The Duchess of Sussex flew back to Canada yesterday, leaving Prince Harry to deal with the fallout over their ‘abdication’ crisis.

The Daily Mail has learnt that Meghan returned to North America, where their eight-month-old son, Archie, had been left with his nanny. She may stay there for the foreseeable future.

Sources said she ‘hadn’t planned’ to remain in the UK for long, after arriving back in Britain on Monday at the end of the family’s seven-week hiatus from royal duties in Vancouver. She spent just three days in Britain.

The remarkable development – described by one royal insider as ‘simply astonishing’ – came as the Queen last night ordered her warring family to hammer out a solution that will allow her grandson and his wife to quit frontline royal duties.

On a day of behind-the-scenes drama, the monarch convened an extraordinary series of calls between herself, the Prince of Wales, Prince William and Harry. She told them to come up with a ‘workable solution’ to the crisis within days, and tasked aides with presenting a series of options to put to the unhappy couple.

The Daily Mail has learnt that Meghan returned to North America, where their eight-month-old son, Archie, had been left with his nanny

The Daily Mail has learnt that Meghan returned to North America, where their eight-month-old son, Archie, had been left with his nanny

Harry ignored a personal request by the Queen to keep negotiations about his and his wife's wish to break free private and not make a public statement

Harry ignored a personal request by the Queen to keep negotiations about his and his wife’s wish to break free private and not make a public statement

Insiders last night predicted that Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, would be allowed to keep their royal titles and also enjoy a measure of the independence they have demanded.

But they added that the couple’s string of demands had sparked a genuine crisis which will not be easy to solve.

As a sign of how serious and sensitive the issue has become, Home Secretary Priti Patel has been asked to take part in the negotiations.

She will be tasked with ensuring the couple’s ongoing security is not compromised, but she also has to monitor the cost to taxpayers if they split their lives between the UK and North America.

The Mail can also reveal:

  • The couple secretly registered their new Sussex Royal website as early as last March without telling the Royal Family;
  • Harry ignored a personal request by the Queen to keep negotiations about his wish to break free private and not make a public statement;
  • The couple also chose to disregard pleas from their closest aides on Monday night that they should hold off from releasing a statement out of respect for his grandmother;
  • Sources said Harry had even suggested his mental health would be at risk if he didn’t facilitate a change in his position;
  • The Royal Family are not planning to strip Harry and Meghan of their titles as courtiers fear it would look vengeful and reminiscent of the treatment meted out to Harry’s mother, Princess Diana;
  • Scotland Yard announced it would carry out a full review of the couple’s security as the costs of their taxpayer-funded police protection looked set to spiral into the millions.

Yesterday palace insiders were still reeling from the Sussexes’ decision to release a bombshell statement on Wednesday night, in which they announced their plans to step back as senior members of the Royal Family and work to become ‘financially independent’.

Although the Queen, Charles and William had been told of their plans a week earlier, the couple ‘detonated the nuclear button’ by announcing their intention and launching a glossy new website without warning anyone.

In a terse statement in response, Buckingham Palace made clear its displeasure. It said it understood the couple’s desire to do things ‘different’ but stressed these were complicated matters that needed to be worked through carefully.

Senior royal aides made clear the Queen was deeply hurt by her grandson’s actions, while other family members had reacted furiously to Harry and Meghan’s arrogance. Yesterday, however, sources told the Mail that after an emotional 12 hours, matters had calmed and everyone was ‘working with a clear head’.

One source told the Mail yesterday that Harry had privately been consulting friends about his plans as far back as late spring

One source told the Mail yesterday that Harry had privately been consulting friends about his plans as far back as late spring

‘One of the things the family has learnt over the years is that if you don’t move quickly and leave things like this that the fester,’ said a source. ‘And that would benefit no-one in this case.’

It is understood the Queen initiated the series of calls involving herself at Sandringham, Charles at Birkhall (his Scottish seat), William at Kensington Palace and Harry – without Meghan – at Frogmore Cottage.

As a result they agreed to instruct staff, led by their respective private secretaries, to work ‘with pace’ on a series of proposals which would allow the couple to find a solution they were happy with.

‘The bigger the crisis, the calmer the Royal Family seem to get,’ said an insider.

‘There is a pragmatic attitude that seems to run through the Queen and Prince of Wales. They are not railing against whether the situation is right or wrong, they just know this needs to be dealt with. They have accepted it and are trying to resolve it.

‘The interesting bit will be the next part when, presented with a series of possible scenarios, will they [the Sussexes] accept them or will they brief that they are being forced to do something against their will? And no-one knows the answer.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their intention to quit royal life yesterday – triggering intense discussions and a four-way conference call involving all four royal households

The Queen wants Harry and Meghan's future role to be resolved quickly

Prince Charles was also part of today's conference call to seek a resolution of Harry and Meghan's future

The Queen (left), who is in Sandringham, wants the situation resolved as quickly as possible. Prince Charles (right), currently in Scotland, was also involved in the conference call

Prince William will also be involved in the discussions. He and Prince Charles only found about the bombshell decision 10 minutes before it went public last night

Prince William will also be involved in the discussions. He and Prince Charles only found about the bombshell decision 10 minutes before it went public last night

‘Is there any version of a solution that they will deem acceptable?

‘They have talked in broad brush strokes about what they want, this hybrid model of being a member of the Royal Family, but even they haven’t nailed down the fine detail and may say that they don’t like what is being put on the table.

‘What does being a progressive royal mean?’

Sources said that nothing was set in stone but that lessons had been learnt from the past, and despite the late Princess of Wales giving up her HRH title, people still blamed the Royal Family for that decision.

‘I don’t think anyone wants to go down that road with her son,’ they added.

One source told the Mail yesterday that Harry had privately been consulting friends about his plans as far back as late spring.  

Kate Middleton is seen arriving at Kensington Palace for her 38th birthday celebrations, which are set to be tempered by decision of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to step back from family roles

The Queen is said to be furious at Harry and Meghan (pictured, at Canada House on January 7) as they step down as senior Royals

The Queen (pictured at King's Lynn railway station on December 20) is said to be furious at Harry and Meghan as they step down as senior Royals

Royal sources today claimed Prince Harry (left, at Canada House on Tuesday) had ignored crystal-clear orders from the Queen (right) after she instructed him not to announce that both he and Meghan were stepping down from their roles

Kensington Palace released a new photograph of Kate to mark the occasion, which is believed to have been taken in Norfolk at the same time as a previously-released image in autumn 2018

Kensington Palace released a new photograph of Kate to mark the occasion, which is believed to have been taken in Norfolk at the same time as a previously-released image in autumn 2018

Charles and Camilla issued a tweet from @ClarenceHouse saying: 'Wishing The Duchess of Cambridge a very Happy Birthday', along with a balloon emoji

The @RoyalFamily account tweeted: 'Wishing The Duchess of Cambridge a very Happy Birthday!', before including a link to its official website about her work

Today, the family looked to put on a show of unity as they wished the Duchess of Cambridge ‘a very happy birthday’ on social media 

Natasha Archer, the Duchess of Cambridge's personal assistant and stylist, is pictured leaving Kensington Palace, where Kate enjoyed 38th birthday celebrations today

Natasha Archer, the Duchess of Cambridge’s personal assistant and stylist, is pictured leaving Kensington Palace, where Kate enjoyed 38th birthday celebrations today

Members of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's security team are pictured as they make their way to Frogmore Cottage today

Members of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s security team are pictured as they make their way to Frogmore Cottage today

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex released this statement this evening announcing that they will be quitting as senior Royals

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex released this statement this evening announcing that they will be quitting as senior Royals 

Countdown to chaos: How royal aides fought bitterly for 24 hours to urge Harry and Meghan not to announce their plans to step down… but they ignored them and left the Queen furious 

It was early November when the call came through to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s taxpayer-funded home, Frogmore Cottage, at Windsor. On the line, unusually, was the Queen.

It is important to stress from the start of this insight into what has unfolded over the past 48 hours that the monarch doesn’t just call anyone, not even her own family. They call her.

But the 93-year-old felt that she had no choice.

Since no one else could get any sense out of her brooding grandson, not even his own father, she had decided to try herself.

Queen Elizabeth watches a flypast to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force alongside the Duke and Duchess

Queen Elizabeth watches a flypast to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force alongside

‘Harry,’ the Queen asked, ‘will you be coming with the family to Sandringham for Christmas?’

That he hadn’t even had the courtesy to tell his own grandmother that he and his family were considering alternative plans for the festive season speaks volumes, I am told.

Finally stung into action, the prince – in conjunction, of course, with his wife, Meghan – realised he had to make a decision.

The message was relayed back to the Queen, two days later, that Harry, Meghan and baby Archie would be spending the ‘holidays’ (to use an Americanism) abroad… and his staff were whiplashed into action to find them somewhere to stay.

On this occasion, the Queen agreed to soothe the inevitable frenzy of speculation the Sussexes’ decision would prompt once it became known they would be absent from Sandringham, by allowing Harry to publicly state it was made with her support.

The Queen has learned from past mistakes in cutting off royal brides from their families and understood that Meghan, already so far from home, would want to spend her first Christmas as a new mum with her own mother.

But, sources tell me, the incident was the most telling sign so far of the sixth in line to the throne’s growing distance from his own family – which now seemed even to extend to his beloved grandmother.

They plotted to go it alone in Canada

It was on that seven-week hiatus from official duties in Canada that the couple finally decided to go ahead with their much privately talked-about plan to step back from royal life.

They had already been secretly ‘plotting’ for months, insiders tell me, with a small group of friends and advisers in North America, including the aggressive Hollywood crisis management company Sunshine Sachs where Meghan’s friend, Keleigh Thomas Morgan – who represented the former actress when she was appearing in the hit legal drama Suits – works with power-broker attorney Rick Genow, business manager Andrew Meyer and talent agent Nick Collins.

Back in March, Harry and Meghan secretly registered their royal website, sussexroyal.com, and enlisted a small, trendy creative firm in Meghan’s hometown of Toronto – the same firm was also responsible for her now defunct lifestyle website, The Tig – to build it for them.

Other sources in the UK have told me that Harry and Meghan first raised the issue of a retreat from royal life with them in May. Nothing, however, had been put into practice – or discussed with the Royal Family. But holed up in splendid isolation, far away from their loyal team of Buckingham Palace advisers (who had a weekly conference call with them but were largely, and humiliatingly, kept out of the loop) and surrounded by ‘like-minded’ family and friends, the couple made the decision that they were ready to go it alone.

‘They were away for seven weeks in a vacuum, thinking and plotting, winding each other up,’ says a source. ‘This has been a long time coming in many ways, but the conclusion has been worryingly swift.’

The Queen sits alongside Prince Harry and Meghan for a group photo at Buckingham Palace

The Queen sits alongside Prince Harry and Meghan for a group photo at Buckingham Palace 

Then they went nuclear

One of the triggers, it appears, was the release over Christmas of a new portrait of the Queen with her immediate heirs – Charles, William and George – and the focus on them in her annual address to the nation.

But as one source told me yesterday: ‘Yes, the Prince of Wales has made clear that he wants a streamlined monarchy in the future, but Harry has always been told that he and Archie, as heirs to the throne, are part of that.

‘Of course, this might mean an adjustment to how things are done but they are not being frozen out.’

But other insiders tell me that the couple have long felt that their ‘superstar’ power is ‘rolled out’ by the Royal Family when it suits them, only to be quickly ‘constrained’ because so many of them are ‘jealous’ of their popularity.

‘Whether it’s true or not, and people’s opinions on this vary, they are very, very exercised about this and very, very angry,’ said one. Nine days ago, it is understood they told senior family members by phone, ahead of their return to the UK, that they wanted to step back as ‘frontline’ royals.

While the Queen, Charles and William were shocked, crucially, however, no one said no.

‘The response was, OK, well come back and let’s sit down and talk about this,’ the source added.

‘To say that conversations about this were at an early stage is an understatement. The couple only told everyone just over a week ago. And the reaction was actually very positive.

‘Do the family want this? Of course not. But if [Harry and Meghan] do, then we will work this out.’

Unfortunately for the monarch and her heirs, matters weren’t moving as swiftly as the Sussexes wanted, it seems. Returning from Vancouver on Monday, energised and raring to go, the couple decided to ‘go nuclear’ and make their decision public, in flagrant disregard of the Queen’s request to let the family sort the matter out before it was revealed to the world.

The pictures that widened the rift: The Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William Prince George pose for a portrait to mark the start of a new decade

The pictures that widened the rift: The Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William Prince George pose for a portrait to mark the start of a new decade

A bitter battle with aides

Aides were summoned to Frogmore Cottage on Monday night and informed of their decision – and spent the next 24 hours ‘trying their damndest’ to persuade them to hold fire.

‘Harry and Meghan’s team did everything they could to stop the statement from coming out.

‘The couple were told that not only was this hugely disrespectful to their family but they were shooting themselves in the foot,’ one insider has told me. ‘At that stage nothing had been ruled in or ruled out concerning their future roles.

‘And they were openly warned that in choosing to say publicly that they wanted to work towards becoming financially independent, for example, several options open to them would be automatically taken off the table.

‘But they were having none of it. Their minds were made up.’

Staff put a brave face on the behind-the-scenes turmoil as they accompanied the duke and duchess on a rather bizarre engagement on Tuesday to ‘thank’ the people of Canada via the country’s High Commissioner to the UK for their hospitality… for a holiday that the couple fought tooth and nail to keep secret. But the bitter internal battles raged on Tuesday night and through to Wednesday – all without the knowledge of the Royal Family – with Harry and Meghan being strongly advised that their ‘hare-brained and unrealistic’ plan to forge a ‘one foot in, one foot out’ approach to being royals was unworkable and potentially catastrophic.

They would listen to no one but each other, however, and decided to ‘push the nuclear button’ that very evening.

The Queen was hurt … and furious

As revealed in yesterday’s Daily Mail, the couple opted to release their personally penned statement without informing the senior royals first. The Queen, Charles and William all watched it go live at 6.30pm. Immediately, the phones began to ring in London, Sandringham and Charles’s Scottish seat of Birkhall. Senior members of royal household staff, on their way home to their families, turned round and raced back to their offices.

One described being forced to take part in two simultaneous conference calls, with a phone on each ear.

At 8.13pm a statement was released by Buckingham Palace – bypassing Harry and Meghan’s office, in a sign of the Queen’s displeasure – which tersely acknowledged what they had done but stressed that these were ‘complicated issues’ that still needed to be ‘worked through’.

The message was clear. While the family were not angry at them wanting out, they were furious at the way they had done it. And more than that, hurt. ‘The Queen has been deeply distressed by this,’ one insider told me, ‘and more than that, her authority within the family has been directly flouted by her own grandson.

‘While the family aren’t given to express their feelings in public very often as they know anything that is issued by the Palace has to stand the test of time, everyone was in lockstep over this.

‘Harry and Meghan needed to be told.

Queen Elizabeth II records her annual Christmas broadcast in Windsor Castle, Berkshire

Queen Elizabeth II records her annual Christmas broadcast in Windsor Castle, Berkshire

SO, WILL WISE HEADS PREVAIL?

‘The last 12 months have not been plain sailing for Her Majesty, to put it mildly, and then now this,’ the source added. ‘Everyone believes the Sussexes have been deeply disrespectful.

‘To put out a statement to say they are collaborating with the Queen. Who in the world says that? You are not equal to the Queen, everyone in the family knows their place… except, it seems, them.’

Fortunately, after an ’emotional’ night, wise heads yesterday appeared to have prevailed.

After conference calls with her son and eldest grandchild, the Queen called a meeting yesterday afternoon between each of the four royal households – Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, Kensington Palace and the Sussex team – and ordered them to find a workable solution to the problem within days.

Much has yet to be done and whether any of it will placate this hot-headed and emotional couple remains to be seen.

But as Harry and Meghan should know by now, nothing will be allowed to jeopardise the future of the monarchy.

The 10 critical questions left unanswered by Harry and Meghan Markle’s bizarre announcement: How they will be financially independent, who will pay for their security and how – exactly – will they ‘collaborate’ with the Queen? 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s bombshell announcement that they are ‘stepping back’ as senior royals shocked the world and left the Palace ‘deeply disappointed.’ 

The extraordinary statement, released without consulting the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William, set out their plans for the future, telling how they want to ‘carve out a progressive new role within this institution.’

Royal aides said they had pressed the ‘nuclear button’ making their intentions known in the six paragraph declaration posted on their new sussexroyal.com website just days after returning from a six-week break in Canada with their son Archie. 

Sources said they spent weeks ‘secretly plotting ‘ their decision during their trip, in what one insider branded a ‘staggering level of deceit.’

The statement told how they wanted to balance their time between the UK and North America, ‘continuing to honour our duty to the Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages’.

They said they want to become ‘financially independent’ how they want to raise their son ‘with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born’ spoke of a ‘new charitable entity’ and that they will ‘continue to collaborate with Her Majesty the Queen.’

But the shock announcement, posted at around 6.30pm last night, has left more questions than answers. 

Who helped them come to this decision, what exactly does it mean when they say they want to be financially independent, and how will they split their time between North America and Britain?

Here MailOnline looks in detail at the 195 word statement and what it means for the royal family, Britain, and the many charities they support.

‘After many months of reflection and internal discussions we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution’   

1) Who did they discuss this with and what do they mean by ‘progressive role’?   

In recent months the couple have made no secret of their struggles with living under the intense public scrutiny that comes in their roles as senior royals.

Just 19 months ago they wed in a televised ceremony in the grand surroundings of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, watched by millions at home. And there was joy with the birth of their son Archie in May last year.

But what followed was rows over privacy, reports of a ‘royal rift’ between Harry and William, and the launch of legal action and an attack on the press which overshadowed an official royal tour. 

It was during the tour in October that they spoke to ITV’s Tom Bradby about their difficulties of being in the public eye. Meghan told the documentary: ‘It’s not enough to just survive something, that’s not the point of life. You have got to thrive.’ 

Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of Sussex visit to Canada House on Tuesday before their announcement that they would be 'stepping back'

Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of Sussex visit to Canada House on Tuesday before their announcement that they would be ‘stepping back’

The statement suggests the decision has been long in the making, and could possibly have started after the birth of the royal baby, as controversy erupted over fact the birthplace was kept secret, and the christening was held in private.

The couple also imply that they have spoken about their concerns with other members of the royal family – claims that have been roundly rubbished today, as royal aides revealed the Palace were given no warning of their plans. Even his brother Prince William was not believed to have been consulted.

It emerged today that the Queen is set to respond to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s bombshell plans after Harry allegedly defied her orders not to announce the news.

Courtiers have warned that ‘Harry and Meghan will be punished’ for ignoring crystal-clear orders from Her Majesty in which she instructed her grandson not to go public until the proposal was finalised by senior family members.

Prince Charles and Prince William were both said to be left ‘incandescent with rage’ after learning about the Sussexes’ announcement just 10 minutes before it was published on the couple’s own Instagram page. 

The fallout saw crisis talks held today between senior royals at Kensington Palace, where members of the family had already gathered to celebrate the Duchess of Cambridge’s 38th birthday.

Aides speaking to the Evening Standard have now warned of a backlash against Harry, who it was revealed today had first contacted his father before Christmas to discuss his hopes of spending more time in North America. 

Harry and Meghan recently returned from six weeks in Canada, where they took a break from royal duties, and where they spent time with Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland, suggesting she may have had an influence over their final decision.

The statement also describes a ‘progressive new role within the institution’ which could be seen as a slight against the Palace. 

Insiders close to the couple previously spoke of how they have ‘single handedly modernised the monarchy’ so this could be a backhanded way of calling for change. 

The shock statement, posted at around 6.30pm last night, has left more questions than answers

The shock statement, posted at around 6.30pm last night, has left more questions than answers

‘We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.’

2) What exactly does being ‘financially independent’ mean for Harry and Meghan, and independent of whom? How will they continue to support the Queen?

The Duke and Duchess’ new official website Sussexroyal.com said the couple will no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant, the £82millon that taxpayers give to the Queen every year for her family’s royal duties, security, staff and maintaining their palaces and houses.

But critics today branded this idea a ‘fallacy’ because by keeping their titles and privileges a slew of public money will still come their way for the rest of their lives. 

Royal commentator Penny Junor said today: ‘The taxpayer is not going to be happy. The taxpayer grumbles enough about paying anything for the royal family. 

‘This will just be a running sore. I don’t think it’s been properly thought through. They are not working for themselves’. 

Some of the £82million pot of money is also used to pay for Harry and Meghan’s official royal travel.

Their website says they will still ‘proudly’ carry out official overseas visits in support of the Queen, meaning they will probably continue to claim those costs.

In the last financial year they claimed £130,000 for travel costs, including £80,000 alone for their trip to Australia, New Zealand and Pacific islands such as Tonga and Fiji at the end of 2018.

Harry and Meghan have several multiple strands of income and significant personal wealth but while they have quit as frontline royals they will still receive large amounts of cash from the taxpayer including travel, security and from Prince Charles’ royal estate

And if they spend much of the year criss-crossing the Atlantic to carry out duties and support UK charities these costs will likely increase as they pay for first class flights for them and their team of staff, including private secretary and nanny for Archie. 

The couple have also dodged whether they will shun the gigantic annual payments from his father. Prince Charles gave his sons £4.9million via his private £1.2billion Duchy of Cornwall estate in the past year, which many regard as a public asset that also generates huge amounts of money because of its links to the royal family. 

Who pays for Meghan and Harry’s lifestyle – and how much money do they have? 

Sovereign Grant 

No one knows how much the grant is worth to Harry and Meghan because it is not published in the Queen’s accounts – but some estimates have placed it at around £2million.

The £82million pot also covers travel costs for royal duties are also covered by the grant. On the royal register, which reveals all claims over £15,000, there are three claims by the couple totalling £130,000.

The £2.4million refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage was also paid for by this pot. More works are pencilled in Windsor Castle’s five-year plan meaning costs could reach £3million.  

Home Office

The government department covers Harry, Meghan and Archie’s 24/7 Met police security – estimated at £600,000-a-year. With overtime, travel and accommodation expenses this would likely reach £1million.

Prince Charles’ Duchy of Cornwall estate

Harry receives up to £2.3million annually from his father’s royal estate. 

Personal wealth

Harry inherited around £20million from his mother, Princess Diana, who died when he was 12.

The Queen Mother also left him up to £7million

Much of his cash is tied up in trust funds with some of the money kept from him until his 40th birthday

Meghan has a personal fortune of £4million, mainly from her acting work and property in Canada.  

She also earned six-figures each year from blogging, fashion and modelling.  

Harry is estimated to earn up to £2.25million a year and Charles now faces a big decision about whether to cut off that flow of money.

And when he becomes king, the Duchy will be inherited by Prince William as heir to the throne, meaning he will also have the final say on whether to reduce or even end Harry’s largest royal income. 

The couple also admit that they will need security for the rest of their lives, which again, will cost taxpayers.

The couple will need to strike lucrative commercial deals to maintain the lavish lifestyle to which they are comfortably accustomed, especially as Meghan has no income anymore and Harry’s only salary was around £35,000 in the Army.

The Duke is said to be worth around £30million after inheriting from his mother Diana and the Queen Mother – but some of this is said to be tied up in trust funds until he is 40 and other investments. 

Until now Harry and Meghan have been ‘prohibited from earning any income in any form’ – as they pointed out last night on their official website.

Defending their new status, they stressed: ‘There is precedent for this structure and it applies to other current members of the Royal Family who support the monarch and also have full-time jobs external to their commitment to the monarchy.’

Charles paid £4.9million to his sons from his duchy income last year, of which slightly less than half is believed to have gone to Harry.

Yesterday the Sussexes said the money from Charles amounted to 95 per cent of their office expenditure. 

They added: ‘The remaining 5 per cent of funding for the Office of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, covering costs associated with employing members of their official office, is received through the Sovereign Grant.’ 

The couple stressed that ‘wherever possible and unless advised otherwise on security grounds’, they travel using ‘commercial carriers, local trains and fuel-efficient vehicles’.

Harry’s other wealth comes from his estimated £20million inheritance from his mother Princess Diana. He also banked around £7million from his great-grandmother the Queen Mother, who paid it into a trust fund in 1994.

Meghan’s net worth of around £4million came from having earned around £37,000 per episode as an actress in the US drama Suits. 

‘It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment.’

3) Who is ‘your’, and who has encouraged them ‘over the last few years’ to make their decision to step down as senior royals

It is unclear in this part of the statement who they are referring to when they reference the encouragement they have received over the ‘last few years.’

In recent months the tide of public opinion has slowly turned against the Duke and Duchess as they launched attacks against the press, faced hypocrisy claims over their use of private jets despite lecturing on climate change and issues over privacy do to with baby Archie and his christening.

It came to the fore in October last year when in an ITV documentary Meghan admitted motherhood was a ‘struggle’ due to intense interest from the media. Prince Harry also responded to reports of a rift between him and his brother William by saying they were on ‘different paths’.

It came to the fore in October last year when in an ITV documentary Meghan admitted to journalist Tom Bradby (pictured) that motherhood was a 'struggle' due to intense interest from the media

It came to the fore in October last year when in an ITV documentary Meghan admitted to journalist Tom Bradby (pictured) that motherhood was a ‘struggle’ due to intense interest from the media

In October, the duchess began legal action against the Mail on Sunday over a claim that it unlawfully published one of her private letters to her father. And the duke also began legal action against the owners of the Sun, the defunct News of the World, and the Daily Mirror, in relation to alleged phone-hacking.

Prince Harry also released a statement, saying: ‘I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.’

The duke and duchess moved out of Kensington Palace, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge live, in 2018 to set up their family home in Windsor. 

And they later split from the charity they shared with Prince William and Kate to set up their own charitable projects.

It is therefore unlikely William will not have had any say in their decision, and as it was reported today the rest of the royal family, including the Queen were not informed before the shock announcement was made last night.

According to the Evening Standard, Harry defied clear instructions from the Queen not to make the announcement after he requested a meeting with her at Sandringham. 

It was also reported that Prince Charles and Prince William were only sent a copy of Harry and Meghan’s statement ’10 minutes’ before it was released and without any further consultation. 

‘We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America

4) How will this work logistically for them? How will they divide their time between the UK and North America?

The couple say they will be balancing their time between the UK and North America. But exactly where they will call home is not yet known.

They currently live in Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, and are expected to continue to base themselves there when in Britain. 

Taxpayers paid £2.4 million to renovate Harry and Meghan’s official residence, which the couple moved into just nine months ago. 

But they will need to set up base in North America, whether that be in the US or Canada, where the couple recently enjoyed a six week break from royal duties. 

The couple said they will seek permission for continued use of Frogmore cottage, which they moved in to nine months ago and which underwent a taxpayer funded £2.4million refurbishment from the Queen, through the Sovereign Grant.

But after announcing they would not be receiving the Sovereign Grant, it has been suggested that they could be forced to pay rent to keep hold of the cottage.

In a statement on their new website sussexroyal.com, they say: Frogmore Cottage will continue to be the property of Her Majesty the Queen. 

The couple will keep Frogmore Cottage (above) that was gifted to them by the Queen

The couple will keep Frogmore Cottage (above) that was gifted to them by the Queen

‘The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will continue to use Frogmore Cottage – with the permission of Her Majesty The Queen – as their official residence as they continue to support the Monarchy, and so that their family will always have a place to call home in the United Kingdom.’

Graham Smith, chief executive of the campaign group Republic, said: ‘It’s not just Frogmore Cottage – they’re going to be relying on the Metropolitan Police to provide security. 

‘I certainly think they owe the taxpayer a refund. They have spent £2.4m on refurbishing their house on the taxpayer.

‘It was going to be their home and now they’ve decided to live elsewhere so we need that money back. They need to abandon their claim to that house.’     

They could decide to settle in California, and Los Angeles in particular, where Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland lives. Meghan is said to consider LA home, and many of her friends are based there. 

Doria is also not thought to want to relocate to the UK, so moving to the US to be closer to her could be an option.

Meghan has previously spoken of her love for LA, saying: ‘It’s a city of transients – people coming from all over the world, searching out the Hollywood dream. 

‘Life in my LA is all about taking care of your mind and spirit just as much as your body.’

The couple have recently returned from a six week break in Canada in a £10million waterfront mansion on Vancouver Island, sparking speculation they could live there.

Meghan lived in Toronto for six years while filming Suits and it is the city where they enjoyed a secret five-month courtship before their relationship was revealed to the world in October 2016. 

It also raises questions over security – they would need teams of bodyguards in both North America and Britain – and who pays for this remains to be seen. 

5) What does splitting their lifestyle between North America and Britain mean for their Carbon Footprint? 

Splitting their time between the US and North America will mean Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be forced to spend a considerable amount of time flying between the two. 

How much time they will spend on either continent is not known, but if, as they suggest, they continue to ‘honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages’ they will need to make regular visits back to Britain.

The couple yesterday said that in their new roles they would travel via commercial air carriers, local trains and fuel-efficient vehicles ‘unless advised otherwise on security grounds’. 

Who will pick up the cost? It has been suggested by the couple that they want to be ‘financially independent’ so they could pick up the cost themselves. But what about their security detail? 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle watched Wheelchair Tennis at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada on 25 September 2017 - in what marked their first public appearance together

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle watched Wheelchair Tennis at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada on 25 September 2017 – in what marked their first public appearance together

This may be picked up by the British taxpayer through the Sovereign Grant – and they would also need to be on the plane.

The amount of flying they need to do has raised concerns about the impact to the environment and what their carbon footprint will be.

And they are no stranger to controversy over their use of air travel.

In the summer over their use of private jets after taking four flights in 11 days, despite championing environmental causes.

Sir Elton John escalated the situation by stepping in to defend them, saying he provided them with a private flight to ‘maintain a high level of much-needed protection’.

Harry explained his use of private planes, saying he spends ‘99% of my life’ using commercial flights, but occasionally needs to ensure ‘my family are safe’.

Figures show that one person flying first class on a return commercial flight from London to Toronto contributes 6.77 tonnes of CO2 to the earth’s atmosphere.

This would mean even if Harry, Meghan and Archie were to go on just one return trip, which is unlikely given their announcement, their total carbon footprint would be 20.31 tonnes. 

Carbon footprint calculators do not factor in private jets, but they generate an estimated seven times more emissions per person than if they had flown commercially. 

‘This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born’

6) How will Archie be raised in both the UK and Canada. Where will he go to school? 

By announcing they want Archie to be raised with an ‘appreciation for royal tradition’ they potentially open themselves up to criticism – it is this royal tradition that they have decided to leave for good.

And how Archie will fare in this new set up, and where and how he will be educated is open for question and hasn’t been addressed by either Harry and Meghan.

With the couple planning to divide their time between the UK and North America, Archie could be educated in England, the US, Canada, or all three. 

The Duke and and Duchess of Sussex with their baby son Archie. Questions have been raised over where and how he will be educated

The Duke and and Duchess of Sussex with their baby son Archie. Questions have been raised over where and how he will be educated

If Archie is educated in Canada, it will mark a departure from the the history of Royals attending grand British public schools – Princes Harry and William both attended Eton College. 

Canada boasts 91 independent schools, including Lakefield College School which bills itself as ‘the best day and boarding’ establishment in the country, and is steeped in Royal history.

The Ontario school, which charges eye-watering fees of up to £41,000, was attended by Archie’s great-uncle Prince Andrew in 1978 and Prince Philip visited in 1969 to present Duke of Edinburgh awards.

Exactly how Archie will be schooled is a question now posed by experts, amid fears his education may now suffer.

Home-schooling is the ‘obvious option’ when it comes to the education of baby Archie in their new transatlantic life, an education expert claims.

A parenting expert says it’s crucial the couple prioritise quality time with their son so that their lifestyle doesn’t unsettle him.

Edward Williams, author of ‘Is your school lying to you? Get the career you want. Get the life you deserve’, told MailOnline: ‘Private tutoring is the obvious option. 

‘But, for the couple who have been so enthusiastically outspoken about giving him a normal life, not having the opportunity to have a more traditional school experience – learning to make friends, learning the absolutely essential social skills to thrive in his future – would be a betrayal of the very idea of stepping back from public life in the first place.’ 

Parenting expert Elizabeth O’Shea, who runs the website parent4success.com, added: ‘If you’re going to go down the home schooling route, it’s very important that Archie is socialised, that he has children that he can interact with and play with and learn from and be with because part of being at school is about those social skills,’ she said.

‘That’s a huge part of primary school, learning social skills, learning about relationship, conflict, playing with other children, and those things are really important.’ 

7. Will they continue to have security and will it cost the taxpayer?

The Duke and Duchess appear to think they will continue to have security. 

The minimum of six armed bodyguards are provided by Scotland Yard and are estimated to cost at £600,000 in salaries and up to £400,000 in flights, accommodation and expenses as they travel around the globe. 

Sussexroyal.com, referring to armed security by the Metropolitan Police mandated by the Home Office, said: ‘The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are classified as internationally protected people which mandates this level of security.’ 

However non-senior royals generally don’t have full-time royal protection officers.

Prince Harry and Meghan's security detail head to Frogmore House in Windsor today

Prince Harry and Meghan’s security detail head to Frogmore House in Windsor today

Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie previously faced criticism over the use of taxpayers’ funding for police protection

The Duke of York now pays for their security himself.

The undisclosed cost of guarding the royal family as a whole is estimated to be more than £100 million a year.

Private protection officers, known as PPOs, are employed to guard their ‘principal’ around the clock. They work in pairs and if the couple are travelling separately or attending separate engagements it will require at least four of them to do the job. 

If Harry and Meghan undertake a large amount of cross-continental travel, this will also make the task of their security detail more complex. Any new routes must be scouted out ahead of time by their bodyguards to identify any possible threats.

Any plans to travel among members of the public will also involve additional scrutiny by their security team.

‘Continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages’  

8) Will they continue to be patrons of all of the charities listed against their name and will the charities still want them? 

The couple insist that they will continue to honour their patronages.

They have more than a dozen organisations they are patrons of, ranging from the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust to the Rugby Football Union and Rhino Conservation in Botswana. 

It is unclear what the future holds for their relationships with other charities after they revealed plans for a ‘new charitable entity’ of their own.

Prince Harry and Meghan unveiled a slick new website just moments after announcing they were stepping back from royal duties. In a statement released on the website they said they wanted to 'continue to honour our patronages'

Prince Harry and Meghan unveiled a slick new website just moments after announcing they were stepping back from royal duties. In a statement released on the website they said they wanted to ‘continue to honour our patronages’

Questions remain about how much time they will have left to dedicate to other charities once they launch their own this year.

Prince Harry is a patron of several branches of the Armed Forces, including RAF Honington and the Royal Marines.

The Ministry of Defence told MailOnline the Duke’s patronage is a matter ‘for the Palace’ to comment on. 

WellChild, which offers supports to chronically ill children and their families, said: ‘From our perspective it’s business as usual. They have already said they are honouring their patronages.’ 

‘…including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course’ 

9) What will their charitable entity do, how will it make money and how much will it make?

The Duke and Duchess announced that they will set up a new ‘charitable entity’ as they step back from royal duties. But how it will make money and how much money it will make has not been addressed.

On their new Sussex Royal website it states: ‘In 2020, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex plan to shape their charitable entity to respond to these pressing needs.

‘After carefully considering a number of foundation models, and having researched the incredible work of many well known and lesser known foundations, The Duke and Duchess are actively working to create something different,

‘A charitable entity that will not only help complement these efforts, but also advance the solutions the world needs most.’

They added that they will ‘continue to priortise’ the good causes and patronages they support.

It is not clear where the new charity would be based, but last night’s statement said they would be sharing the ‘full details of this exciting next step in due course’.

‘We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties’   

10) Will there be a backlash against their use of the term ‘collaborate’ in reference to the Queen?

Royal experts and senior aides have blasted the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision to quit, with one calling it ‘a violation of the way the family operates.’ 

Sources claimed that Prince Harry had ignored crystal-clear orders from the Queen on the subject, after she instructed him not to make announcement about his future plans at this time. 

And the use of the term ‘collaborate’ could further ignite frictions within the royal household.

It dismisses the fact that they have overseen the fact that the Queen is in overall control and her orders should be followed. 

Sources claimed that Prince Harry had ignored crystal-clear orders from the Queen (pictured at Harry and Meghan's wedding in May 2018)  after she instructed him not to make announcement about his future plans at this time

Sources claimed that Prince Harry had ignored crystal-clear orders from the Queen (pictured at Harry and Meghan’s wedding in May 2018)  after she instructed him not to make announcement about his future plans at this time

It is understood that Harry had requested a meeting with the Queen at Sandringham as soon as he arrived back in the UK with Meghan and their son Archie this weekend, following a six-week Christmas break to Canada.

The Queen offered to meet the Duke – which was blocked by courtiers – but she still made an explicit request to her grandson that he first discuss his future plans in detail with his father, the Prince of Wales.

But the couple defied the order, the Evening Standard reported, going ahead with the announcement and ‘pressing the nuclear button’ on their royal careers, with William and Charles allegedly receiving a copy of the statement just 10 minutes beforehand.

A senior royal source said the Queen and her family were ‘deeply disappointed’ by the news, while another said the royals were ‘shocked, saddened and downright furious’ at the couple. 

Pictured: The statement from Buckingham Palace following Harry and Meghan's social media announcement that they would be stepping down from senior Royal duties

Pictured: The statement from Buckingham Palace following Harry and Meghan’s social media announcement that they would be stepping down from senior Royal duties 

Buckingham Palace issued a curt response afterwards, saying: ‘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.’  

Biographer Penny Junor said the choice ‘echoes Diana’ when she announced after she separated from Prince Charles that she was stepping down.

She said: ‘The problem is they’re not working for themselves, they are working for a family firm and to be making announcements of this sort without consulting is beyond bizarre.’

American royal watcher Sally Bedell Smith said Harry should ‘know that you can’t just go off and make decisions without taking advice’.

She told USA Today: ‘For them to have cooked this up all by themselves – I think is a real violation of the way the royal family is supposed to operate.’               

The Royal cash machines! PR experts predict Prince Harry and Meghan Markle could become the world’s highest-earning celebrity couple… but where will they make all their money?

Harry and Meghan could become the world’s highest-earning celebrity couple – with riches stretching to a billion dollars within a decade, PR experts predicted yesterday.

As superstars of the international circuit, they would be able to command six or even seven-figure fees just for turning up at an event.

If they decide to keep their royal titles while touting themselves for hire, their combined money-spinning potential could be greater than any A-lister in history.

Experts said becoming a brand ambassador for a global giant such as Google or Apple could earn the couple tens of millions annually. A nine-figure sum each year – $100million – would add up to $1billion (£760million) over a decade.

The couple have yet to say exactly how they will meet their ambition to ‘become financially independent’. But their unique stellar cachet – blending blue blood and Hollywood royalty – could net them huge amounts. Ronn Torossian, of New York PR firm 5W Public Relations, said: ‘Their earning power – both individually and as a couple – is limitless in all aspects of endorsements.

As superstars of the international circuit, the couple would be able to command six or even seven-figure fees just for turning up at an event

As superstars of the international circuit, the couple would be able to command six or even seven-figure fees just for turning up at an event

‘Whether appearances, brand partnerships or more, they could make eight or nine figures annually with endorsement deals.’

Mr Torossian added: ‘The sky is the limit for the two of them.’ Until now, Harry’s senior royal status has prevented him from making money from his celebrity. He and Meghan have complained on their new website that they are ‘prohibited from earning any income’. As with all the royals, the precise details of how they fund their lavish lifestyles are kept opaque. But some sources of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wealth are known.

Harry and William share a handout from Prince Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall estate, which last year came to £4.9million for both princes. Harry’s proportion is unknown but thought likely to be about £2million. He and Meghan have said this accounts for 95 per cent of their ‘office expenditure’.

The remaining five per cent, they said, comes from the Sovereign Grant – in other words, the British taxpayer. If so, this would suggest they receive about £100,000 from the public purse to support their office costs.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrive to attend the WellChild Awards Ceremony in London

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrive to attend the WellChild Awards Ceremony in London

The couple said on their website: ‘Their Royal Highnesses prefer to release this financial tie.’ However, no mention was made of the millions from Charles. Asked whether Harry hoped to cling on to this revenue stream, a Palace insider made clear it was an issue that had not even been discussed by the Royal Family yet. Continuing to take money from the £1.2billion Duchy of Cornwall estate – which owns property swathes of land in the West Country and the Oval cricket ground in London – would be controversial as Charles only has it because he is the Queen’s heir and some say it should be regarded as a public and not a private asset.

Harry and Meghan’s ‘office expenditure’ is by no means the whole story of their wealth. It is not stated who pays for their six-week holidays, the new designer kitchen at their Frogmore Cottage home in Windsor and other luxuries. Other sources of income include Harry’s inheritance from his mother Princess Diana.

In her will, she left £21million to her two sons, to be held in trust until they turned 25. In the intervening years, the fund was overseen by the chairman of Coutts Bank and will have grown significantly. Estimates put Harry’s portion at up to £20million.

The Duke of Sussex also received an estimated £7million from the Queen Mother, who in 1994 put two-thirds of her £70million fortune into a trust fund for her great-grandchildren.

Harry’s portion could be even higher because the Queen Mother reportedly thought he should get more than William to make up for not being king. That is before interest payments, which could easily have doubled the windfall before Harry was given access to it.

Over his ten years in the Army, Harry would have been paid a total of around £450,000. Overall, his ‘net worth’ has been estimated at about £30million. His wife’s wealth has been put at £4million. Her biggest earnings before becoming a royal were from her role in the TV drama Suits, which paid her £2million over seven years.

Queen could take away HRH titles 

The statement about their future plans was signed ‘Their Royal Highnesses, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’.

But quitting as frontline royals has led to questions over whether they should relinquish, or be stripped, of HRH status.

Harry and Meghan clearly like their titles and have licensed ‘Sussex Royal’.

Prince Andrew’s ex-wife Sarah lost her HRH after her divorce in 1996 as did Diana when she split from Charles the same year. An expert said the Queen has the ability to strip the Sussexes of the title.

Former MP Norman Baker, a Privy Council member, added: ‘You are either a member of the Royal Family or not.’

She made six-figure sums for various film roles and about £60,000 a year endorsing products while running her lifestyle blog, The Tig. She also owns property in Toronto. But all this could be small-fry compared with the global money-spinning opportunities that lie ahead. PR guru Mark Borkowski, who has worked with TV stars Noel Edmonds and Graham Norton, said: ‘They will make a fortune. I think around the world people will be falling over to get brand connections with them.’

Retail expert Andy Barr predicted the couple’s ‘Sussex Royal’ brand could rapidly become worth almost half a billion pounds.’

He added: ‘As the brand they are building will automatically have global appeal, their revenue will grow even further.’ PR professional James Henderson, who used to run Bell Pottinger and previously advised Madonna and Naomi Campbell, said: ‘She [Meghan] could endorse products and have her own beauty brand, they could start a TV channel in the States to raise awareness of their causes – the possibilities are endless.

‘Meghan is a beautiful, talented and articulate woman. Appearance fees could easily be $100,000 just for turning up to an event, without actually having to do anything else.’ The world’s current highest-earning celebrities, the Kardashian family, are estimated to have a net worth of $1billion. Harry and Meghan have already quietly trademarked their Sussex Royal brand on more than 100 items, including pencils, socks, bookmarks and even hoodies.

Given their philanthropic ambitions, the couple may well decide to follow in the footsteps of former US presidents. Barack and Michelle Obama set up a charitable foundation and produced documentaries to promote their causes, while also cashing in with lucrative public speaking opportunities, books and TV deals.

Harry and Meghan have plenty of A-list friends who are as business savvy as they are famous to help them transition into their new lives – and make money along the way.

Last year, Meghan secretly invited Hillary Clinton to Frogmore Cottage to meet her baby son Archie. Oprah Winfrey recently teamed up with Harry to create a mental health documentary series after attending the couple’s wedding in 2018. If Harry and Meghan choose to write memoirs about their lives, they would start a spectacular bidding war between publishing houses and procure eight-figure advances. Fans would love to read about their vastly different childhoods and how their lives became entwined. In 2017, the Obamas scored a joint book deal at Penguin Random House worth a reported £49million.

Harry and William share a handout from Prince Charles’s (pictured) Duchy of Cornwall estate, which last year came to £4.9million for both princes

Harry and William share a handout from Prince Charles’s (pictured) Duchy of Cornwall estate, which last year came to £4.9million for both princes

The duke and duchess are both activists in their own right, so it is not hard to imagine them getting into film and television production to raise awareness for causes.

They could also earn megabucks on the public speaking circuit. Mr Obama, Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Tony Blair all command six-figure speaking fees.

Jeff Jacobson, of the Talent Bureau speaking agency, predicted the Sussexes would get at least $100,000 (£75,000) per public appearance, while Harry could receive up to $500,000 (£382,000).

However, among the costs racked up by the couple will be for their police protection officers – well over £1million a year, funded by British taxpayers. Yesterday an employment website calculated that if Harry and Meghan were ordinary jobseekers, based on their skillsets, education and work experience, they would earn £40,684 in his case and £139,685 in hers.

I’m so disappointed in Meghan’s decision, says estranged father

The Duchess of Sussex’s estranged father is ‘disappointed’ with Meghan and Harry’s decision to step back from the Royal Family.

Hours after their announcement on Wednesday, retired lighting director Thomas Markle, 75, told the celebrity magazine US Weekly: ‘I’ll just simply say I’m disappointed.’

Meghan and her father have a notoriously dysfunctional relationship, and are not thought to have spoken since her wedding in May 2018.

Mr Markle has not even met his eight-month-old grandson, Archie.

Relations soured after it emerged that Mr Markle had secretly collaborated with a British paparazzi photographer to stage a series of photos before his daughter’s wedding.

Then, just days before the ceremony, Mr Markle pulled out of walking Meghan down the aisle after having heart surgery.

Yesterday, he did not elaborate on the cause of his disappointment. He has never met Prince Harry, but has spoken on the phone to him.

Meghan began a legal action last year against the Mail on Sunday – this newspaper’s sister title – for publishing a letter she wrote to her father.

Mr Markle has claimed he released the letter only after friends of his daughter ‘misrepresented’ its contents to a US magazine.

Meghan has filed a High Court claim against the Mail on Sunday and its publisher Associated Newspapers. The newspaper said it stood by the story and would defend itself vigorously.

Prince William told Harry to heed his mother Diana’s warning not to marry in haste – and the rift began: RICHARD KAY and GEOFFREY LEVY reveal how brotherly bonds soured

Perhaps it was too much to expect two very different boys with two very different wives to forge a lifelong alliance. And perhaps it is too easy to blame American Meghan for heading off with Harry away from palace life into the sunset.

And yet it seems just a moment ago that Harry was as close to Kate as he was to William, a warm-hearted trio delighting the world.

The two princes are, of course, hardly the first husbands whose close friendship was split by wives who simply didn’t get on.

Princess Diana with Prince William (top) and Prince Harry (bottom left) in 1988. Prince William heeded his mother Princess Diana’s advice to marry a girl he knew well

Princess Diana with Prince William (top) and Prince Harry (bottom left) in 1988. Prince William heeded his mother Princess Diana’s advice to marry a girl he knew well

The tragedy is that before Meghan came along, Harry was the very essence of a popular 21st-century prince. He was what every romantic expected a dutiful young royal to be — not only good-looking and a brave soldier, but someone who could laugh easily at himself. Indeed, laughter accompanied him everywhere he went.

Meghan’s arrival in his life changed so much of that. But was this her fault, or was it down to Harry’s uncertainty in how to bring a fragrant Hollywood figure into the restrictive and highly controlled world of royal life?

Meghan, remember, had become accustomed to floating her views in public, on everything from climate change and human rights to clean water and gender equality. This became clear on one occasion when the ‘fab four’ of William, Kate, Meghan and Harry were on stage promoting their Heads Together mental welfare charity, and the Duchess of Sussex naturally dominated the microphone.

Even then, some detected an air of discomfort about William and Kate. Here was a young woman making it plain that her new royal status was something to be used so that her voice could be heard — an unknown philosophy in royal life.

At that moment the silent Kate beside her looked almost dull. In truth, all Kate was doing was following a protocol that has kept the royal family in business for generations.

Ironically, there had been a time when Harry envied his elder brother for having the good fortune to meet and to marry such a wonderful girl as Kate Middleton.

That partly explains why the world was so delighted when he found love with Meghan. After all, when Harry first introduced his bride-to-be, they still looked like the most attractive and popular young couple in the country.

Duke and Duchess of Sussex together with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey for the centenary of the Armistice in central London on November 11 2018

Duke and Duchess of Sussex together with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey for the centenary of the Armistice in central London on November 11 2018

What people especially loved was that while William married a woman whose great-grandfather was a coalminer, Harry ended up with a woman descended from slaves. There was no clearer proof that the Royal Family reflected the rich diversity of modern Britain.

Yet there was already a tiny crack in the brotherly relationship. William is understood to have questioned his younger brother about the hastiness of his engagement to the television actress he’d known only for months. He and Kate were together eight years before he put a ring on her finger — a state of affairs which, it must be said, also attracted widespread comment.

But William has long been the wiser and more cautious brother. He heeded his mother Princess Diana’s advice to marry a girl he knew well. Ruefully, she explained to him that when she had married his father, Prince Charles, ‘we hardly knew each other’.

As usual, William was looking out for his kid brother, just as he always did at school and during the difficult time after Diana’s death. But Harry, besotted with worldly divorcee Meghan, didn’t welcome this guidance, and the brothers’ relationship soured when words were exchanged between Kate and bride-to-be Meghan over the dress Princess Charlotte, now four, would wear as a bridesmaid.

At one stage Kate was said to have been reduced to tears. But no one attached too much significance to the kind of small family tiff hardly unknown during nuptial preparations.

Royal couple kiss as they leave St George's Chapel, Windsor, on May 19 2018 after their wedding ceremony

Royal couple kiss as they leave St George’s Chapel, Windsor, on May 19 2018 after their wedding ceremony 

Further tension in the lead-up to the event threatened to spill over after Meghan insisted she be allowed to choose a tiara once worn by Diana. This time it was the Queen who said no and instead allowed Meghan to wear the diamond lozenge bandeau made for Queen Mary in 1932.

Meghan accepted the Queen’s decision. But it seriously upset Harry and provoked his emotional outburst ‘what Meghan wants, Meghan gets’. As for Palace aides, the general feeling was that here was a mature woman of the world who had comfortably fitted into a new life in Canada — where she made her home for seven years while filming TV series Suits. Surely she would have as little difficulty adjusting to royal life as a young Kate did?

But one was happily restrained by the knowledge that she is destined to be Queen; the other uncomfortable unless she is permitted to speak about what is on her mind. As one royal aide observes cautiously of the royal sisters-in-law: ‘They are simply not natural chums.’

Even so, palace life might have jogged along well enough had Harry and Meghan not taken the surprising decision to remove themselves from the centre of public life in London and decamp to Windsor. Harry’s greatest dream was about to be realised: Meghan was pregnant.

Some might feel she wanted to move away so she and Harry could have a more peaceful time. But in many ways this was a precursor of things to come. For who would have imagined the public’s love for a new baby, especially a royal baby, would have been so defiantly frustrated?

No reason has ever been given for the couple’s secrecy in refusing to say where baby Archie was to be born. Nor has an explanation been supplied for why the couple chose not to say when she was in labour.

Equally confusing is why they refused to disclose who were the doctors attending Meghan. These were crucial days for Meghan and Harry, when the public should have fallen in love with them and their baby. Instead, they induced a wave of exasperation from people who considered the arrival of the seventh in line to the throne as a matter of public rejoicing.

Inexplicably, the couple chose the same level of secrecy over the christening, declining to say who were Archie’s godparents. No royal couple in history had ever behaved like this before. But then, why on earth would they?

Compare this with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. At every stage of Kate’s three pregnancies the public was kept informed. And after each birth the couple came out to cheering crowds and clicking cameras.

Could Harry and Meghan’s display of ultra-privacy have been a portent of what the couple announced this week? And could it be that the prospect of having only a minor role as ‘senior royals’ added to their frustration? Twice in recent days they were noticeable by their absence. On Christmas Day with the couple hidden away in Canada on Vancouver Island, they were not among pictures displayed on the desk beside the Queen during her traditional broadcast.

At New Year, Buckingham Palace issued a picture showing the Queen and her three heirs — Charles, William and George. Perhaps to Harry and Meghan it was a message that their significance as senior royals had waned.

For William, meanwhile, there is profound sadness that he knows his mother would have shared. In Harry he had what he saw as a lifelong ally, a younger brother whose good nature and joviality provided elements of fun at times when he, as heir in line to the throne, had to be dignified.

But Harry also provided the kind of unflinching advice on which a future monarch relies. They were always there for each other. It does seem extraordinary now that this mutually supporting togetherness has gone.

Both brothers have always needed each other because both are single-minded and stubborn. At one stage, let’s not forget, it was William’s intransigence and grumpiness that was more of a worry in the family than Harry’s youthfully immature behaviour.

But thanks to Kate’s calmness and level-headedness, as well as her respect for the Royal Family and her role within it, she has not only diffused any prospect of a William time-bomb, but created the sense of continuity crucial to the health of the monarchy.

As for Kate, yesterday on her 38th birthday, Kensington Palace issued a new picture of the Duchess in jeans and a jumper sitting on a fence. No doubt it provides a stark contrast to the glamorous new life the Sussexes will now enjoy in North America.

Indeed, Meghan and Harry will be in danger of becoming trophy royals to the kind of moneyed celebrity best avoided by those who wish to be taken seriously.

One has to wonder now whether William’s mind has gone back to a conversation he had with his brother in their mother’s car with Princess Diana at the wheel.

They were then aged ten and eight and started to bicker before Harry said: ‘It’s all right for you William, you’re going to be king. But I can do anything I want.’



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