Wednesday 22 January 2020

Summit: UK royals meet for crisis talks over prince and wife

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 in London

Britain's Queen Elizabeth last night expressed her regret as she confirmed that Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle would lose public funding and move to Canada to "transition" to a new life.

In an unprecedented personal statement, the 93-year-old British monarch confirmed that the couple were no longer "full-time working members of the royal family".

She admitted that she would have "preferred" the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to stay, but insisted she understood and supported their "wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family".

Amid speculation that the duke and duchess could yet lose their titles, the queen referred to the royal couple as "Harry and Meghan" and "the Sussexes" as she revealed they had "made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives".

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No details were forthcoming about how the period of transition would unfold, with the queen admitting these were "complex matters". She reiterated that she had asked for final decisions to be reached "in the coming days".

It came exactly a week after the Sussexes returned from Vancouver Island in Canada, where they plotted their move during a seven-week break.

Harry spoke to his father, Prince Charles, over Christmas about spending more time abroad, but was told he needed to come up with a carefully thought-out, detailed plan.

The queen warned the couple not to go public but when their proposals were leaked to a tabloid newspaper last Wednesday, Harry and Meghan announced their intention to "step back" as senior royal family members.

As the couple faced a backlash, the queen ordered that the row be resolved within 72 hours amid speculation that Harry could leave Britain as early as this week.

Harry is due to host the Rugby League World Cup draw at Buckingham Palace on Thursday and is expected to fly back to Canada shortly afterwards to be reunited with his wife and son.

There was no further clarity last night as to whether the couple would lose the use of Frogmore Cottage, their home on the Windsor estate, their Metropolitan Police bodyguards or how their tax affairs would work.

Palace aides declined to comment on whether Meghan wanted to continue with her application for dual citizenship, or whether they would continue to carry out royal duties after the transition period.

The statement was released at 5pm, around 90 minutes after the family's hour-and-a-half crisis summit at Sandringham ended.

The meeting, which took place in the Long Library, was attended by the queen, Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry and each of their private secretaries. Harry arrived shortly after 11am and is believed to have had lunch with his grandmother.

Aides declined to confirm whether or not Meghan had taken part in the discussion by telephone from Vancouver Island, where she returned last week to be with their eight-month-old son Archie.

There were early signs of reconciliation as the two brothers issued a joint statement denying reports that Harry and Meghan had felt "bullied" by Prince William.

Commentators expressed surprise at the informal tone of the queen's message.

One royal insider said last night the queen was "clearly devastated" by Harry and Meghan's decision to move abroad, adding: "They've won, haven't they?

"They wanted to have their cake and eat it and they've got it. I've never seen anything like it in my life."

Joe Little, managing editor of 'Majesty' magazine, said: "I don't ever recall a statement that reads like this, particularly from the queen.

"She makes it clear that this is a grandmother speaking, perhaps more so than the head of state of 16 Commonwealth realms.

"I think she is trying to say she has been as accommodating as possible and would make it as straightforward as she could but would rather none of this was happening.

"But in reality, this is a logistical nightmare and is only just beginning. There are more questions than answers."

Meanwhile, Canada will pay for Harry and Meghan's round-the-clock security while they spend a "period of transition" in the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has assured the queen that the safety of the couple and their son Archie will be taken care of, in a move that could cost Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars.

The 'Evening Standard' reported that Mr Trudeau privately assured the queen that their security would be dealt with, even if the couple continue to have British royal protection officers.

But that decision has caused a backlash in some parts, with Aaron Wudrick, director of the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation, saying: "I don't think it's reasonable to expect us to pay for everything the way we do for a royal visit. If they're going to make Canada a second home, a good step in the right direction would be to pay for at least part of it, and not rely on taxpayers to fund their entire lifestyle." (© Daily Telegraph London)

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