Prince Harry and Meghan made their first visit as a royal couple to the central English city of Nottingham in 2017.
Then, thousands of fans lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the newly engaged couple as they went on a walkabout and toured a museum, school and charity.
Five years on — after a wedding, two children, an acrimonious move to California and now a Netflix docuseries — there is less interest but no shortage of strong opinion.
“I don’t like them,” said Alex Smith, 29, as she took her lunchbreak from an administration job.
“I’m not a royalist or anything but I just don’t think the way that (they) went about it was right,” she told AFP of their split.
Smith blamed “headstrong” Meghan for being behind the move and its aftermath that has dogged the royal family since early 2020.
“I think it’s more her. I think he’s (Harry’s)… under the thumb,” she added.
Smith’s colleague Marie Corden, 38, was less trenchant, arguing she could see it from the couple’s point of view.
“In the royal family, you’ve got a certain role you’ve got to play,” she noted.
“But if you’re never going to sit on that throne, why do you have to behave that way?”
– ‘Posh person’ –
Harry chose Nottingham, home to about 337,000 people, to visit with Meghan because he had visited many times.
The prince has supported organisations working in neglected neighbourhoods and the community had “become very special to him”, his spokesman said in 2017.
But some residents pointed out Thursday that Harry has not been seen in Nottingham since.
“It’s just another posh person taking on the media,” said a 43-year-old engineer, who declined to give his name.
When asked about the couple, one female passer-by yelled: “They can stay where they are!”
Nottingham is most famous for its links to the folk hero Robin Hood, the exploits of football manager Brian Clough, and its lace-making heritage.
It is now a major university city attracting students from all over the world, changing its demographics.
Phani Nekkalapudi, 25, a researcher who moved to Britain from India, said she was “sympathetic” towards mixed-race Meghan and believed her claims of royal racism.
“I have faced racism here,” she said. “When I worked in a restaurant, some customers told us they don’t like us (Indians) here.”
– ‘Agnostic’ –
In 2017, the excited crowd cheered as Harry and Meghan arrived and split up to talk to those lining their route.
Some handed them cards, flowers and sweets. One fan waved the Stars and Stripes. Another even brought his pet barn owl for the occasion.
Mick Harris, 60, a school facilities manager, brought his extended family to Nottingham that day.
He said his overriding sentiment now was sadness that “it’s come to this”.
“It’s one of those things where if you’re opening up a cupboard, there’s skeletons in the cupboard,” he said of the royal feuding.
“(It’s) great to be upfront, share. But I suppose there’s a limit of how much you share.
“We can see both sides to where everybody’s coming from. But I just think it’s a bit sad, really.”
Meanwhile, self-confessed republican Mark Strawbridge admits to being “agnostic” about the couple.
But the pensioner was unimpressed by the backlash against them within the family and wider British establishment.
“Anybody who dares to suggest that the royalty is corrupt gets blacked like they are, even if they’re royalty themselves — it’s even worse if they’re inside (it),” he argued, shivering from the cold winter weather gripping the UK.
“They’re probably their own worst enemies in publicising their grief,” he noted, before adding: “History is in the hands of the winners.
“So whoever wins out in the inter-family battle will be the true story. And that’s corrupt in itself.” (AFP)