It was “the biggest event of the summer” for friends of the Obama family, per The New York Times. Barack Obama’s 60th birthday party, held at the family’s Martha’s Vineyard mansion this past weekend, boasted celebrity guests from George Clooney and Chrissy Teigen to Gabrielle Union and Jennifer Hudson. Conspicuously absent, according to royal observers, were Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, who are famously close with the former president and his family—and reports vary as to why they weren’t there.
Claimed royal commentator Camilla Tominey in the Telegraph: “It was thought that the newly California-based couple would be shoo-ins at Obama’s 60th, as prominent “progressives” and new-found members of the U.S. metropolitan liberal elite.” She added that royal experts expected the couple to be “front and center” at the event.

Yet Harry and Meghan were nowhere to be seen in leaked photos of the party, instead choosing to spend a low-key weekend at their home in Montecito. Were they invited? Did they choose not to attend? People have theories, so let’s dive right in.

The Obama family were forced to cut down the guest list.

In the days before the party, the New York Times reported: “This week, some invitees were treated to a cold dose of reality when they were abruptly cut from the guest list.” The Obamas were concerned about the rapid spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, the Times noted, and chose to reduce the guest list from its original 475. The cuts included big names: David Letterman and Conan O’Brien were uninvited, among others.

Were Meghan and Harry invited in the first place?

Reports differ on this one. On one hand, it’s a long way from Montecito to Martha’s Vineyard, and Meghan and Harry are both on parental leave after the birth of their second child, Lilibet. It’s entirely possible that, had the Obamas invited them, they would have—and perhaps did—decline the invitation.

Yet royal correspondent Angela Levin told The Sun: “Harry and Meghan were never even on the original list.”

Meghan and Obama’s birthdays fall on the same day.

Both Meghan and Obama’s birthdays fall on August 4, and both celebrated new decades: Meghan turned 40, and Obama 60. (Meghan chose to celebrate by launching a 40×40 initiative via an Archewell video, asking 40 women to spend 40 minutes mentoring other women.) This presents a social awkwardness: Do you invite someone to your birthday party when they’re also celebrating a major birthday?

It’s also possible that Meghan had planned a low-key birthday party of her own in Montecito, or that she didn’t want to spend her birthday weekend on a plane to celebrate someone else’s big day, especially so soon after giving birth. Both would be understandable.

The Obamas may have disagreed with the Sussexes’ messaging over the last year.

Personally and professionally, the Obamas have always prioritized family over all else. In the past year and a half, Harry and Meghan have publicly separated from their family in the U.K., with Harry acknowledging his rifts with both his brother and his dad in the couple’s Oprah interview. Of the royal family, he said: “My father and my brother are trapped. They don’t get to leave, and I have huge compassion for that.”

Following the interview, Michelle Obama told Access Hollywood: “My hope is that, when I think about what they’re going through, I think about the importance of family and I just pray that there is forgiveness and there is clarity and love and resolve at some point in time. Because there’s nothing more important than family.”

The comment may have suggested that the Obamas disagree with Harry and Meghan’s ugly break from the royal family. Tominey told the Telegraph: “When it comes to Harry and Meghan, it seems, the former president and first lady remain firmly of the view that blood is thicker than water.”