It was one simple move – but it said a lot about the inner feelings of Prince Harry as the funeral of his grandmother Queen Elizabeth came to a close.
As Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, clambered into a waiting car after the Queen’s committal service at St George’s Chapel in Windsor, Harry puffed his cheeks and exhaled.
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It had been an emotionally exhausting day, with both Harry and Meghan seen visibly emotional as the world said a final farewell to the Queen who died on September 8, aged 96.
“As Prince Harry and Meghan prepared to enter their car, we see a moment of connection between the pair,” connection specialist and body language expert Katia Loisel told 7Life.
“Prince Harry is gently touching the small of Meghan’s back in a reassuring gesture.
“Entering the vehicle behind Meghan, Prince Harry puffed his cheeks before blowing outwards – it’s a pacifying behavior used to release stress,” Loisel explained.
“The exhale provides a cathartic release.”
Earlier, at the state funeral in Westminster Abbey, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had seemed uncharacteristically distant – something Loisel put down to either the seriousness of the occasion or previous criticism they’d suffered over their hand-holding.
“In keeping with the seriousness of the occasion and a show of respect, Prince Harry and Meghan forewent their signature hand clasp in favor of a formal distance, walking side by side behind Prince William, Princess Kate, Charlotte and George,” Loisel said.
“Whilst most in the procession walked with arms by their side, a sombre Meghan kept her head bowed, eyes downcast and hands clasped in front, in a self-protective gesture indicating a level of discomfort or uncertainty, and perhaps as a sign of respect .”
Once Harry and Meghan were seated, Loisel said the lack of visible or demonstrable affection between the normally “affectionate and tactile” couple continued.
“It was interesting to note the lack of affection and mutual touch between Prince Harry and Meghan,” she said.
“Whilst we see some postural echoing between the pair on a couple of occasions, their bodies oriented towards one another, for the most part they appeared to avoid contact tie signs such as their signature hand holds in favor of a more formal distance, perhaps as a show of respect or in response to recent criticism,” she observed.
The change was remarkable, Loisel said, because the public had become used to seeing gestures of affection between the two.
“Whilst many have been critical of Prince Harry and Meghan, deeming their mutual displays of affection, comfort and reassurance over the past week inappropriate, this reaching out is very much in line with the tactile and affectionate couple they are – and Prince Harry’s work as a passionate ambassador for mental health ties into that,” Loisel explained.
“Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t just the Queen. She was King Charles’ mother, Prince William and Prince Harry’s grandmother, making this experience a deeply personal one.
“In a time when mental health and reaching out during difficult times is at the top of the agenda, it’s important to remember that emotions are complex.”
Loisel explained that all humans “experience and express emotions differently”.
“Some withdraw, others have the extremely difficult task of maintaining their composure and a formal presence due to their rank.
“Others reach out, both seeking and giving comfort and reassurance in a mutual display of shared grief,” the expert said.
“While different, all of these reactions to loss are valid.”
Loisel said that while Harry and Meghan “held a more formal distance” at the Queen’s funeral, it was clear they were still “non-verbally seeking one another out in an attempt to provide and receive comfort and reassurance”.
“It’s important to see these non-verbal behaviors for what they are,” Loisel said.
“Not as a sign of disrespect, but two people reaching out for help and finding solace in one another during what is an incredibly difficult time.”
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