THE Queen has confirmed publicly for the first time that she does not want Harry and Meghan to retire as full-time royals.
But Her Majesty said she accepts and supports her grandson’s wish to embark on a ‘new life’ — and has appeared to hint that the couple could make a permanent move abroad.
She said the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would have to divide their time between the UK and Canada during a transition period before becoming ‘independent’.
The 93-year-old said: ‘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.’
She added: ‘Harry and Meghan have made clear they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives.
‘It has, therefore, been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK. 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 reference to a transition period prompted social media wags to liken the situation to Brexit and the talk during EU negotiations that Britain might seek a ‘Canada-style’ trade deal.
The Queen’s statement followed a royal summit at her Sandringham estate. Harry, 35, his brother Prince William, 37, and their dad Prince Charles, 71, attended the session in Norfolk, with Meghan, 38, believed to have joined in by phone.
The meeting was arranged after the duke and duchess revealed their desire to ‘step back’ from royal life in a surprise announcement last week that is said to have infuriated William and Charles.
The three princes all left the estate separately once the family conference was over but the Queen said it had been ‘very constructive’.
Her statement confirmed previous reports that she wanted her grandson’s future settled swiftly, now that his desire to go is out in the open.
She is said to have been left hurt and disappointed when Harry and Meghan allegedly defied her orders by telling the world they were quitting before the details had been thrashed out.
It is thought that outstanding issues still to be resolved include the question of whether the couple should keep their royal titles if they exploit their fame to make a private income.
Problems on the to-do list are also likely to include their publicly funded security arrangements and tax, which they might find themselves liable to pay both here and in Canada.
Another issue is Frogmore Cottage, their home in the grounds of Windsor Castle. It is owned by the Queen and was refurbished with £2.4million from the taxpayer-funded sovereign grant.
The couple, whose first child Archie was born last May, have said they aim to be ‘financially independent’ by giving up their annual share of the grant. But they said it accounted for only five per cent of their ‘office’ expenditure. And it is unclear if they will continue to receive the cash from Prince Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall that makes up the rest of their income.
The portfolio of land and business interests is exempt from corporation tax but the public are seen to benefit because the profits are used to fund the royal activities of Charles and his sons, which Harry wants to step back from.
The Queen’s announcement followed reports of a long-term rift between the duke and duchess and other royals.
Sources close to the couple yesterday denied speculation that they had been threatening to give a ‘no-holds-barred’ TV interview if their plan to quit was blocked by the family.
Harry and Meghan: Countdown to crisis
July 2016: Pair meet on blind date set up by a mutual friend.
November 2016: Harry confirms he is in a relationship with Meghan and makes a public statement attacking ‘racial undertones’ of media coverage.
November 2017: The couple announce their engagement.
May 2018: They get married at Windsor Castle.
October 2018: Kensington Palace reveals Meghan is pregnant.
May 2019: Son Archie is born.
June 2019: The couple split from joint charity with William and Kate and start their own Sussex Royal foundation.
October 2019: Harry and Meghan admit to struggling with the limelight in an ITV documentary.
November 2019: The couple, along with Archie, leave for a six-week break to North America.
January 8, 2020: They announce their intention to ‘step back’ as senior royals.