Queen agrees to Harry and Meghan's wish for new roles

Queen Elizabeth with Prince Harry and his wife Meghan in a July 2018 photo. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Queen Elizabeth with Prince Harry and his wife Meghan in a July 2018 photo. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SANDRINGHAM (England)• • Britain's Queen Elizabeth has reluctantly agreed to her grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan's wish for a more independent future after the British royal family held crisis talks on Monday to resolve a widening rift among the Windsors.

Prince Harry and his American actress wife will now begin a "period of transition" that will see them split their time between Britain and Canada as they seek a lifestyle less encumbered by royal duties and attempt to end their reliance on public funding.

It comes after what the 93-year-old Queen described as "very constructive discussions" she had held with Prince Harry, his elder brother Prince William, and their father and heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, at the monarch's rural Sandringham estate in eastern England.

A final decision on the future of the couple, officially the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will be determined in days, the Queen said in a statement.

"My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan's desire to create a new life as a young family," she said.

"Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working members of the royal family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family."

The statement was highly unusual both in its informal tone and its personal nature, addressing the couple by name rather than by their titles.

The royal crisis was triggered when Prince Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, publicly announced last week that they wished to step back from royal duties and spend more time in North America.

Although there had been initial discussions about their future, neither the Queen nor Prince Charles had been consulted beforehand, a step seen as hurtful and premature by a family whose roots go back through a thousand years of European history.

It also exposed suspected divisions in the Windsor family and prompted soul-searching over what it means to be part of the royalty in the 21st century.

SUPPORTIVE OF COUPLE'S DESIRE

My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan's desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working members of the royal family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.

Queen Elizabeth, following "very constructive" talks between herself, Prince Harry, Prince William and Prince Charles.

Prince Harry and Meghan say they want a "progressive" new role for themselves and financial independence.

They have also made clear that they were struggling with intense media scrutiny.

Last year, they announced legal action against a British tabloid, and Prince Harry said that newspapers had been bullying his wife in a way reminiscent of the hounding his mother Princess Diana had suffered before her death in a Paris car crash in 1997.

But it is unclear how they will pull off a partial pullback from royal roles - which some media have dubbed "Megxit" in a play on Britain's tortuous Brexit departure from the European Union - or who will pay for their transatlantic lifestyle.

Currently, they are mainly funded by money from Prince Charles' Duchy of Cornwall estate as their royal roles have precluded them seeking personal incomes.

"These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days," the Queen said in her statement.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2020, with the headline 'Queen agrees to Harry and Meghan's wish for new roles'. Print Edition | Subscribe