LONDON – Prince William and wife Kate made a surprise joint appearance with Prince Harry and wife Meghan on Saturday, warmly greeting a large crowd gathered outside Windsor Castle to remember their long-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
Their “walkabout," the first time the brothers have appeared amicably together in public since March 2020, comes at a time when the younger generation of Britain's royal family must step up their responsibilities significantly.
William, long second-in-line to the throne, is now the heir apparent after his father, King Charles III, became Britain's new monarch upon his mother's death. That means William and Kate, both 40 and parents of three young children, immediately assume a much more central role as the new face of the monarchy.
William and Harry had been on frosty terms since Harry quit as a senior royal and moved to the U.S. two years ago. Their show of unity Saturday was reportedly initiated by William and left some observers hoping that Harry, 37, might return to the fray and support his elder brother in sharing the heavy workload now on William’s shoulders.
“Certainly William and Catherine, as the new Prince and Princess of Wales, will be even more in the media spotlight if that’s possible,” said Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine. “Until Thursday, there was a buffer between him and the throne. That buffer has now been removed.”
It’s a stark contrast to how thing were just two weeks ago, when William and Kate announced they were moving their family from central London to a more rural base in Windsor. Observers thought they were seeking more privacy and a more “normal” upbringing for their children, who just started a new year together at a private school.
Long before he ascended to the throne, Charles indicated that he wanted a “slimmed down” monarchy with a tighter core group of full-time working royals and lower expenses.
That was before Harry's move — and before the princes' uncle, Prince Andrew, was effectively banished from public life following sexual misconduct scandals.
Not many other recognizable “working royals” — members of the royal family who officially represent the monarch — were left to share the hundreds of official engagements and numerous overseas visits undertaken each year.
The group includes Charles and his wife, Camilla, now the Queen Consort; William and Kate; the queen’s only daughter, Princess Anne; and the queen’s youngest child, Prince Edward, and his wife, Sophie. Also working royals, but much lesser known, are the queen’s first cousin, Prince Richard, and his wife, Birgitte.
In his first speech to the nation, which was broadcast Friday, Charles formally bestowed his own title, the Prince of Wales, to William. Kate is now the Princess of Wales, and is the first person since William’s late mother, Princess Diana, to hold the title.
William and Kate also inherit Charles and Camilla’s other honorary titles, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall. That means managing and taking income from the Duchy of Cornwall, an estate comprising land across the U.K. that is reportedly worth 1 billion pounds.
“With Catherine beside him, our new Prince and Princess of Wales will, I know, continue to inspire and lead our national conversations, helping to bring the marginal to the center ground where vital help can be given,” Charles said Friday.
In his speech, Charles said he knows won't be able to devote as much time and energy to causes he cares most about, such as the environment and climate change.
William will now likely spend more time championing those topics. He already made his mark by founding the Earthshot Prize, an ambitious “legacy project” expected to hand out millions of pounds in grants for environmental initiatives over the next 10 years.
“It will be some time before the reality of life without Grannie will truly feel real,” William wrote in a statement Saturday. “I will honour her memory by supporting my father, The King, in every way I can.”
Charles also spoke briefly of Harry in his address to the nation, expressing his "love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas.”
Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, moved away from the U.K. to seek financial independence and freedom from severe British media scrutiny into their lives.
The couple is now settled in California with their two young children. Both Harry and Meghan repeatedly have aired their unhappiness with the royals since their departure.
Those tensions were put aside Saturday, as the two princes and their wives arrived in the same car to greet people who pressed against road barriers outside the gates of Windsor Castle. Each royal stopped to speak to both children and adults, accepting flowers and condolences from an excited crowd.
“It was so beautiful to see. I felt so emotional and I felt the queen would have loved it," said Banita Ranow, 28. Her mother, Baljinder, said the visit was “fabulous."
“I just hope in the future they remain like that and that the brothers come together," she said.
Follow AP stories on Queen Elizabeth II’s death and other stories about the British monarchy at https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii