Meghan returns to Canada as royal courtiers chart path for independence
Royal split was inevitable, says broadcaster and friend of the couple
Meghan, the wife of Prince Harry, has gone back to Canada to be with their son after the couple provoked a rift with the Royal Family by unexpectedly announcing they would be stepping back from their roles as senior members and would spend more time in North America.
Queen Elizabeth and other senior royals were said to be trying to calm the crisis by thrashing out a plan for Harry and Meghan after the couple went public with their announcement this week.
The monarch, who is at her Sandringham estate in eastern England, held a conference call to discuss the issue with her son Prince Charles and grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry, British media reported Friday.
The couple spent six weeks in Canada at the end of last year before returning to England, and their first official engagement of 2020 was to visit Canada House to say thank you for what they said had been an "unbelievable" welcome.
Their baby son, Archie, remained in Canada as Harry and Meghan returned to announce earlier this week that they would step back from royal duties and build a more "progressive" role for themselves.
Meghan has now returned to Canada to be with her son, a spokesperson said.
The former actress is American, but has longstanding ties to Canada, having lived in Toronto for years while filming the TV legal drama Suits.
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'Slimmed down monarchy'
The couple — formally the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — said they had been reflecting for months before making the decision, which would see them divide their time between the United Kingdom and North America to allow their family the space they need. They also said they intend to become financially independent.
A friend of the couple, broadcaster Tom Bradby, said Harry and Meghan were made aware while in Canada over the holidays that the monarchy's future focus would be on those at the top of the line of succession.
Bradby, an ITV television anchor who filmed a documentary with Harry and Meghan while they were in Africa, appeared in a news program on his network and described the royal split as inevitable. The wish by the duke and duchess to leave the grind of front-line royal duty had been known, but the timing of their announcement was not.
"It's certainly not true to say the palace were blindsided by this," Bradby told ITV.
"The couple's view was they came back and wanted to talk to the family about their plans. It had been made clear to them in their absence there was going to be a slimmed down monarchy and they weren't really a part of it."
Discussions over the couple's future had only been at a preliminary stage, according to a royal source, and neither the Queen nor Prince Charles — Harry's father and heir to the throne — were consulted on the release of their statement or its contents.
The royal source said it was hoped a successful resolution would take "days not weeks."
The latest developments reveal more divisions within the British monarchy, which was just rocked in November by Prince Andrew's disastrous television interview about his relationship with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew, the queen's second son, has stepped away from royal duties and patronages after being accused by a woman who says she was an Epstein trafficking victim who slept with the prince.
Harry and Meghan faced a barrage of criticism from the British press over their decision.
"Queen fights to save monarchy," the U.K. Daily Mirror said on its front page, while the Sun tabloid spoke of "Crisis talks after couple defied Queen."
Harry and Meghan have long complained of intrusive media coverage and accused some British media commentators of racism. They slammed the country's long-standing arrangements for royal media coverage and insisted that from now on they prefer to communicate directly with the public through social media.
Labour Party leadership contender Clive Lewis told backers Friday at his campaign launch that he understood their decision.
"It is extremely unfortunate and a sign of the media we have that they feel they have to do this," he said.
"I know it is not the only reason. But if you look at the intrusion on their lives, if you look at the racism that Meghan Markle has experienced in the British media, then I can understand why."
While other members of the Royal Family have had paying jobs, it was not immediately clear how Harry, 35 and sixth in line to the throne, and Meghan, 38, could become what royal biographers said was effectively "half-royal" — and who would pay for their transatlantic lifestyles.
At the moment, nearly all of their income is provided by Charles's Duchy of Cornwall estate, although the cost of their security, estimated by newspapers to be hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, is currently met by the U.K. government.
The Times newspaper said Charles might cut off their funding if they moved away from royal duties altogether, although public relations experts said they could use their global fame to make large sums through public speaking, endorsements or their own TV production company.
Harry and Meghan have considerable assets of their own. Harry inherited an estimated $9.1 million US from his late mother, Princess Diana, as well as money from his great-grandmother. Meghan has money from her successful acting career.
Six months ago Harry and Meghan applied to the U.K. Intellectual Property Office to trademark the phrases Sussex Royal and Sussex Royal Foundation for items ranging from books and charity campaigns to pyjamas and socks.
"The monarchy needs to be asked serious questions about what they're up to, it's not good enough to be told to wait for clarification or to be left reading the tea leaves to work out what their intentions are," said Graham Smith, from campaign group Republic, which wants to abolish the monarchy.
A YouGov poll of 1,327 Britons found that 45 per cent supported the couple's decision to step away from royal life, but 63 per cent believed their Duchy of Cornwall funding should end.
With files from The Associated Press