Even those who watch every move of the Royal Family appeared surprised by Harry and Meghan's announcement.
Royal commentators, biographers and correspondents have been quick to try and make sense of the couple's decision to step back as senior members of the Royal Family and become financially independent.
Here's how some specialists are interpreting the news.
Rhiannon Mills, Sky News royal correspondent
"Stepping in front of the cameras at Canada House this week, they would have known this statement was coming. Their family time in Canada had obviously given them thinking space.
"I'm told that the statement was solely written by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex - no senior members of the Royal Family were consulted before it was released.
"Plans really are at very early stages and certainly any discussions with the Royal Family were also at very early stages.
"It's extraordinary to see that Harry and Meghan have decided to take this step.
"For Prince Harry, it was always going to be more difficult for him to decide what to do with his future role - his brother is always going to be a king.
"They have launched their own Sussex Royal website and on that they make it very clear how they feel about the press.
"They are going to cut off what is described as the royal rota where members of the press are invited to film events. Instead they are going to reach out to journalists that they trust instead.
"Not just damaging their relationships with the media, which Prince Harry has started to heal over the years but also - more importantly - this has damaged his relationship with some members of his family."
Arthur Edwards, former royal photographer for The Sun
"When I read that email last night I thought 'My god, what is he doing?'. Not consulting the Queen, not consulting his father, I mean they're only at Balmoral.
"I suggest to Harry that he gets on a plane and goes to see them to sort this out.
"I don't know what's come over him. I hope he comes to his senses.
"I still feel he has more to offer but maybe he's go to go there to see. There's only so many Oprah Winfrey shows you can do, so many speeches you can give.
"He's independently wealthy, he doesn't need the money but we need Harry I think.
"It is the biggest shock since Diana gave that interview to Panorama.
"Good luck Harry, I feel sorry that you're leaving."
Dickie Arbiter, former royal press secretary
"Harry and Meghan seem to have a habit of doing things without anybody knowing what was going to happen. I very much doubt anybody in Buckingham Palace - from the Queen downwards - knew what was happening.
"It seems to be a succession of doing things their own way, which is the wrong way.
"They're going to have one foot in Canada and one foot in the UK. How is that going to work? They talk about climate change and yet they're going to be traipsing back and forth across the Atlantic on jets.
"Harry has grown up with the media… he would know better than anybody how to handle it.
"Meghan was an actress. Actors and people in theatre, they thrive on publicity.
"I think this is a case of what Meghan wants, Meghan gets.
"I think a lot of people will look at what's happened, and they'll probably lay some of the blame at her doorstep."
Angela Levin, royal biographer
"The Queen will be very upset and I think that she possibly doesn't have either the courage or the willpower to deal with these sorts of issues at her age.
"But Harry is an individual who can make his choice. The fact that he's now sixth in line means that he does not go to state events as he would do if he was higher up."
Penny Junor, royal author
"It has echoes of Diana when she suddenly announced after her separation [from Charles] that she was stepping back from 50 of her charities without consulting anybody.
"The problem is that they are not working for themselves, they are working for a family firm and to be making announcements of this sort without consulting is beyond bizarre.
"I can't quite see how it's going to work. I don't think it's been properly thought through.
"The taxpayer grumbles enough about paying anything for the Royal Family. This will just be a running sore.
"I think it's extraordinary but also I think it's rather sad. They may not feel they are particularly loved but actually they are very much loved."