. The whole point of splitting the household and splitting the foundations is so they can each pursue their own trajectories.

"What courtiers will be hoping is that aren't going to be any future clashes or conflict of interest or the chance to pit one couple against the other."

Translation: the Cambridge and Sussex teams are going to need a very meticulously organised Google Calendar to prevent this sort of situation from happening again and again.

Meanwhile, I hope you had a wonderful weekend on the sofa Ma'am. You're going to need all the energy you can get to keep a handle on your grandkids.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and freelance writer. Continue the conversation @Daniela Elser

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