Queen Elizabeth II departs in her Bentley car after attending Sunday service at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on January 12, 2020 in King’s Lynn, England.
LONDON — Queen Elizabeth, after crisis talks with top family members, agreed on Monday to let Harry and Meghan step down as senior royals and divide their time between the U.K. and Canada during a “period of transition.”
The queen chaired talks with Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry at her country estate, Sandringham, in Norfolk in the east of England. Meghan reportedly joined the talks by phone from Canada.
In a statement released at 5 p.m. London time (noon ET), the queen said discussions on the future of Harry and his family had been “very constructive” and that she and other royals were “entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family.”
The queen said that while she and her family would have preferred the couple to remain as “full-time royals,” their desire to live a more independent life was understood and respected.
“These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days,” the statement ended.
The monarch’s statement said the couple made it clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives.
Discussions earlier focused on the future roles and responsibilities of the the Duke and Duchess of Sussex after their shock announcement last week that they wanted to “step back” from royal life, split their time between the U.K. and North America, and to “work to become financially independent.”
The announcement reportedly provoked hurt and disappointment among senior royals, including the queen, who was not consulted about the move. It prompted questions over how involved the couple would be in royal life and duties, as well as how much financial autonomy the couple will have in the future.
At the time, Buckingham Palace issued a terse statement noting that “discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”
Harry and Meghan’s announcement came after months of speculation of rifts brewing in the royal family, particularly between Harry and his brother, William, and their wives.
(L-R) Queen Elizabeth II, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge watch the RAF flypast on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, as members of the Royal Family attend events to mark the centenary of the RAF on July 10, 2018 in London, England.
Neil Mockford | GC Images
In June, Meghan and Harry raised eyebrows when they decided to separate from the charity they shared with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and his wife, Katherine.
It’s perhaps no surprise that the British media have kicked up a storm over the latest announcement and the Sandringham meeting. Newspaper headlines Monday range from the Daily Mail’s “Not so fast, Harry!” to The Times’ “Harry in turmoil over cutting his royal links.”
With the royal family rarely airing its dirty laundry in public, there was heightened curiosity over how the family rift would be resolved. Harry and Meghan’s announcement is a huge challenge for the monarchy, which has increasingly looked to its younger members to take the institution, once nicknamed “The Firm” by the queen’s husband Prince Philip, into the 21st century and to keep it relevant.
Royal correspondents like the BBC’s Jonny Dymond have called the Monday meeting, now widely dubbed the “Sandringham Summit,” as “royal history in the making.”