Queen smiles during first appearance after Sussexes split from royal family

By PA Reporters

The Queen was seen smiling alongside her son the Duke of York in her first appearance since the announcement the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be walking away from the royal family.

Andrew joined the Queen at St Mary the Virgin Church in Norfolk to attend a Sunday service.

Wearing a grey houndstooth checked dress and matching coat with a grey hat, the monarch smiled broadly as she arrived at the church in Hillington close to her estate.

Onlookers said the Queen, 93, appeared in high spirits despite Harry and Meghan’s decision.

In a statement issued after royal family talks concluded, the Sussexes announced they will stop carrying out royal duties from the spring, no longer use the title HRH and will repay the taxpayers’ millions spent on their Berkshire home.

Harry and Meghan said in their statement, issued on their behalf by Buckingham Palace, that under the agreement they understood they were “required” to step back from royal duties.

The announcement marks the conclusion of talks about their future with senior members of the family and royal aides.

Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of York at the church service in Hillington (Joe Giddens/PA)

Earning money from lucrative contracts and still remaining active members of the monarchy would have been problematic and has caused issues for royals who have tried to straddle the two positions in the past.

The deal was dubbed a hard “Megxit” by the media and a source told PA news agency “you can’t be half in and half out”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wished the couple the very best for the future.

He added: “I think the whole country will want to join in wishing them the very best for the future.

“I said before that I was sure that the royal family, it’s been around a very long time, will find a way forward, and I’m sure it will.”

Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle, branded the decision to split from the royal family “disappointing” and “embarrassing”.

Speaking in Mexico for a documentary for Channel 5, Mr Markle said: “It’s disappointing because she actually got every girl’s dream, every young girl wanted to become a princess and she got that.

“And now she’s tossing that away for … it looks like she’s tossing that away for money.

“Apparently three million dollars (£2.3 million) and a 26-bedroom home isn’t enough for them. It’s kind of embarrassing to me.”

He added: “This is like one of the greatest long living institutions ever. They are destroying it, they are cheapening it, making it shabby.

“They are turning it into a Walmart with a crown on it.”

The Queen issued an emotional statement, saying she recognised the “challenges” the couple had faced over the past year.

Unusually, she used the first names of her grandson and his family in a public message.

The Queen said: “Following many months of conversations and more recent discussions, I am pleased that together we have found a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family.

“Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family.”

She added: “I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.

“I want to thank them for all their dedicated work across this country, the Commonwealth and beyond, and am particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.

“It is my whole family’s hope that today’s agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life.”

The Queen being greeted by her grandson the Duke of Sussex (Julian Simmonds/The Daily Telegraph/PA)

The couple’s spokeswoman issued a statement on their behalf, saying: “As agreed in this new arrangement, they understand that they are required to step back from royal duties, including official military appointments.

“They will no longer receive public funds for royal duties.

“With the Queen’s blessing, the Sussexes will continue to maintain their private patronages and associations.

“While they can no longer formally represent the Queen, the Sussexes have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty.”

The Duke of Sussex speaks on stage during a concert hosted by Sentebale (Matt Dunham/PA)

Meghan and Harry have already begun a transition phase of living in Canada and the UK.

The duchess is in the Commonwealth country with son Archie, where the Sussexes spent six weeks over the festive period.

The move was agreed by the Queen, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge following the Sussexes’ unprecedented statement released earlier this month.

It is understood the couple will now spend the majority of their time in Canada, with Harry expected to join his wife sometime this week.

The Sussexes keep the style of HRH – His or Her Royal Highness – but the statement issued on their behalf said it will no longer be used from the spring “as they are no longer working members of the royal family”.

Harry’s mother Diana, Princess of Wales, was stripped of her HRH in 1996 following her divorce from Charles.

The duke will continue to work with his charities and organisations like the Rugby Football League and Sentebale – his Africa-based charity supporting youngsters with HIV – and the duchess will remain with her good causes.

Harry will give up a Commonwealth role and his three military appointments, the most prominent being Captain General Royal Marines.

All the new arrangements are due to come into effect in the spring and will be reviewed by Buckingham Palace in 12 months.