Prince Harry defied clear instructions from the Queen not to announce that he and Meghan are to quit as “senior” royals, the Evening Standard has been told.

The Queen made it clear to her grandson that he should not proceed with any announcement this week about his future after he requested a meeting with her at Sandringham, according to senior sources.

The Duke of Sussex’s apparent refusal to comply with an explicit request from the head of the royal family will help to explain the unprecedented expressions of “hurt” and “disappointment” from the palace over last night’s statement.

The Standard has also been told that Prince William tried to build bridges with his brother in the autumn shortly after the airing of an ITV documentary about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in October. 

Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (AP)

It is understood that William wanted to visit Harry at his Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage, but the meeting never happened.

The Standard has learned of the dramatic sequence of events that led to the sixth in line to the throne effectively resigning from his frontline role “after many months of reflection and internal discussions” in the Sussexes’ bombshell announcement last night.

But the Sussexes believe they are helping to deliver a slimmed-down monarchy and that they believe they have the ability to reach out to a younger and more diverse audience than other members of the royal family. 

It is understood that:

  • Harry originally contacted Prince Charles about spending more time in Canada and America just before Christmas, but was told he needed to come up with a thought-out plan.
  • Harry sent a draft proposal about his future role to his father early in the New Year but was again informed that more time was needed to think through the complex implications, particularly over funding.
  • Harry asked for a summit with the Queen at Sandringham as soon as he, Meghan and their son Archie, arrived back from their long Christmas break in Canada at the weekend.
  • He was told that while the Queen was happy to meet him, she would not discuss his wishlist before he had discussed it in detail with his father.
  • The planned meeting was blocked by courtiers, but the Queen made it clear to Harry that he should not go public about his future plans at this time.
  • Prince Charles and Prince William, the next two in the line of succession, were only sent a copy of Harry and Meghan’s statement “10 minutes” before it was released and without any further consultation.
  • Senior courtiers have warned that “Harry and Meghan will be punished for this”.

The announcement on the Sussexroyal Instagram account, which had attracted more than 1.4 million “likes” by this morning, sent shockwaves through Britain’s oldest institution.

It read: “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.”

It is understood that the focus of their new lives in North America is likely to be southern California, so that Meghan can spend time with her mother Doria Ragland, as well as Canada.

Prince Harry reportedly defied clear instructions from the Queen (AFP via Getty Images)

There has been speculation at Buckingham Palace that Harry, 35, and his former actress wife, 38, might have already started discussions on future commercial deals.

One source was quoted saying: “Meghan really wants to live in California, it’s where she is from and where her mother lives. She likes the lifestyle and the privacy there.”

Meanwhile, in a statement to American celebrity magazine US Weekly, Thomas Markle, Meghan’s estranged father, reportedly said he was “disappointed” with his daughter’s decision to step away from the royal family.

Last night’s statement said the couple plan to balance their time between the UK and North America while “continuing to honour our duty to the Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages”.

It continued: “This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity.”

The statement was met with a terse response from Buckingham Palace, which said discussions with the duke and duchess on their decision to step back were “at an early stage”, adding: “We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”

The latest crisis to rock the royal family came after the Sussexes took a long break from their duties to spend some time in Canada with their son, who was born in May.

They visited Canada’s High Commission in London on Tuesday to thank the country for hosting them and said the warmth and hospitality they received was “unbelievable”.

During the visit, Meghan said it was an “incredible time” to enjoy the “beauty of Canada”, adding: “To see Archie go ‘ah’ when you walk by, and just see how stunning it is — so it meant a lot to us.”

She lived and worked in Toronto during her time in the popular US show Suits, and she has several Canadian friends.

Prince Harry and Meghan (Getty Images)

It is unclear how a “part-time” member of the royal family might work or how the couple would become financially independent.

Another member of the royal household told the Standard: “This hasn’t been properly thought through.

“It is an incredibly self-indulgent and the way they made this announcement showed little or no respect to the Queen or the Prince of Wales who have been given a lifetime of service to the Crown. It is shocking, just shocking behaviour.”

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