Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were a major feature of last year’s festivities at Royal Ascot, but the American-born former actress and her royal husband were nowhere to be seen when this year’s event kicked off overnight, amid growing talk of a deeper rift with some royal family members.
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While the Queen was joined on the first day of the five-day event by Kate Middleton, Prince William, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Eugenie, Princess Beatrice and Zara Tindall, the new parents were this year notably absent.
Meghan and Harry were at Trooping the Colour earlier this month, as it is considered an important family event, but the racing festival apparently wasn’t enough for Meghan to suspend her maternity leave again.
‘Meghan is on maternity leave, but Trooping is a family occasion,’ a source explained to People magazine. ‘You don’t skip the Queen’s birthday. She’s the Queen!’
Meghan’s maternity leave is expected to last three to five months, with occasional public appearances, but Harry is continuing to work; having recently appeared at a charity polo event in Rome, and helped launch the Invictus Games in the Netherlands.
Harry and Meghan's decision not to appear with William and Kate might not come as a surprise, with Page Six reporting that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have decided to dump the Cambridge's charitable foundation following new tensions between them after the birth of baby Archie.
Page Six claims that the news the couple will leave the charity will be announced today.
Says a source: 'It’s not an easy time right now at the foundation . . . Everybody is massively stressed ahead of this meeting.'