Just for a moment it was like turning back the clock.
William and Harry, side by side with their wives, radiating the kind of goodwill that we all once took for granted.
It was almost as if that brotherly bond of affection that has been so catastrophically absent for the past two years had, somehow, magically returned.
Of course it was awkward and at times both of them looked strained, with Harry especially hesitant as they honoured their grandmother’s memory by greeting well-wishers and viewing the flowers outside the gates of Windsor Castle on Saturday afternoon.
For so many years their mutual reliance had been an enduring and endearing part of the royal story, but that trust and common dependency, forged from the tragic loss of their mother in their early teens, had vanished in the aftermath of Harry and Meghan’s bitter break from the royal family.
In place of that once familiar bonhomie was silence, resentment and anger.
Nothing it seemed could heal the rift; not the entreaties of family and friends and not even fatherhood, a shared passion for them both – until that unexpected public reunion at the weekend.
For 45 minutes, the two couples moved among the crowds, shaking hands, accepting condolences and flowers which they placed on the growing pile of tributes while thanking the public in turn for their kindnesses.
It was, of course, a powerful echo of similar images from a quarter of a century ago when, after the death of Princess Diana, the brothers greeted mourners outside Kensington Palace.
Even at the end of their walkabout, the sense of togetherness persisted.
All four climbed into the same car and, with William very much in charge at the wheel, headed up the Long Walk in the direction of Frogmore Cottage, his brother and sister-in-law’s home in the UK.
The question was whether this rare moment of unity promises anything more than mere symbolism. Is it indeed a reconciliation or the beginnings of one – or was it simply a truce?
Certainly its importance to the long-term vitality of the monarchy cannot be underestimated.
The pictures of the new Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex succeeded in upstaging the proclamation of King Charles as the new monarch, a reminder, should he need it, of the star quality of his sons and their wives.
The initiative was Prince William’s but it required Harry to agree.
And that in itself is certainly something of a breakthrough.
Both are stubborn and both have blamed the other for the estrangement.
That it happened at all is even more remarkable considering Harry’s apparent sidelining as events which unfolded in the hours immediately before and after the death of the Queen on Thursday.
When William flew up to Scotland he was accompanied by his uncles Andrew and Edward.
Harry’s absence remains unexplained but rumours abound. Some reports have suggested he had insisted Meghan accompany him until it was pointed out to him that Kate would not be there supporting her husband.
The upshot was that instead Harry travelled alone on his own privately chartered plane and did not arrive at Balmoral until several hours after his grandmother’s death.
But then instead of joining his father and brother who were ensconced at Charles’s home Birkhall, he remained at Balmoral Castle where the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex had joined their sister Princess Anne.
“Two dinners were being hosted on the royal estate that night and there was a clear divide: One was for the new king and his heir, the other was for the rest of the family,” said an insider.
By Saturday events had moved fast: King Charles III had been sworn in as monarch and in Scotland Anne, Andrew, Edward and their children were thanking mourners who had gathered to pay their respects at Balmoral.
Meanwhile, there was anticipation that William and Kate would perform a similar function in Windsor.
It is understood that at some stage that day William, who had already raised the idea with his brother that they might view the flowers together, texted Harry with a proposed time – a text which Harry acknowledged.
According to a source: “It happened very quickly – remarkable really considering they didn’t see each other in Scotland”.
The gesture was certainly decisive.
One thing we have learned is that it was not done on the direction of their father as was being widely reported over the weekend.
A royal source said such suggestions were “absolutely not the case”.
Nor is it true that William acted only after learning Harry was set on his own walkabout among the crowds complete with an attendant TV crew.
“Complete b******s”, said a source.
However, the walkabout had originally been planned for 4.30pm but was pushed back by 45 minutes as the brothers communicated with one another, reinforcing the last minute nature of the olive branch.
But it surely can be no coincidence that in his first television address as Sovereign on Friday, Charles made a point of expressing his love for Harry and Meghan.
This must have emboldened William in his course of action.
William, it is understood, took the view that at this time of national mourning a show of unity was needed out of respect to the Queen. As an insider put it: “These coming days are going to be extremely intense and getting through them without distraction can only be a good thing”.
But was it anything more that pragmatism?
At the time of Prince Philip’s funeral in April last year, the brothers were urged to try and settle their differences.
And there was hope when, immediately after the service, they were pictured leaving St George’s chapel side by side to return to the castle.
But the optimism was misplaced and the rift remained.
In the intervening months things have not improved and looming over the relationship and whether it can be salvaged is Harry’s forthcoming memoir.
“William loves his brother but there is this matter of trust,” says one figure.
It is this issue that will ultimately decide if Saturday’s walkabout heralds a sea change in the brothers’ relationship or is merely a temporary respite.
For many, seeing the pair working together once again as they inspected the floral tributes and talked to the crowds will be all the proof needed that they are indeed reconciled.
That, of course, is the miracle of monarchy.
For years, William and Harry’s parents put on a convincing show of togetherness at national events long after their separation, such as those marking the 50th anniversary of the ending of the Second World War in 1995.
They even allowed themselves to be photographed travelling together to watch their sons at school events.
The reality often was that no sooner were they out of view of photographers than they were switching into separate cars.
And so cynics could be forgiven for wondering if that is what happened in Windsor Great Park on Saturday once their Range Rover had evaded long lenses.
What then are the chances of a reconciliation? Slight, but not impossible, according to one informed figure.
“The problem is,” says the source, “that they have barely spoken for two years and there is both anger and grief about it all on both sides.”
Each expects the other to apologise.
If the death of their grandmother is to continue to be a healing balm on these two warring princes then it will take more than texting each other to achieve a proper rapprochement.
And what would a resolution look like?
Publication of Harry’s book is crucial.
He has promised the “definitive account” of “experiences, adventures, losses and life lessons”.
At such a late stage, might publication be stopped or is he bound by the terms of a restrictive contract?
For William the issue of trust is truly at the heart of the breakdown in relations with his brother.
His fear is that a book which discusses any intimate family secrets will be a deal-breaker in reconciling.
And what about their other deals, so important to fund the Sussexes’ California lifestyle and Meghan, who has voiced so much criticism of royal life, could agree to any kind of arrangement that would diminish her ability to speak as she chooses.
And that, ultimately, may make any peace offering worthless.
Much may depend on how the Sussexes conduct themselves in the coming days.
Meanwhile, their own plans are unknown.
Although Harry is expected to remain in the country until the funeral, will Meghan?
She has already been apart from her children for more than a week.
There are suggestions that rather than returning to the US and then flying back, her mother Doria may travel to Britain with Archie and Lilibet so they can be reunited with their parents.
Perhaps we should see Saturday’s exercise among the mourners at the gates to Windsor Castle as a first step and that both William and Harry will be able to reflect that they – and the royal family – are better and stronger together than they are apart.
At the moment, the closest analogy to the events of the past few days is that of soldiers on the Western Front during the First World War when they held their own ceasefire with the enemy on Christmas Day in order to play football.
Those soldiers famously returned to their trenches and carried on hostilities.
For the new King such a prospect is a troubling one.
He may not have instructed his sons to get together on Saturday but it was his fervent wish.
Indeed, the Daily Mail understands he spoke to both of them during the day following his proclamation.
“His view, basically, is ‘sort it out’,” says an aide.
“He hates any kind of confrontation but he does see this period (of mourning) as an opportunity for his sons”.
“There is anger and grief on both sides”.
If there is no breakthrough between the brothers, then Harry and Meghan will return to the US and continue their lives and all that entails.
Friends of Harry are keen to suggest that the couple can be pragmatic themselves.
Meghan, they point out, has cancelled the next episode of her Archetypes podcast and an appearance on a US chat show.
The pair have also pulled out of an appearance at this week’s UN General Assembly.
Could those gestures be interpreted as an olive branch, too?
Some now say it is possible that with the headwind and good will of a new reign and the benevolence of his father, the international roles first mooted for Harry and Meghan could be offered again. All the same it is hard to see how
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