Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Announce They are ‘Stepping Back’ from their Royal Duties and will Split Their Time Between the UK and North America as It is Revealed They Did Not Notify the Queen, Prince Charles or Prince William who All Learned of their Decision from TV

they leave Canada House, in London. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan ‘stepping back’ as senior UK royals, will work to become financially independent, they announced Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020.(Daniel Leal-Olivas Pool Photo via AP, file)

Harry and Meghan last night ‘pressed the nuclear button’ on their royal careers by announcing they are quitting their frontline roles.

Their dramatic decision was taken without the knowledge of the Queen, Prince Charles or Prince William, who learnt about the announcement as it broke on television news channels.

The couple, who plan to split their time between Britain and North America, made the bombshell announcement just days after returning from a six-week break in Canada.

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

In a terse statement, Buckingham Palace said: ‘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 though.’

Well-placed sources made clear that the shock announcement was a personal statement and ‘members of the family were not consulted on the contents’.

One exasperated aide said: ‘People had bent over backwards for them. They were given the wedding they wanted, the house they wanted, the office they wanted, the money they wanted, the staff they wanted, the tours they wanted and had the backing of their family. What more did they want?’

Another royal source said: ‘It’s deeply unfair to the Queen who doesn’t deserve to be treated this way. It is a shoddy way to treat her. The family understands that they want to do something different and is perfectly willing to help them. People are just devastated.’

The Mail has been told the couple ‘secretly plotted’ their decision during their stay in Canada, even conspiring to create a new website independent of the Royal Family and ready to launch it when they returned. This was without the knowledge of their own loyal UK-based press team.

‘The level of deceit has been staggering and everyone from the top of the royal household to the bottom feels like they have been stabbed in the back,’ one source said.

Pictured: The statement from Buckingham Palace following Harry and Meghan’s social media announcement that they would be stepping down from senior Royal duties
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex released this statement this evening announcing that they will be quitting as senior Royals

It also emerged last night that:

  • Harry and Meghan want to be ‘financially independent’ and plan to earn their own income, which they say they are currently prevented from doing;
  • They will give up their right to money from the sovereign grant, but could still take money from Prince Charles;
  • They will retain their home at Frogmore Cottage in Windsor as a UK base;
  • They will also keep their police protection – funded by the taxpayer – and have offered to carry out a vastly reduced number of royal duties in Britain and elsewhere in the Commonwealth.
  • In their extraordinary statement, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they wanted to ‘carve out a progressive new role’ and ‘step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family’.

In their extraordinary statement, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they wanted to ‘carve out a progressive new role’ and ‘step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family’.

They said 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’.

The Mail understands that the couple raised their desire to seek out a new life a week ago and family members agreed to work with them in making it possible.

But hours after they had visited the Canadian High Commission in London to thank them for their recent hospitality, the pair decided to go public with their decision – pressing the nuclear button, as one source described it.

Negotiations are at such an early stage that the couple still have no idea where they are going to live in North America, although Canada is clearly the favoured option.

Harry and Meghan have, in the words of one aide, ‘no clue’ as to how they will become financially independent – although for the moment are insisting they will continue to take money from the Queen and the Prince of Wales to fund their official work.

Royals who have tried to go down this route include the Earl and Countess of Wessex, who were forced to give up their television production and PR careers after a series of scandals.

Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, who famously said they would go anywhere for a hot meal, and the Duchess of York, who made a string of disastrous business deals that led her to bankruptcy, have learned to their cost that it can be perilous balancing their privileged royal status with business matters.

Harry and Meghan have made no mention of giving up their royal titles or status and insist they will keep Frogmore Cottage, the home that was done up for them with £2.4million of public money.

They will also keep their state-funded Metropolitan Police protection officers.

‘It’s a masterclass in wanting to have your cake and eat it,’ one royal insider raged. ‘Even their own staff cautioned against them making this public until they actually sat down and discussed it with the family properly.

‘But they are in this weird bubble and have this strange siege mentality.

‘They feel like it’s them against the world and are painting a very unfair picture of how this is a family that supposedly doesn’t understand or support them, which is complete and utter rubbish.’

Another source said: ‘The family is perfectly willing to help them but this was a discussion better had discreetly and quietly.

‘Why on earth they have put it out in the public domain is a decision only they can justify.

‘They have no idea where they are going to live, have no idea how they are going to make their money.

‘The feeling is one of deep disappointment that they have chosen to do this unilaterally and without prior warning or consultation.

‘And no one believes it will actually help them to have these kind of conversations and discussions in public.

‘People understand they want to get things moving and there remains a desire to help them get this right but you do not turn 1,000 years of British royal history on its head in eight days.

‘They have got to start working with people. It’s hugely unfair to paint out that this is a fusty old institution that doesn’t want to help them.

‘People have been bending over backwards looking at different ways of doing things.

‘But they have made clear they still want to be paid by the public purse for their work and they have to accept that things need to be thought through carefully.’

After their seismic falling out with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, followed by the decision to split their joint royal household, Harry and Meghan have battled to find their natural home within the Royal Family.

Sources say Harry told his grandmother more than a year ago that he and Meghan wanted to set up their own ‘court’ independent of Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, while retaining funding from them.

The prince was firmly told that this outcome would not be possible and that no one was ‘bigger’ – or more important – than the Queen.

The couple sullenly agreed to set up their new ‘Sussex Royal’ household under the Buckingham Palace umbrella, but have long been branded by insiders as ‘awkward and childish’ for refusing to work harmoniously alongside other members of the Royal Family.

‘The writing was on the wall a long time ago,’ said one source with knowledge of the situation last night.

The couple’s move follows weeks of speculation about their future after they took an extended break from royal duties over the festive period that followed an emotional appearance in a documentary.

In the ITV programme they spoke about the pressures they have been facing and family rifts, and in a separate move Harry issued a damning statement against the media accusing sections of the press of bullying his wife.

Harry and Meghan have only recently returned from their six-week break spent in the Canadian province of British Columbia with their eight-month-old son Archie.

Their first royal engagement of the new decade was to visit Canada’s High Commission in central London to thank Canadians in person for the warmth of the welcome they received.

It is likely they will be spending their time in the Commonwealth country when not in UK and may travel to America, Meghan’s homeland and where her mother lives.

Any move to Canada, even for a period of the year, would throw up important questions about Meghan and Harry’s long-term future within the royal family.

Meghan, a former actress, lived and worked in Toronto during her time starring in the popular US drama Suits, and the couple were famously pictured together when Meghan joined her then-boyfriend Harry at the 2017 Invictus Games in the city.

The cost of security for the couple would also be an issue, and as Canada is a realm, a country where the Queen is head of state, it may have to pay for keeping the couple and their son Archie safe.

The couple’s aim to be ‘financially independent’ may point towards them seeking a job, or a paid role with an organisation whose aims compliment their own beliefs.

Other members of the monarchy who have salaried jobs include the Queen’s grandchildren Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and Peter Phillips, who all work for a living.

But the lows included rows over privacy, rifts with relatives, the launch of legal action and an attack on the press which overshadowed an official royal tour.

Even the Queen in her Christmas Day address spoke of the ‘bumpy’ path her family and the nation had experienced.

Harry and Meghan’s statement announcing their decision soon after their return from a six-week break in Canada refers to their ‘many months of reflection and internal discussions’.

Couple complain that royal roles mean they CAN’T earn their own money… but now they’ll need to strike lucrative deals to keep up a lavish transatlantic lifestyle, so how WILL they make a living?

By Sam Greenhill, Chief Reporter for the Daily Mail 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex last night revealed they plan to relaunch their careers – potentially earning millions of pounds a year.

In an astonishing statement on their new website, they complained they had been unable to earn their own money as senior royals.

They will give up their income from the Sovereign Grant – the money taxpayers give to the Queen every year – and launch themselves onto the international celebrity circuit.

The graphic above which they posted to their website details how The Crown Estate works

They will need to strike lucrative commercial deals to maintain the lavish lifestyle to which they are comfortably accustomed.

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

The couple issued a declaration that they were looking forward to ‘becoming financially independent’.

They said they had ‘made the choice’ to ‘no longer receive funding’ from the Sovereign Grant, adding: ‘Their Royal Highnesses prefer to release this financial tie.’

No one knows how much the grant is worth to Harry and Meghan but in forfeiting it they have effectively liberated themselves from most accountability to taxpayers over their spending.

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.’

While the statement on the couple’s website makes great play of the fact they are giving up the money from the Sovereign Grant, it does not say whether they will be making do without the cash they get from Prince Charles via his private £1.2billion Duchy of Cornwall estate – which some argue should be regarded as a public asset.

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.

Playing paralegal Rachel Zane, she starred in over 100 episodes, which put her annual pay at an estimated £333,000.

She also appeared in several films, including romantic comedies and Horrible Bosses, where she had a 30-second cameo as a delivery girl.

Her role in the 2010 film Remember Me reportedly earned her £140,000, while she was paid £130,000 for The Candidate in the same year.

By keeping their royal titles – and given their high profiles on both sides of the Atlantic – Harry and Meghan are likely to be offered many lucrative engagements.

The world’s top speakers can command up to half a million dollars (£380,000) for a single after-dinner speech.

They may also be able to make money from merchandise.

In the past few weeks, the couple have trademarked their Sussex royal brand on more than 100 items, from T-shirts, books and magazines to teaching materials and emotional support groups.

They submitted trademark applications for textbooks, footwear, headgear, coats, jackets – and even pyjamas. The couple are already hugely wealthy.

Before marrying Harry, Meghan earned £61,000 a year running her lifestyle blog The Tig, which focused on food, travel, fashion and health and made the most of her celebrity endorsement deals.

She had to shut it down when she announced she was Harry’s girlfriend.

If it is now reactivated, it could make her far more money.

But the road ahead is fraught with danger if past royal commercial ventures are anything to go by.

Images of the Duchess of York infamously counting bundles of cash in a News of the World sting were hard to shake off.

Prince Edward once tried to combine royal duties with running a television production company, before it flopped.

And his wife Sophie Wessex was also caught by the News of the World uttering indiscretions when touting herself as a PR consultant.

The costs of Harry and Meghan’s lifestyle are high and likely to rise.

They employ a private secretary, who can earn up to £146,000, and a nanny for their son Archie who would also command a six-figure salary.

London ‘supernannies’ who work for the capital’s richest and most powerful families earn an average of £104,000, according to industry sources.

At Frogmore Cottage in Windsor they have a housekeeper – but no chef because Meghan loves cooking – two personal assistants and two palace orderlies probably earning between £20,000 and £30,000 each.

The couple came under scrutiny in 2019 for their use of private jets when they travelled together. The trips were privately funded by the couple.

They also visited family friend Sir Elton John’s holiday home, but the musician revealed he had paid for the cost of the flight himself and donated to a carbon- offsetting charity.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle want to KEEP their £650,000-a-year security and STAY living in Queen’s Frogmore Cottage that taxpayers paid £2.4m to renovate just months ago – but could now have to pay RENT to the monarch

By Sam Greenhill, Chief Reporter for the Daily Mail

Despite stepping back as frontline royals, Harry and Meghan have decided to keep Frogmore Cottage.

The public paid £2.4million to fund a renovation of the Grade II-listed property near Windsor Castle. And the couple announced last night they wanted to keep it so they would have ‘a place to call home in the United Kingdom’.

The phrasing raised the prospect that their main home will come to be regarded as being elsewhere, perhaps Canada.

It was decided taxpayers would help Harry and Meghan pay for Frogmore after the newlyweds eschewed their home in the grounds of Kensington Palace, wanting a place of their own.

Royal accounts show £2.4million of taxpayer money has been ploughed into renovating five-bedroomed Frogmore Cottage.

The major work included replacing defective ceiling beams and floor joists, and updating outmoded heating systems.

But the couple are also thought to have installed a luxury kitchen and bathroom in the building. Officials have been keen to downplay suggestions that this was an example of royal profligacy.

Last night, a statement on the official royal Sussex website said: ‘Frogmore Cottage will continue to be the property of Her Majesty 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.’

When the enormous public cost of fixing up Frogmore was first revealed, the couple faced criticism from some quarters.

Even fans of the royals were scathing about the costs, especially as Harry and Meghan ‘could have moved next door’ to a grand apartment within Kensington Palace if they had needed more space.

But amid reports of a rift with Prince William and Kate, the ‘substantial overhaul’ of Frogmore Cottage – a gift to the couple from the Queen – was approved by Her Majesty. The final bill is expected to top £3million.

One critic, Graham Smith, from the campaign group Republic, compared the renovation bill to a charity’s funding of a centre for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), saying: ‘A charity spent £2.4million on a support centre for marines suffering PTSD.

‘The taxpayers then spent the same amount on a luxury private home for Harry and Meghan.’

WHERE IT ALL WENT WRONG: That glorious wedding captivated the world – but from the festering debacle over Meghan’s father to the fracturing of the Fab Four, the facade soon began to crumble, as revealed by the Mail’s peerless RICHARD KAY

Not even 20 months have passed since that magical day when they stood on the steps of St George’s Chapel at Windsor and, with a kiss, enchanted a global audience of millions.

The wedding of Harry and Meghan was a love letter from Britain to the world, from the blue skies over a fairytale castle to the gospel choir and a carriage drive through streets thronged with cheering admirers.

This was a moment to savour, the grandson of the Queen marrying a mixed heritage young woman descended from slaves. But it was also about the fulfilment of a nation’s dreams for a prince, who was fixed in the collective national memory as a 12-year-old following his mother’s coffin.

Tragically, the shared happiness was misplaced. Harry and Meghan were not just a couple who wanted to embrace both modernity and tradition; they were bent on re-writing the rule book of what being a member of the Royal Family actually means.

We should perhaps have realised; after all, the manner in which the duchess’s father was ruthlessly excluded from the ceremony went beyond mere discourtesy.

At the time, the failure of Thomas Markle to give his daughter away was blamed squarely on his own foolishness.

Nor was much made of the absence of many of Harry’s oldest friends, the mates who had stuck by him through thick and thin. In their place came a new set of chums, megawatt celebrities who had not been around when he was at his lowest ebb, but who would add a glamorous touch of stardust to proceedings.

The tragedy of Harry and Meghan is that they could have been life-long royal heroes. The Prince himself was already much loved, second only to the Queen in popularity.

From seeing action on the front line in Afghanistan not once but twice, and from which he had emerged unscathed, Harry had won over those sceptical about his party prince reputation.

After the Army, affection for him soared following his triumphant visit to the Caribbean, where he posed with another superstar, the Olympic athlete Usain Bolt.

If elder brother William represented the dutiful if dull side of royalty, Harry was the fun side. He was open and amusing, taking everything in his stride. All he needed was to find the love of a good woman and his happiness — and ours — would be complete.

His romantic path had been strewn if not with broken hearts then certainly with trepidation. Before Meghan, he had wooed and lost two other beauties — Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas —who valued a life out of the limelight, rather than marriage and the goldfish bowl of royal attention.

In Meghan he found a soulmate who had at least experienced life in the spotlight. This, they both hoped, would provide an understanding for their future together.

But if anything this understanding has served to drive them apart from the very institution they say they want to support. It has led to William and Harry, once the closest of brothers, being alienated from one another, and to a series of ill-judged interventions that have provoked bafflement and, yes, even resentment.

Their preaching to ordinary people about how they should lead their lives — particularly about climate change — and what has come to be seen as a drip, drip, drip of complaints about how they are treated, has led to a real disconnect. Who would have thought that in recent times the mere mention of Harry and Meghan’s names at Buckingham Palace would lead some of the Queen’s most loyal courtiers to wrinkle their noses and pull a face.

The rot set in even before the glow of that May wedding day had passed. Shortly after returning from honeymoon, Meghan was asked by a younger member of the family how it had gone and, more to the point, where they had gone. ‘We’re not telling anyone,’ the new Duchess of Sussex smiled. Was this merely a symptom of someone still adjusting to royal life, or someone who was not about to make any compromises about their privacy?

It was not long before the Markle debacle over Meghan’s father was again rearing its head. A sweet but naïve figure, Thomas Markle did not help himself with his sudden fascination for giving interviews about his famous daughter.

But here was a man of limited resources suddenly thrust onto a global stage, unsure of protocol and stumbling from one misadventure to another.

Sympathy, at first, was with his daughter, but questions were soon asked about her and Harry’s duty of care towards him. In fact, the seeds of this family fall-out which, I believe, has shaped the way Harry and Meghan are now, were sown through their own casual ineptness.

They should never have allowed Markle to fall into the clutches of the paparazzi with his admittedly crass stunted pictures before the wedding. Why did no one from Harry’s office — or indeed Prince Charles’s — fly to Mexico, where the retired lighting director lived in genteel if reduced circumstances?

He should have been flown to Britain, housed in any number of royal residences, dressed and presented to the world on his daughter’s wedding day.

This lack of care inevitably led to another unseemly domestic outcome — the behaviour of Meghan’s extended family. As unattractive as they undoubtedly were, there was no doubt they had a point when they railed about the duchess’s treatment of her divorced father. Certainly it compared unfavourably with the kidgloves handling of Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, who played a prominent part in her daughter’s wedding.

Even so, many were prepared to cut Meghan some slack, pointing out how hard many young women — particularly Harry’s mother, Diana, had found royal life.

But revelations about the duchess’s apparently high-handed manner were causing unease. It emerged that there had been a row between Harry and one of the Queen’s closest aides over the tiara the duchess wanted to wear at her wedding. Several tiaras had been considered, but the Queen did not want to lend the one Meghan preferred. Words were exchanged and Harry backed down.

Meanwhile, it emerged that Meghan had complained about the mustiness of St George’s chapel and wanted it sprayed with air freshener before the ceremony. This was a young woman who was clearly not going to accept her position quietly.

There was further trouble over the bridesmaids’ dresses, which was an early sign of the great tensions to come. It was reported that Meghan had reduced Kate, her soon-to-be sister-in-law, to tears, because of her manner. Weddings, of course, often lead to domestic tensions but are usually forgotten afterwards. With Harry and Meghan, they just increased.

Meghan’s decision to hold an extravagant baby shower in New York didn’t just shock people, it offended them, too. What possible justification could there be for the private jets — no matter who picked up the bill — as well as luxury hotels, lavish parties and expensive baby gifts?

It was the kind of look associated with the Kardashians, not the Windsors. Then came the biggest shock of all — the secrecy over the birth of baby Archie. Here, not just tradition but common sense was upended. They announced there would be no bulletins on when or where the baby would be born, no traditional photograph and they even declined to say who was in charge of delivery.

This didn’t just upset royal fans but the Royal Family, too. For generations, the births of those close to the throne have been proclaimed on a notice placed just inside the railings of Buckingham Palace. It always includes the names of the doctors in attendance.

Harry and Meghan simply ignored protocol and did it their way. While touching it undoubtedly was as Harry spoke of his pride and joy, the moment was riven with controversy. As for the birth, they cackhandedly arranged for a statement saying Meghan had gone into labour to be issued after the baby had actually been born.

But the real insult came when baby Archie’s christening was shrouded in secrecy. The couple refused to say who the godparents were, and when photographs did appear the infant’s face was largely obscured.

Some may see this as unnecessary carping about a couple who want to ensure their son is not brought up in the royal way, but has the privacy that was denied Harry and William as they grew up. Others suggest that all they were really doing was weaponising their family in their battles for privacy.

Meanwhile, the ‘fab four’, as the royal brothers and their wives had been dubbed, was no more. Harry and Meghan moved to Windsor, separated his office from William’s and split from their highly successful charity, the Royal Foundation .

This was not just a change in direction but a unilateral declaration of independence. Nothing illustrated this more than their decision to give an interview to ITV while on a royal tour of southern Africa last autumn. It was a mistake of historic proportions. Standing against a backdrop of some of the most deprived regions on earth, they complained to the camera about their lot.

At the same time Harry’s comments triggered another wave of disbelief. Questioned about his relationship with William he confirmed what until then had been mere tittle tattle: that the once whisper-close brothers had fallen out. How much this domestic heartache is at the centre of the Sussexes’s bombshell is not yet clear. But the repercussion are going to echo for a long time to come.

Immune to their privilege. Wrapped up in themselves. And, sadly, throwing in the towel so soon… SARAH VINE asks: ‘Whatever happened to the enchanting happy couple we all fell in love with?’

Well, that was about as much of a surprise as a drunk uncle at a wedding. For months now, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have had the look of two people who would rather suck lemons than continue to be an active part of the Royal Family.

Frankly, it’s a surprise they’ve lasted this long. That said, I’m very sad to see them go. And so soon. It feels like they’ve barely got stuck in, hardly had a chance to understand what the job really entails before handing in their resignation.

It’s almost as though they never really had any intention of trying to stick it out at all, as though right from the start the notion was always there in the back of their minds that if life as Duke and Duchess didn’t live up to expectation, they would simply leave.

Being a part of the Royal Family is not easy. It may carry all the trappings of privilege, but there is a hefty price to pay. It takes determination and a deep-rooted sense of duty to withstand both the scrutiny and expectations of the British public and press. A strong backbone and a thick skin are just as vital as an elegant wave.

Successive generations of royals have had to learn these lessons in their own way. None – not even the Queen – have been immune to the pressures that come with such a rarefied existence. The personal sacrifices that have to be made can be hard to bear, all the more so because they have to be borne in private.

And yet, for those who endure, the rewards are great. Not just the undying love and respect of the British people, but also a chance to pursue one’s passions and really make a difference where it matters. Both Prince Charles and Prince William have battled their own demons, and risen finally to the challenge.

Which is why it’s all the more unsettling to see Harry – once the rumbustious soldier, never afraid of getting stuck in among the lads – flying the white flag so early on in the struggle.

I suppose there is a kind of courage in knowing when you’ve had enough, and in that respect Harry has been clear. But, in truth, it’s not entirely obvious what has driven him to such a conclusion: was the £2.4million taxpayer-funded refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage not lavish enough? The outpouring of affection at their multi-million-pound wedding insufficiently fawning? The Queen’s repeated invitations to stay – rebuffed more than once – not hospitable enough?

It’s almost as though nothing matters to this couple apart from their own immediate happiness and gratification, as though they are incapable of seeing beyond their own little bubble of privilege.

It has often been speculated as to whether they might end up walking away from Britain, but the timing of this announcement could hardly be more insensitive, or more indicative of how little either seems to understand the true nature of their roles as Royals.

Prince Philip has only just come out of hospital. The Yorks are still weathering a storm of scandal. In the wider world, Britain’s forces stand in peril in the Middle East. Yet this is the moment they choose to walk away – and without telling the Queen.

Yet for all that, my reaction to this story is more sadness than anger. Especially when you think back to how happy we all were when Harry finally found his bride, how excited we were to share in his delight.

That little lost boy deprived of his mother had had it rough, not helped by the pain that a bitter parental divorce can bring.

All those years of drunken escapades, Nazi uniforms, strip billiards in Vegas, fleeting Sloaney girlfriends – they all melted away when it became clear that Harry had found a woman he felt could be his own rock to cling on to in a turbulent life.

For all those reasons, the nation invested such hope in their union – one which also provided an incredible opportunity to breathe fresh life into the institution of royalty.

Here was a beautiful, successful, independent young woman from a mixed-race background who had made her own way in life against considerable odds, and whose ambition and ability were an inspiration to so many.

But there is a big difference between being a famous soap actress and a member of the Royal Family, and grasping that distinction is something Meghan has clearly struggled with.

For a minor Hollywood celebrity, she has always seemed curiously ill-at-ease with the public nature of her role as royal consort, uncomfortable with the proprietorial nature of the deal.

Now, for whatever reason, Harry seems to have been distanced from his own family in the same way Meghan extracted herself from much of her own, and also walked away from her first husband.

That said, let’s be clear: while the temptation is to blame Meghan for the couple’s decision to walk away, in truth the ultimate responsibility lies with Harry.

Meghan at least has the excuse that she was not born to this role, that she had no previous experience, that she could not have ever truly known how it would turn out. He, by contrast, knew exactly what he was letting her in for.

Harry’s own struggles before he met Meghan may have played some part in his choice of bride. Had he married a more conventional woman, a member of the British upper classes, he would never have had the chance to escape the institution that, in his heart of hearts, he still blames for the loss of his mother. In some ways, Meghan is for Harry the ultimate excuse for an opt-out. She may be the catalyst, but she’s not the cause.

It also, perhaps, explains why he has, time and again, ridden to her defence so passionately. Through her, he has seized the chance to hit back at all the injustices he perceives as having persecuted his late mother, to do for Meghan what as a young boy he could never do for Diana.

On a more straightforward level, to see someone you love judged because of who and what you stand for is so very hard, especially when you have no say in the matter.

Harry was raised to this life, he did not choose it; he has, for all his faults, endured great personal suffering because of it. And to have to stand by and watch it make the woman he loves so clearly unhappy must be agonising.

It is this, I think, that explains his decision. And also, looking back over the past 18 months, his gradual detachment from his family – his brother William, to whom he has always been so close, his father Charles – and some of his oldest friends.

And at the very least he could have warned them of his sudden departure plans. Fired up with a determination to make a success of his marriage at all costs, to succeed where his father failed, he has turned his back on so much of what made him.

It is also why, since he married Meghan, we have witnessed the birth of a new Harry, one shaped less in the image of his own family and more in the mould of Meghan and her fashionable and wealthy international circle.

The woke, somewhat humourless and very entitled Harry we see before us now is almost unrecognisable as the fellow we knew and loved.

Of course, people grow up, they change. We can’t forever expect him to be happy-go-lucky Harry. But still, it’s quite a transformation. And so it’s goodbye Windsor, hello Winnipeg, or whatever corner of North America where they feel most at home. What else is there to say, save to offer our best hopes for happiness with their son. And perhaps to add: be careful what you wish for.

Their very starry new social circle: From the Clooneys to Oprah, ALISON BOSHOFF reveals the not-so regal A-list celebrity set who’ll welcome them with open arms

Starting at their wedding in May 2018 – which featured a startling number of celebrity pals of the bride – it was abundantly clear that the Sussexes were forging a starry new social circle, away from stuffier royal circles and Harry’s old school and Army pals.

The friends with whom they will be spending more time and, quite possibly, striking high-profile media deals, are the image of what Harry and Meghan want to become.

They are super-successful career-minded sophisticates, based internationally, who have both giant incomes and impressive portfolios of charity work.

Oprah Winfrey – who it appears had barely met Meghan in 2018 (although she had done yoga on her lawn with Meghan’s mum Doria) – has already snagged Harry to contribute to an Apple TV documentary about mental health.

Maybe she will be a conduit for further lucrative media work for the couple as they strive to gain that ‘financial independence’ of the statement. Certainly, she remains the ‘Queen’ in America, where she has a $340million fortune and her own TV network and is generally rated as the most influential woman in media.

Meghan is also very close to Oprah’s best friend and confidante Gayle King, a TV news anchor with CBS. Gayle spent time with the couple at Frogmore as they awaited the birth of Archie. She was among the invited few who came to that baby shower in New York – an event which, curiously, Meghan’s mother did not attend. She will be well placed to smooth their path into any media outlet you could name and there will be no shortage of others to advise them.

So who are the starry bunch who will be sustaining them on this journey out of the Royal Family and into the sparkling if shallow waters of Hollywood, Toronto and all points West?

Meghan and Harry have made it their business to befriend only those with impeccable political and social credentials. No dodgy oligarchs for them.

Barack and Michelle Obama are friends. The former president and his wife hold them in dear esteem and Michelle met up with Meghan while she was in the UK to promote her autobiography, Becoming, last year.

Mrs Obama was reportedly ‘instrumental’ in the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s romance – although it’s not clear quite what part she played.

The Obamas and the Prince were first brought together by the Invictus Games, created by Harry for injured, sick or disabled military personnel and veterans.

At the second Games in Florida in 2016, Michelle took part in numerous events and said of Harry: ‘He truly is Prince Charming’. In return, the Prince lent support to her ‘Full Effect’ education programme for under-privileged teenagers.

GEORGE AND AMAL Clooney attended the royal wedding in May 2018. It seems that it is barrister Amal, who grew up in Buckinghamshire, who fostered the friendship after being introduced to Meghan by mutual friends at the exclusive London private members club, Soho House. She has since opened her contacts book to Meghan, recommending everyone from hair stylists to interior designers and key staff members. In August 2018, the pair spent a long weekend with actor George and Amal at the Clooneys holiday home on Lake Como, Italy.

Perhaps more surprising is the inclusion of David and Victoria Beckham, actor, comedian and chat show host James Corden and his wife Julia, and fashion designer Misha Nonoo and her billionaire oil heir husband Mike Hess. This new social landscape took shape in 2018 when Prince Harry and Meghan based themselves in a rented house in Oxfordshire.

Meghan’s close friends, the tennis star Serena Williams, and the Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, were entertained at Soho Farmhouse by the couple.

They also saw Jessica Mulroney, Meghan’s best friend for years and sometime stylist. She is based in Toronto and it is here that the Royal couple are expected to buy a temporary base.

Pre-Harry, Meghan spent many weekends in Toronto enjoying family time with her and her husband Ben, a TV anchor, and son of the former Canadian PM. Their children John, Brian, and Ivy were among the page boys and flower girls at the Royal wedding and regard Meghan as an honorary aunt.

Meghan’s best friend, Markus Anderson, who works for the Soho House group, remains a key member of the Duchess’s ‘support team’ and regularly socialises with the Royal couple.

It was Anderson who invited her to join Soho House in Toronto four years ago when she was a little known TV actress based there and he facilitated all of Harry and Meghan’s early dates at Soho Houses in London and in Oxfordshire. He also arranged her low-key hen weekend celebrations – at Soho Farmhouse of course –and persuaded the pair to attend the boozy launch of the new Soho House in Amsterdam.

Markus is also very good friends with New York-based fashion designer Misha Nonoo, who is said to have introduced the couple to each other. She and Harry went to Misha’s wedding.

The royal couple are also close to James Corden and his wife Julia. James made a speech at the eoyal wedding dressed as King Henry VIII, at the reception. Julia now has a new job running the interior design company Charles & Co with Vicky Charles, who used to oversee all Soho House interior design. She is said to have lent her touch to the Sussexes’ house at Frogmore.

Advice on bicontinental living and its complexities can be offered by the Beckhams, who spend time in LA where they used to live, and Miami where David has a football team, as well as having a barn conversion just around the corner from Soho Farmhouse.

Harry is particularly close to the former footballer whom he has known for years through charitable causes, while fashion designer Victoria has become a huge fan of Meghan’s. The entire Beckham clan went to Australia to support Harry at the Invictus Games – for which David is an ambassador – in Sydney.

Other friends include Stella McCartney, another Soho Farmhouse regular, often with her young family in tow.

Meghan has passed through her professional life forging and, if necessary, dropping various friends.

The broadcaster Piers Morgan was once a contact and recipient of her charm when she was a relative nobody on Suits. After she met Harry, he was dropped. Socialite Lizzy Cundy was introduced to her at a charity event pre-Harry: Lizzy says that they were friends but that she too was sent into social Siberia once starrier prospects hove into view.

And the story has been repeated. Others who have proved not quite Meghan’s cup of chai soy latte are Harry’s old crowd of drinking buddies like Guy Pelly, Tom and Lara Inskip and Astrid Harbord. Friends in this set were grumbling last summer that they ‘never saw Harry any more. ‘He’s even thought to have given up shooting under the influence of Meghan, which put him firmly out of those circles in any case. They will surely see even less of him now.

As another royal departs with an American divorcee… History is repeating — but AN WILSON believes it may be for the best  

This can only be described as an abdication. Meghan and Harry have in effect withdrawn from their royal duties and will spend a large part of their future lives in North America.

It is hard not to feel history repeating itself. Even the wedding car that drove the future Duchess of Sussex to be married to Prince Harry in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, was the very car that drove Wallis Simpson to attend the funeral of her husband, the former Edward VIII.

In 1936, the immensely popular, lovable new king had renounced the throne because he wanted to marry Mrs Simpson, an American divorcee. That event is seared into the consciousness of the Royal Family: it has obsessed them ever since.

The explanation given at the time was that Edward was to be the head of the Church of England, which forbade divorce.

But behind this convenient excuse, the Establishment wanted rid of Edward VIII. They found his fascist-sympathising politics dodgy and they feared his outspoken, witty wife. They felt much safer with the shy, stammering Duke of York and his homely, aristocratic Scottish wife, who became our beloved Queen Mum.

Harry and Meghan’s ‘abdication’ is of course nowhere near as dramatic as Edward VIII’s was 84 years ago. Yet there seems little doubt that their decision has shocked Buckingham Palace and the wider Royal Family as it has shocked the country.

It has been suggested that Meghan and Harry made their bombshell announcement without consulting the Queen. If true, that is, in my view, an atrocious lapse of judgment. The wording from the Palace last night, that ‘these are complicated issues that will take time to work through’, hints that the decision to abandon their royal duties is perhaps not as final as Meghan and Harry might wish it to be. Yet, for all that, I believe that this may prove to be for the best.

Unlike the Abdication of 1936, which really was an existential crisis for the Royal Family and which led to the entirely unexpected ascension of George VI to the throne, this ‘abdication’ will strengthen the institution of the monarchy.

When Harry and Meghan had their very public wedding – Meghan, like Wallis, was 34 when she met her future royal husband – many of us felt that a new chapter had been opened in the history of the Windsors. Here was a breath of fresh air: a feminist, mixed-race American who had established a career for herself as an actress, joining a slightly stuffy English family. Yet the love affair between Meghan and the British press was doomed to be short-lived.

The truth is that this charming, intelligent, beautiful woman hadn’t a clue what the monarchy really is, or what role minor members of the Royal Family have to play in public life. For his part, Harry perhaps didn’t fully understand his own role as a younger son. Both seemed oblivious to the fact that the British monarchy is a delicate constitutional miracle, not a vehicle for its members to press home their views on the subjects that interest them, however noble.

A minor royal such as Harry or Meghan (Harry is now sixth in line to the throne) essentially exists to be on standby for public engagements that senior royals are too busy to fulfil. They must also keep their views private. Yet Meghan, as befitting her role as a socially conscious and ambitious career woman, wanted her views on everything from climate change to women’s rights to be centre stage. Sooner or later, this lovable pair – the playboy prince with heroic war service behind him and the glamorous Californian – were perhaps always going to come a cropper.

This sort-of abdication, this sort-of exile, allows Harry and Meghan to continue supporting their favourite charities and promoting the causes in which they so passionately believe.

Their millions of fans around the world will go on adoring them wherever they appear. Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, the Windsor show goes on.

As the Queen’s prodigiously long reign comes slowly to an end, it has become ever clearer that the monarchy is a central part of our constitution and our life as a nation.

But, as Prince Andrew’s disgrace last year made plain, we do not want that treasured institution to be confused by the low – or indeed high – view we might have, as readers of newspapers and followers of the media, of individual minor royals. There are now very many minor royals, living sensible lives away from the glare of the media.

That is how it should be. All that matters for the monarchy to flourish is for the succession to work.

One day the Queen will be succeeded. King Charles III will presumably have a short reign, but few people now doubt his suitability for the role; objections to the marital status of the Duchess of Cornwall are nowadays few.

Next come Prince William and Kate Middleton, who have been exemplary, behaving with good humour, loyalty and dignity on all occasions, and providing us with an heir to this wonderful institution.

That’s enough. We do not need ‘the Royal Family’, that rather bogus concept invented by Prince Albert, with all its extended members compelled to feel as if they are on parade.

We in turn – especially we of the Press – have felt it was our right to pry into their personal affairs, for the very good reason that, until recently, so many of them were living on the Civil List, paid for by you and me.

Only a pared-down royal family will allow this institution to survive long into this century. Only Princes Charles, William and George are preparing for – and being groomed to – wear the crown. All the other figures are walk-on parts in the royal soap opera.

So, farewell, Harry and Meghan. And good luck. Your departure will give you the chance to live your lives without the awkward sense that you have no clear role to play in British public life.

And – as you would surely wish – it will strengthen the institution from which you have so dramatically stepped down.

This was a shoddy way to treat the Queen, writes ROBERT HARDMAN… Yes, the monarchy will survive but what will the true cost be of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle turning their backs on the Firm?

The New Year has barely begun and the royal commentators are already dusting off the ‘annus horribilis’ moniker again.

For it is hard to see last night’s decision by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to step back from the Royal Family as anything other than the start of a process with which the whole country is all too wearily familiar.

Brexit will not be the only seismic departure for which January 2020 is long remembered.

However, let us be clear: though this is the prelude to much anguish for the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge, the monarchy is not in crisis. The direct line — reinforced just last week with another enchanting portrait of the Queen and heirs one to three — is as sturdy as it was yesterday morning. This is not an Edward and Wallis moment. This is not ‘Rexit’.

The sixth-in-line to the throne and his wife have decided to declare unilateral independence from a thousand-year-old institution on their own terms.

Coming just a month after another second son — Prince Andrew — inflicted a very different sort of damage on the institution, it is going to require some hard talking and painful home truths.

Just as the Queen and the Prince of Wales had to join forces to deal with the crisis created by the Duke of York following his disastrous interview to Newsnight, so there will need to be a joint approach in their handling of this predicament.

The Sussexes will be mortified even to be compared to the Duke of York, of course. But there can no longer be any question of letting ‘Harry be Harry’ and hoping it all just goes away.

There are also political implications here which have clearly been given zero consideration by the Duke and Duchess, as we shall see.

Last night’s statement followed the most preliminary of internal discussions — between officials — about how the Sussexes might forge a new modus vivendi. With little more than a few outline thoughts on the table, the couple then took it upon themselves to lay out their future as some sort of done deal with just a few loose ends to be sorted out.

Inside the Palace, the calmest courtiers sigh through gritted teeth that things are ‘complicated’. In understated Palacespeak, that boils down to an expasperated: ‘We haven’t a clue what the hell is going on.’

‘It’s just not fair on the Queen. It is disrespectful of her,’ says one insider. Another goes so far as to call it ‘a shoddy way to treat the Sovereign’.

The anger inside royal HQ is palpable. These are wounds that will not heal easily.

However honourable and well-intentioned Harry and Meghan’s intentions to continue ‘to honour our duty to the Queen, the Commonwealth and our patronages’, the very idea is fraught with contradictions. And that is before we even get to the all-important subject of money.

Royal duty is all or nothing. It is not something one ‘honours’ when one happens to be in a particular time zone. In referring to their future trans-Atlantic existence, the Sussexes have pointedly referred to ‘North America’ rather than Canada.

While Canada is in the Commonwealth, the U.S. is not. So what happens when duty calls in the UK or elsewhere in the Commonwealth and you are already committed to a red-carpet do in Hollywood?

Even more nebulous is the Sussexes’ claim that ‘we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution’.

The whole point of a monarchy is that it does not do ‘progressive new roles’. It is not the regal wing of the Liberal Democrats. It stands for stability and continuity.

It has to move with the times, of course, and it must never be a barrier to progress. It should always seek to assist it; witness the work of organisations such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and the Prince’s Trust.

But it is not for members of the family to rewrite the compact between royalty and state which has evolved over centuries purely because they feel put-upon by the media.

And it is even more damaging to do it in public without having the courtesy to tell the family first.

Though the Sussexes were clearly aggrieved that talk of their plans had leaked to a newspaper yesterday, it has dismayed the rest of the family that their solution has been to chuck the whole thing into the open. That is not the royal way.

As always in such matters, it is money which goes to the heart of the problem. It is very admirable of the couple to ‘work to become financially independent’ but that is a notoriously difficult path to tread. The Earl and Countess of Wessex found that some years ago when they did their best to pursue commercial careers but were accused of exploiting royal connections. They felt they had no option but to revert to the tried and tested template of the ‘working royal’ and they have been a great asset to the institution ever since. It may be a life of privilege, funded largely by the Queen from the Privy Purse and not from public funds, but it is a life governed by codes and expectations and strict limits on the use of royal status.

The Sussexes’ position is not sustainable. If a member of the family seeks true financial independence, making a living from non-royal activities, accusations of exploiting the royal brand are inevitable. That, in turn, can tarnish the rest of The Firm.

One royal insider warns that this could lead to something the Queen has spent her whole life trying to avoid – being dragged in to politics. For when it comes to semi-royalty, who pays for what? When the Home Secretary is pressed to find cuts in the police budget, it will be hard to fall back on the old standard reply that ‘we never comment on royal security’. What about semi-royal security? And how are British – or ‘North American’ – embassies and high commissions supposed to respond when the Sussexes decide to travel overseas on semi-royal business? It has been a question which diplomats have sometimes raised with the Foreign Office in connection with the Duke of York’s travel overseas but the global profile of Sussexes is of an entirely different order of magnitude.

Friends of the Sussexes have heard the Duke angrily pointing out in private that very little of his costs fall on the taxpayer anyway. However, though most of the costs of his growing household currently fall on the Duchy of Cornwall – and will fall on the King in a future reign – there are still demands on the public purse for security, royal residences, royal transport and staff.

All these things could have been addressed and, in large part, resolved if negotiations within the Palace had been continued in private. However, as the Sussexes are about to find out, negotiating in public is much harder.

Almost exactly 100 years before another member of the Royal Family was getting married. But HRH Princess Patricia of Connaught had elected to make a choice in 1919.

Back then, the daughter of Queen Victoria’s third son was expected to marry royalty and had once been tipped as a future Tsarina of Russia.

Instead, she chose to marry a (very posh) commoner, Alexander Ramsay, at Westminster Abbey.

In doing so, she readily agreed to surrender her royal styles and titles on her wedding day, though not her place in the line of succession.

She was given the title of ‘Lady Patricia’ for the rest of her life.

As such, she is the only member of the family who has entered a church as a Princess and left as ‘Lady’.

I doubt it is a template which will appeal to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

But that is the clearest example of someone offloading the ‘senior’ royal status which Harry and Meghan wish to shelve.

How pointless all that talk of a ‘slimmed-down Royal Family’ looks now.

With three ‘senior’ members of the family now out of the frame – the Duke of York very much against his wishes and the Sussexes by their own design – that crucial but unsung day-to-day work of regional visits and generally representing the Monarch will now land on fewer shoulders.

The Queen will now be more grateful than ever for the oft-neglected input of the Princess Royal, the Wessexes and the cousins, royalty who seldom flourish in the spotlight but who now, more than ever, will be needed to help to keep the show on the road.

That show will go on, of course, because it always has and because this is an institution that has always been far stronger than any individual.

Click here to read more.