Archie decision a sign Royal Family split has turned ‘toxic’
Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was always going to make history. When he was born on May 6 last year, his arrival into the world was shrouded in an unprecedented level of secrecy for a tiny member of the royal family.
Then, his parents announced that they were eschewing tradition and that he would not have a title.
Finally in September, aged all of four months old, he became the youngest member of The Firm to undertake an official overseas engagement with his debut appearance being a morning tea with Nobel prize-winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Basically the boy (who from the scant photos which have been released of him is an utterly adorable combination of his two highly photogenic parents) has, during his short time on this Earth, managed to make serious, historic waves.
Now, Archie is making headlines again, with reports that while his parents Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are preparing for their final week of official engagements in the UK, he would not be making the trip across the Atlantic with them.
Rather, according to the Daily Mail, Archie will remain in Canada to be cared for by his unnamed nanny and Meghan's friend Jessica Mulroney.
While this has not been confirmed, this was the exact same babysitting arrangement put into place when Harry and Meghan flew back to London together in January.
Assuming these reports are grounded in fact, and recent events would suggest that this is not a far-fetched hypothesis, Archie staying in Canada would signal that they either don't see their future in the UK or will be read as confirming that things are toxic behind Palace gates - or even more worryingly, both.
At the time of writing, reports have surfaced that Harry spent four hours on Sunday with the Queen where she made clear to her grandson that he and his family would always be welcome back into the royal fold. Still, the relationship between the Sussexes and other family members appears to have frayed over the past year.
In October, Harry seemingly confirmed the existence of a rift with his brother Prince William in a TV interview, while during the same program, Meghan told journalist Tom Brady "not many people have asked if I'm okay," in what was interpreted as something of a dig at the royal family.
Things have only gone from bad to worse during the first two months of 2020.
Since news the Sussexes' wanted to quit as frontline members of the royal family broke in January, they have not been shy about voicing their regret and anger, on multiple occasions, about the exit conditions they have been forced to accept.
The question now is, can things be patched up? Archie's arrival in London, or staying in Canada, would be a huge pointer either way.
If you go back and look at the photo posted on Instagram on May 9, only three days after Archie was born, the joy on the faces of the Queen, Prince Philip and Meghan's mum Doria Ragland is genuine.
Her Majesty's face is particularly interesting given she has adopted the same frown for the better part of seven-decades of devoted service. Yet here we have the longest serving British monarch positively beaming at the sight of her eighth great-grandchild.
Contrast that with the scenario now where Archie has been in Canada since November, meaning he has not seen any of his British relatives for, at the very minimum, four months. For the Queen and the rest of the Windsor family, that separation must hurt.
No matter what has come to pass, if Harry and Meghan were to bring Archie back to the UK it would surely be seen as a sign that they intended to work to try and heal the rift.
However, if they don't bring Archie back, it would show a certain disregard for his family's wishes (family life, if your lot own gold carriages or not, involves having to do things you would rather not in the name of maintaining familial harmony).
Likewise, leaving their son in North America would telegraph a particular lack of interest in investing time and energy in Archie building a relationship with his Cambridge cousins, which is hardly a boon for potential future Windsor unity.
Lastly, this move would also speak volumes about where the Sussexes see their future. While their first sensational statement in January said they plan "to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born," any chance of some sort of 50/50 arrangement seems to be dwindling and fast.
While the family will retain their property on the Queen's Windsor estate and will repay the $4 million plus of taxpayer money spent to renovate the property, it looks more and more like they won't be spending that much of the year ensconced in the Victorian property.
Archie, it would seem, might end up learning about the royal family like the rest of the world - that is, by watching The Crown.
To be clear, this is not about Archie being carted out in public or made to attend a Westminster Abbey service (even Prince George at a comparatively senior six years old is not forced to endure that sort of outing yet).
If he was to return to Old Blighty with his parents, it would be very, very unlikely, if not a near impossibility, that he would be seen in public at all.
Rather, his absence would be the most glaring sign yet of just how fractured things have gotten between the Sussexes and the Windsors that they have made no concessions to his 93-year-old grandma's joy at seeing her youngest great grandchild (though it is worth pointing out that the spread of coronavirus would complicate this situation even more).
As the countdown begins to Harry and Meghan's final series of outings as HRHs, there is pretty much only one thing that is clear. On May 6, Archie will celebrate his first birthday which will be five weeks after his parents' officially step back as members of the royal family. There are so many unknowns as the Sussexes embark on this new chapter, but one question that remains to be answered is who will be by his parents' side to help Archie blow out the candles. At this rate, probably not the Queen.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.