LONDON - Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, will make their final appearance as senior royals Monday when they appear with Queen Elizabeth II at the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey.
The televised event will mark the last time they will work alongside the entire Windsor clan before flying off into self-imposed exile in North America. The separation will be marked in protocol: Harry and Megan will be ushered to their seats rather than waiting for the monarch's arrival and walking through the church with her as the other senior roles will do.
The service will also end the two-month drama that began when the couple announced plans to walk away from their roles as senior members of the royal family and into a world where they will have to earn a living. It's uncharted territory for the House of Windsor, which only has the messy abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 as a guide to the potential pitfalls.
“(The Windsors) have lost a major attraction for the future,” said Pauline Maclaran, co-author of "Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture.
The Commonwealth service is a major event on the royal calendar, largely because the 93-year-old monarch has embraced the organization for much of her life. She became head of the network of 54 countries when she was only 26 in 1952, and has long considered supporting good relations among its members to be her own particular political project, said Philip Murphy, the director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the School of Advanced Study at the University of London.
“It's not just what a lot of people would call Imperial nostalgia â€” a yearning for the good old days of the Raj," Murphy said. "The queen has always embraced an evolving Commonwealth and supported the notion of Britain as a multiracial country because it is part of a multiracial Commonwealth."
The decision to leave the couple out of The Procession of The Queen at a moment so important to the monarch offers a poignant reminder of the coming break. The procession will feature Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge and and Prime Minister Boris Johnson among others.
Last year, Harry and Meghan waited alongside William, Kate, Charles and Camilla for the queen to arrive before taking part. This year, they will arrive after the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
Starting at the end of this month, the Sussexes will no longer use their royal titles and pursue a new life of financial freedom in North America.
The couple are expected to earn their keep at least partly through speaking engagements, which can net as much as $400,000 per event for the most sought after speakers such as former U.S. President Barack Obama. They've already had at least one speaking engagement, at a JPMorgan investment conference last month in Florida, but it isn't known whether they were paid or how much.
Among the things they may have to pay for is security after the Canadian government said it wouldn't cover the cost of the couple's security detail once they step back from royal duties.