Friday 17 January 2020

How Harry and Meghan chose to go it alone, fearing their plans would be blocked

Going their own way: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their wedding day in May 2018. Photo: REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Going their own way: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their wedding day in May 2018. Photo: REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Victoria Ward

It was only within the last few days that Prince Harry and wife Meghan chose to press the nuclear button, apparently defying clear instructions from Queen Elizabeth.

Their decision to go it alone left senior members of the royal family reeling.

Details of the fraught negotiations emerged yesterday as it was claimed Harry had ignored a personal request from the queen not to go public with his plans. He is understood to have contacted Prince Charles about spending more time in Canada and America just before Christmas, but was told he needed to come up with a carefully thought-out, detailed plan.

He then sent a draft proposal to his father early in the new year but was again informed that more time was needed to think through the complex implications.

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Harry then requested a summit with the queen when he, his wife and eight-month-old son Archie returned from their six-week break in Canada last weekend.

However, he was reportedly told that while she was happy to meet him, she was not prepared to discuss his wish list before he had gone through it in detail with his father.

The queen is said to have made it clear to Harry that he should not yet go public with so many questions unanswered.

However, when a flavour of their plans was leaked to a tabloid newspaper, it jolted the couple into action.

Apparently aware that, having had their wings clipped once before when they attempted to establish their own independent "court" at Windsor, they were unlikely to get their plans signed off by Buckingham Palace, they decided to take matters into their own hands.

The couple went ahead and released their statement, to the fury of aides and relatives alike. The "personal statement" released at 6.30pm on Wednesday coincided with the launch of the Sussex Royal website, making a series of bold claims about their future lives, none of which had been sanctioned by Buckingham Palace. Many of the couple's declarations, detailing how their "financially independent" lives would look, have since been roundly dismissed by astonished courtiers.

In a terse statement released two hours later, Buckingham Palace said the couple's "desire to take a different approach" created "complicated issues" that would take time to fix.

Royal insiders yesterday made it clear that the family was furious with the Sussexes, who had jumped the gun and left a "great sadness" hanging over the institution.

They were accused of trying to "have their cake and eat it" by retaining their royal status while at the same time cutting free from the elements of public life that did not suit them in order to launch themselves on the lucrative celebrity circuit. Unbeknown to members of the royal family, the Sussexes had used their six-week sabbatical in Canada to secretly plot their great escape.

But while the bombshell announcement came as a "bolt from the blue" to the royals, the retreat from the shackles of the institution was likely a long time in the offing.

When the Sussexes were interviewed by Mishal Husain in November 2017 to mark their engagement, Meghan said she did not believe she was "giving anything up" by marrying into the "Firm".

She maintained an independent life, infuriating palace aides by orchestrating a glitzy baby shower in New York without informing them.

Then came the unexpected announcement the Sussexes were to split from the royal household of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, move to Windsor and launch their own charitable foundation.

The separation of the so-called Fab Four was a clear signal the two couples were on diverging paths and followed months of rumours of rifts between the young royals.

In the summer, there were a series of adverse headlines over the Sussexes' use of private jets and the renovation of Frogmore Cottage for €2.8m at British taxpayers' expense.

The young royals were accused of hypocrisy after using private jets to travel to Nice and Ibiza while lecturing the public about climate change.

In an ITV documentary, both Harry and Meghan made a series of dramatic disclosures, revealing that they were struggling to cope with the pressures of public life.

While the Duchess tearfully said that "not many people have asked if I'm OK" - in an apparent swipe at the royal family - the Duke acknowledged a "rift" with his brother, the Duke of Cambridge, for the first time.

Soon afterwards, it was confirmed that they would take an extended break and would not spend Christmas at Sandringham with the rest of the royal family.

The scene was set. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were ready to go their own way.

It now appears that they do not intend anyone, including the queen, to stand in their way.

The royal family may yet have other ideas. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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