Queen Elizabeth II on Monday said she would allow her grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan to split their time between Canada and Britain while an agreement was made on their future, after their shock resignation from front-line royal duties.
The monarch said she held “very constructive” talks with Harry, his brother Prince William and their father Prince Charles aimed at charting a course through the fallout of the bombshell announcement.
Their effective resignation last week followed a year filled with rumours of infighting between the brothers and reports of Meghan — a biracial American actress with a strong social media presence — feeling unwelcome in the highly traditional and structured royal family.
“My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family,” the 93-year-old monarch said in a statement after the first day of meetings at her Sandringham estate in eastern England.
Harry and Meghan said they wanted to “carve out a progressive new role within this institution”.
“Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working members of the royal family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family,” the queen said.
The monarch stressed the couple told her “they do not want to be reliant on public funds” but did not address the issue of whether they would keep their royal titles.
Harry and Meghan are formally known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Five percent of their income is from public funds.
The rest comes from Prince Charles’ Duchy of Cornwall, a hereditary private estate dating back to 1337, which funds the public, charitable and private activities of his family.
“It has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK,” said the queen, stressing that there were still “complex matter” left to resolve.
“I have asked for final decisions to be reached within days,” she said.
The Daily Mail tabloid said Charles was furious at Harry for making the announcement without winning the queen’s consent, and after spending his father’s money to support his lifestyle.
– ‘Bullying attitude’ –
Debates over Harry and Meghan’s future have divided British public opinion and dominated newspaper front pages for days.
A YouGov poll suggested 46 percent of respondents supported their decision. Some 57 percent thought they treated the queen unfairly.
Harry and William put up a rare united front as talks began, lashing out at The Times which claimed the couple felt “pushed away from the royal family” by William’s “‘bullying attitude”.
William, 37, and Harry, 35, formed a close bond following their mother Diana’s death in 1997. But Harry admitted last month they had drifted apart and were now on different paths.
“For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful,” they said in a joint statement.
– ‘Progressive’, independent plan –
The Sussexes said Wednesday they wanted to step back as senior royals, divide their time between Britain and North America, rip up long-established ways of working with the media and seek a “progressive” and financially-independent new role.
Meghan, 38, reportedly joined the meeting via conference call from Canada.
Their plan for a new way of working said they intended to continue to “fully support” the queen and honour their duties to the monarch, the Commonwealth and their patronages.
However, they want to make 2020 a “transition” year to carve out their new role and launch their new Sussex Royal charitable entity and seek to raise their own sources of income.
They also want to keep their newly-renovated Frogmore Cottage home on the queen’s Windsor Castle estate as their British base.
– ‘Deeply unhappy’ –
The London Evening Standard newspaper said the family was “falling apart, and should try to put itself back together”.
The Sussexes need to accept they have “caused a lot of upset”, while the others must understand that the pair are “deeply unhappy with the role cast for them as minor royals hanging on the purse-strings of their relatives”.
The way forward must involve the freedom to live abroad and earn money, the daily said.
Harry, now sixth in line to the throne following the birth of William’s three children, has been open about his mental health issues in coming to terms with his mother’s death in a Paris car crash, when he was just 12.
He and Meghan in October admitted to struggling with the spotlight following their wedding at Windsor Castle in May 2018 and son Archie’s birth 12 months later.