“The fact that the palace put out a statement saying things were ‘complicated’ and discussions were at an early stage shows courtiers have been taken by surprise and there is a major rift,” says Phil.
“I’m sure the Queen, Prince Charles and William will feel Harry has not thought this through. She is very fond of Harry and I think she will feel very let down by this.”
After a tumultuous end to 2019, her grandson’s decision would no doubt be another devastating blow for the Queen, with Her Majesty already dealing with her son, Prince Andrew, being caught up in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and court case, and her husband Philip’s declining health.
The BBC reported that the palace is “disappointed” and that senior royals are “hurt” by the announcement, but royal fans have had a mixed response.
While some wished the Sussexes well on their next chapter, others have blamed the duchess, with one person commenting: “Meghan doesn’t belong there and she never will. I hope you both get a real job.”
With the news coming off the back of Harry and Meghan’s trip to Canada, along with the former actress’ strong ties to the country, rumours are circling that the couple may make a permanent home there. New York and Chicago are also said to be on the list.
“‘They had a wonderful time in Canada over the last few months and don’t want that feeling to end. So, this is the result. It allows them to move forward and Meghan can re-establish her career,” another royal source says. “They can dress it up how they like… but this is really serious.”
“Harry talks about being financially independent but he has substantial money from his mother, so funds aren’t an issue. Plus, they could clean up money-wise in America.”
Meghan may even take on acting work again, and with her host of high-profile celebrity contacts, including Oprah Winfrey and the Clooneys, it wouldn’t be difficult for her to carve out a career.
The Sun reported that last year the couple quietly built up a commercial team in Hollywood, including Meghan’s former business manager and PR company, Sunshine Sachs.
“Make no mistake, Harry and Meghan intend to make a lot of money and start taking commercial deals as soon as possible,” the source added.
But royal watchers have been quick to remind the couple that despite their plans to earn money for themselves, they will still be funded by British taxpayers. The UK’s Daily Telegraph reported that Harry and Meghan will keep Frogmore Cottage, their home in Windsor that costs taxpayers $4.6 million, and maintain their security detail, paid for by the British taxpayer. Phil has also questioned Harry’s ability to continue to collaborate with the Queen, the Commonwealth and their patronages when he is over 6000km away.
“How can he carry on with royal duties and support the Queen when he is living in Canada?” Phil asks. “How will taxpayers put up with paying for their security and lifestyle if they are not giving anything back in terms of royal duties?”
Harry and Meghan have endured intense press scrutiny over recent years for choosing to live by their own rules, which resulted in the prince taking legal action against two newspapers. And, as one royal insider reveals, it all just became too much.
“The court cases with the press have left them drained. It’s a fight they took on to defend their family but it’s gruelling and puts horrible pressure on their relationship. They just can’t bear it,” the source says. “Harry blames the press for so many things with his mother and now he feels Meghan’s under attack.”
While the duke and duchess have been open about the struggles, behind the scenes the couple have also been dealing with a rumoured rift with Prince William and Kate.
When Harry and Meghan moved out of Kensington Palace and into their own house, it was the first sign that things were changing between the two brothers, who have always been very close.
The Sussexes then announced they’d be creating their own household, separate from the Cambridges, before leaving behind the Royal Foundation, which Harry and William founded together.
During an ITV documentary, Prince Harry touched on their rumoured strained relationship, stating that he and William “were on different paths”.
But with Harry now choosing to move even further away from his family, it will no doubt cause the brothers to drift further apart. And while Harry and Meghan’s decision has been strongly influenced by their desire to give Archie, now 8 months old, a normal life, the Sussexes moving out of the spotlight will only push the focus even more on to the Cambridges.
This would no doubt be a great worry for Kate and William, as they too would want George, 6, Charlotte, 4, and Louis, 1, to experience a normal childhood before they are thrust into royal duties.
“The problem now is with Prince Andrew off the scene, Philip retired, the Queen at 93 and Charles and Camilla in their 70s, William and Kate are now going to have to carry the royal family into the next 20 years or so, or it could wither and die,” Phil says.
With The Sun reporting that the Duke of Cambridge is said to be “incandescent with rage”, people are asking whether the real reason for the Sussexes’ decision to quit the royal family was due to Harry’s troubled relationship with William.
While it’s clear the problems have been bubbling, The Sun notes that the final straw for Harry and Meghan was the official release of a new royal portrait, which did not feature Harry or his son, Archie.
“There has been a similar photo before and Harry has known all his life that he is the spare not the heir, so he should not have been upset,” Phil says.
“The British public won’t forgive them if they just up sticks and leave, and there
will be no way back if they change their minds.”
Kate and Wills’ church showdown
After allegedly falling out over affair rumours, Kate Middleton and her friend Rose Hanbury appear to have made up. The reunited friends were seen at Kate’s recent birthday party and again at a church service.
Last year, whispers ran rife that Rose had a suspiciously close relationship with Prince William – and following on from that the once tight-knit Kate and Rose were no longer seen together.
Rumours from London also circulated unfounded gossip that Meghan was the one to start the affair allegations but the reports were completely untrue.
At the time, there was even speculation of potential legal action over the illicit rumours. But ultimately William and Kate chose to let it slide.
Royal commentator Phil Dampier says the fact that Rose has now been seen at these private events proves the friends have “kissed and made up”.
“Whatever the truth of William’s closeness to Rose, who is a mum of three, Kate has obviously decided she doesn’t want any lasting bitterness or tension,” he says.
Prior to the alleged fall-out, the two families – who are also neighbours – were incredibly close.
“It was always a very difficult situation for William and Kate to fall out with Rose and her husband because they only live down the road in Norfolk and they have a lot of mutual friends,” Phil explains.
Kate’s decision to take the high road is regarded by Dampier as a growing sign of her “maturity”.
“She is taking after the Queen in trying to heal wounds rather than open them up.”
In a similar vein, he also predicts she will be a driving force in brokering the peace between her husband and Prince Harry, following his shock news. “I would expect her to try and mend the relationship,” Phil says.
For more, see this week's New Idea, out now.