The Queen on Monday night expressed her regret as she confirmed that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would lose public funding and move to Canada to “transition” to a new life.
In an unprecedented personal statement, the 93-year-old monarch confirmed that the couple were no longer “full-time working members of the Royal family”.
She admitted that she would have “preferred” the Sussexes 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”.
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”.
Her statement came a week after the Sussexes returned from Vancouver Island in Canada, where they plotted their move during a seven-week break.
The Duke had contacted the Prince of Wales 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, the Sussexes 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 the Duke could leave Britain as early as this week.
The Duke 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 with his wife and son. There was no further word last night as to whether the Sussexes 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 the Duchess wanted to continue with her application for dual citizenship, the status of which is currently unknown, or whether they would still 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, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Sussex and each of their private secretaries.
Prince Harry arrived shortly after 11am and is believed to have had lunch with his grandmother.
Aides declined to confirm whether or not the Duchess of Sussex 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 the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had felt “bullied” by the Duke of Cambridge.Commentators last night expressed surprise at the informal tone of the Queen’s message.
One royal insider said that the Queen was “clearly devastated” by the Sussexes’ 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.”