Independence day: Queen blesses Harry's and Meghan's exit as senior royals

Reuters | 1/17/2020, 6 a.m.
Queen Elizabeth has reluctantly agreed to the wish of her grandson, Prince Harry, and his wife, former American actress Meghan ...
Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, leave the Canada House in London on Jan. 7 after their recent stay in Canada. Photo by Frank Augstein /Associated Press

SANDRINGHAM, England - Queen Elizabeth has reluctantly agreed to the wish of her grandson, Prince Harry, and his wife, former American actress Meghan Markle, for a more independent future after the British royal family held crisis talks on Monday to resolve a widening rift among the Windsors.

Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth

Prince Harry and Ms. Markle will now begin a “period of transition” that will see them split their time between Britain and Canada as they seek a lifestyle less encumbered by royal duties and to end their reliance on public funding.

It comes after what the 93-year-old queen described as “very constructive discussions” between herself; Harry; his elder brother, Prince William; and his father and heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, at the monarch’s rural Sandringham estate in Eastern England.

A final decision on the future of the couple, who officially will retain their royal titles — the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — will be determined in days, the queen said in a statement. “My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family,” Queen Elizabeth stated.

“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 statement was highly unusual both in its informal tone and its personal nature, addressing the couple by name rather than by their titles.

Ms. Markle, who is currently in Canada with the couple’s infant son, Archie, had been expected to join Monday’s discussion by telephone.

The royal crisis was triggered when Prince Harry, 35, and Ms. Markle, 38, publicly announced last week that they wished to step back from royal duties and spend more time in North America.

Ms. Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland, lives in Los Angeles.

Although there had been initial discussions about their future, neither the queen nor Prince Charles were consulted beforehand, a step seen as hurtful and premature by a family whose roots go back through a thousand years of European history.

It also exposed suspected divisions in the Windsor family, exposed the racism directed at the biracial Ms. Markle and prompted soul-searching over what it means to be royal in the 21st century.

Prince Harry and Ms. Markle said they want a “progressive” new role for themselves and financial independence. As one of the world’s most glamorous couples, they also have made clear that they were struggling with the intense media scrutiny.

Last year, they announced legal action against a British tabloid, and Prince Harry said newspapers had been bullying his wife in a way reminiscent of the hounding his mother, Princess Diana, suffered before her death in a Paris car crash in 1997.

But it is unclear how they will pull off a partial pullback from their royal roles — which some media have dubbed “Megxit” in a play on Britain’s tortuous Brexit departure from the European Union — or who will pay for a trans-Atlantic lifestyle.