The Queen’s absence from the stage at St Helen’s Tower in the City of London yesterday morning told its own story. A new generation of front-line Royals had seized the baton.
The departure from public life of the Duke of Edinburgh and the arrival into court of Prince Harry’s fiancée, Meghan Markle, had forever changed the family dynamic, and the new line-up, already being labelled the “fab four”, will be the one which for a generation symbolises Great Britain.
Harry and Meghan made their first joint appearance with the heirs apparent at a forum to celebrate the work of the Royal Foundation, which Ms Markle will join officially following her wedding in May.
With an average age of just 35 and too young to remember John Lennon, the group post-dated the original the Fab Four by two decades.
Ms Markle, not yet a member of the family, was an actress in the US until her engagement, and could not have been more at ease in her new role had it been handed her by a casting director.
Already practised at making speeches through her work as a UN women’s advocate, she spoke articulately and with confidence, gesticulating enthusiastically as she discussed the work of the Foundation.
There was also an easy rapport with the heavily pregnant Duchess of Cambridge, and the two woman laughed and smiled on stage, each listening intently to the other.
Harry described his bride-to-be as a welcome addition to the charity. It was positive, he said, that it now had “four different personalities” with the “same passion to want to make a difference”.
The Foundation has been behind a raft of projects, including the Invictus Games for wounded military and veterans, the United For Wildlife initiative and the Heads Together mental health campaign – which Harry admitted had been conceived “on the back of a fag packet”.
He acknowledged, too, that there had been differences of opinion with his brother over strategy. But to laughter from the invited audience, he added: “We’re stuck together for the rest of our lives.”
It was William who had led the way as the two couples walked on stage from behind dark curtains. He was followed by Kate, who held the drapes back for Meghan – who then gave a small wave.
In the question and answer session that followed, she said it was important to “hit the ground running” as a Royal and to “maximise the opportunity we have here to really make an impact”.
She and Kate both wore blue – Ms Markle in a navy Jason Wu outfit and the Duchess in a royal blue Seraphine dress.
There was a nod to previous generations of Royals, with William crediting his parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, for their inspiration.
“Both our parents had provided for us an example of diligence, compassion and duty in all they did,” he said.
He added: “Our grandparents, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, had made support for charity central to their decades of service to the nation and the Commonwealth.”
But William’s language, as he outlined the philosophy behind the Foundation, was born of the new century, and he spoke of not seeking “quick wins” but of striving “to make a real and lasting difference”.
Ms Markle also raised the issue of female empowerment, saying: “Women don’t need to find a voice.
“They have a voice, they need to feel empowered to use it and people need to be encouraged to listen.”