- The Queen was not mean to exclude Harry and Meghan from Christmas photos, a commentator said.
- Victoria Arbiter said the Queen's photo selection in 2019 highlighted the line of succession.
- Arbiter's comments respond to claims made in Tom Bower's upcoming book, "Revenge."
Queen Elizabeth II wasn't mean-spirited by excluding the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from photos in her Christmas broadcast in 2019, according to the royal commentator Victoria Arbiter.
Victoria, whose father is the Queen's former press secretary, Dickie Arbiter, made the comments in response to claims made in Tom Bower's upcoming book, "Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the war between the Windsors," due to be released on Thursday.
In an excerpt published in The Mirror on Sunday, Bower writes that Prince Harry was "staggered" to learn that the Queen didn't include a photo of him and Markle in the annual address to the nation.
"To Harry's fury, there was no picture of him, Meghan, and Archie," Bower writes, adding: "The Windsors were airbrushing the Sussexes from history," as per The Mirror.
It's tradition for Her Majesty to give a speech to the UK on Christmas Day from her desk at Buckingham Palace, where each year she's surrounded by photos of her family. In 2019, photos of the Queen's father, King George VI, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, Prince Charles and Camilla, and Prince Philip were on display.
Victoria told Insider that the photos were chosen to highlight and promote the direct line of succession, as well as to offer reassurance to the UK in the aftermath of Prince Andrew's disastrous BBC "Newsnight" interview, which aired in November that year.
"It was inevitable that people would assume the Queen chose to leave them out as the war of the Windsors sells but there was no slight or malice," Victoria said.
"So often, people try to read into every little thing and sometimes with good reason but the Queen is not mean-spirited nor is she petty," she added. "All her children and grandchildren could take offense based on who's featured each year but they know the system and they know why certain decisions are made so it's unfortunate so much was made of the Sussexes absence. It wasn't personal. "
Meanwhile, Richard Fitzwilliams, a royal commentator and former editor of The International Who's Who, told Insider that Harry and Markle likely saw it as a "direct snub." He said that the Queen was "totally justified by events" to exclude the couple, referencing Harry's public rift with Prince William as well as Harry and Markle's step back from royal duties in January 2020.
At the time of the broadcast, Markle, Harry, and their son, Archie, were celebrating Christmas privately in Canada, marking their first Christmas without the royal family. The decision to step back had been in the works for months at this point, the excerpt of the book published in The Mirror says.
Representatives for Buckingham Palace and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.