Harry and Meghan did not consult Queen over decision to 'step back' as senior royals

9 January 2020, 13:18 | Updated: 9 January 2020, 16:37

Harry and Meghan to "step back" as senior royals
Harry and Meghan to "step back" as senior royals. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not consult the Queen or the Prince of Wales about the contents of their bombshell statement to "step back" as senior royals and divide their time between the UK and North America, it has emerged.

It is understood Harry and Meghan had just begun talks with the Queen and Charles about their future roles when they made their decision to go public.

The head of state and her son were only recently informed of the Sussexes intention to explore their public positions as members of the monarchy and were not aware the statement was due to be issued.

The mood at Buckingham Palace is understood to be one of disappointment while the BBC has reported that senior royals have been "hurt" by the announcement.

The sequence of events is likely to lead commentators to speculate whether a rift has developed at the heart of the monarchy.

Harry and Meghan said, in a shock statement, they "plan to balance [their] time between the United Kingdom and North America."

The pair also updated the media tab on their official website, announcing their plan for "a revised media approach" that will ensure "diverse and open access to their work."

It confirmed they will no longer be participating in the Royal Rota system, which gives the British media access to royal coverage.

The website criticised the UK's royal correspondents, saying it was a "misconception" that they were "credible sources" of the family's work and their private lives.

An update on the royal couple's official website
An update on the royal couple's official website. Picture: Sussex Royal website

It accused royal correspondents of presenting "false impressions" of the pair, with other media outlets around the world subsequently picking up these stories.

The bottom of the website confirmed that there policy changes only relate to the duke, duchess and their son, Archie.

A full statement from the royal couple reads: "After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution.

"We intend to step back as 'senior' members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.

"It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment.

The couple plan to balance their time between the UK and North America
The couple plan to balance their time between the UK and North America. Picture: PA

"We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages.

"This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity.

"We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support."

A palace spokeswoman issued a statement warning that the move could prove to be "complicated" and will not be swift.

She said: "Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage.

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“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.” - The Duke and Duchess of Sussex For more information, please visit sussexroyal.com (link in bio) Image © PA

A post shared by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (@sussexroyal) on

"We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through."

Royal Commentator and author Phil Dampier told LBC News the Queen will be "absolutely devastated."

He said: "It's sensational news but it's not actually that surprising when you look back over the last year because they've clearly been struggling with their royal role.

"I think the Queen is going to be absolutely devastated, whichever way you dress this up and say that it's done with the Queen's permission or with her blessing.

"I just don't believe that and she'll be absolutely crestfallen by this. It's the last thing she needed after the year she had last year with Prince Andrew and with him stepping back from royal duties."

Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan wrote on Twitter: "People say I'm too critical of Meghan Markle - but she ditched her family, ditched her Dad, ditched most of her old friends, split Harry from William and has now split him from the Royal Family. I rest my case."

The move follows weeks of speculation about their future following an extended break in Canada over the festive period.

Last October, the royal pair featured in an emotional ITV documentary in which they spoke about the pressures they have faced and family rifts they have endured.

In a separate move, the duke issued a statement that condemned the media and accused some of the press of bullying his wife.

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