Royals Were 'Airbrushing' Out Harry, Meghan With Christmas Photo Snub—Book

Senior members of the royal family have been accused of "airbrushing" Prince Harry and Meghan Markle "from history" to the prince's "fury" after the couple's photograph was absent during Queen Elizabeth II's 2019 Christmas speech, a new book has claimed.

Author Tom Bower has detailed in his new book Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the war between the Windsors circumstances which led to the Sussexes stepping down as full-time working royals in March 2020, and how he believes the rest of the royal family reacted.

Royals Accused of 'Airbrushing' Harry, Meghan
Tom Bower has written in a new biography that "to Harry's fury, there was no photograph of himself, Meghan and Archie” on the queen's desk at Christmas in 2019. Photographed December 23, 2019. Harry and Meghan (inset) March 9, 2020. Steve Parsons/WPA Pool/Getty Images/Samir Hussein/WireImage

Harry and Meghan moved to the U.S. following a strained period between the couple and the royal institution they referred to in a 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey as "The Firm."

The couple gave a number of reasons to Winfrey for their decision to step down from their official roles including the feeling that they were not supported either professionally or mentally by the royal household.

In November 2019, following a hugely successful tour of South Africa, Harry, Meghan and their son, Archie, traveled to Canada for a family vacation. It was while in Canada that the couple put into action plans to re-establish themselves away from the royal fold, striving to become "financially independent" and free to act on causes about which they felt passionate.

In an extract of Revenge serialized by The Times, Bower recounts that during this difficult period, which also saw Prince Andrew's disastrous Newsnight interview create a new wave of royal drama, it was left to the queen to step in and manage the situation.

"The queen, after consulting with Charles and William, took control," it read.

"Convinced that Harry and Meghan would never resume normal life in Britain, the trio agreed that the monarchy's future should be focused on reinvigorating Brand Cambridge."

This focus centered on William, Kate Middleton and their three young children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

"Without any formal announcement, the monarchy would be 'slimmed down,'" Bower wrote. "The irritants, especially Andrew and Harry, would be removed earlier than planned."

This "slimmed down" vision of the monarchy which has been visible since this point in time, sees the Cambridge family, Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and the queen as the central working figures of the royal family with extensions in the form of the monarch's children Princess Anne and Prince Edward, along with a collection of elderly royal cousins.

Nowhere was it made more clear that the central core of the monarchy no longer included Harry and Meghan than during the queen's 2019 Christmas speech where she addressed the nation from behind a desk with four key photographs on display.

Royal Photographs, Queen's Christmas Message 2019
The queen gave her 2019 Christmas address from behind a desk featuring photographs of key family members, omitting Harry, Meghan and their family. Steve Parsons/WPA Pool /Getty Images

One was of her beloved late father King George VI, another featured Prince Philip, a third showed Charles and Camilla, but the largest and central photograph depicted Prince William and his family.

"Their arrangement was conveyed by the queen during her 2019 Christmas Day television broadcast," Bower wrote.

"As Harry watched his grandmother from Vancouver, he was staggered. "To [his] fury, there was no photograph of himself, Meghan and Archie."

"The Windsors," Bower claimed, "were airbrushing the Sussexes from history."

The photographs on the queen's desk for her Christmas speech are keenly observed each year making it all the more pertinent to omit Harry and Meghan, particularly in the year they welcomed their first child.

Royal author Robert Lacey wrote in his book Battle of Brothers: William and Harry – The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult that:

"Who does and does not feature on the royal Christmas desk has always been like the changing panorama of faces on the historic balcony of Moscow's Kremlin. It showed who was in favor and who was not."

Harry and Meghan made a brief return to Britain in January 2020 where an agreement for their departure was made with their last official public duties taking place in March with the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey.

Prince Harry Meghan Markle Commonwealth Day 2020
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's last official public duty as full-time working royals was to attend the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey, March 9, 2020. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

For Meghan, this was the last public event she undertook in the U.K. until 2022 when she attended the national service of thanksgiving for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.

The Windsor's "slimmed down" vision for the royal family was on display again during the jubilee celebrations when for the closing of the festivities the queen was joined on the balcony of Buckingham Palace only by Charles, Camilla, William, Kate and the Cambridge children.

Newsweek reached out to Buckingham Palace as well as representatives of Harry and Meghan for comment.

Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the war between the Windsors by Tom Bower is set to be published on Thursday, July 21.

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