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The royal family will gather on Monday afternoon at Sandringham to discuss the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s request to “step back” as senior royals, according to a source from Buckingham Palace. The queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge, and the Duke of Sussex will all be in attendance and the Duchess of Sussex is expected to participate by phone.
ELLE.com has learned that it will be the first time Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince Harry have all met face to face since the Sussexes returned from Canada and asked for a “progressive new role” within the firm and the ability to split their time between the U.K. and North America.
“Following a series of meetings and consultations across the last few days, there are a range of possibilities for the family to review which take into account the thinking of the Sussexes outlined earlier in the week,” a palace source told ELLE.
On Wednesday, January 8, the couple announced, “After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.
“We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honor our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity.”
Harry and Meghan returned to the U.K. last weekend after the New Year holiday. They spent a six-week break from royal duties enjoying time as a family on Vancouver Island with Archie and Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland. Upon their return, Meghan and Harry made their first public appearance at Canada House in London to thank the Canadian people for their warm hospitality during their vacation. Earlier that day, the couple also made a private stop at the Hubb community kitchen.
Palace officials from all four households including Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, Kensington Palace, and Harry and Meghan’s office have been holding meetings over the last several days to find a workable solution which satisfies everyone.
A palace source says, “making a change to the working life and role in the monarchy for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex requires complex and thoughtful discussion. The request for this to be resolved at pace is still Her Majesty’s wish. The aim remains days, not weeks. There is a genuine agreement and understanding that any decisions will take time to be implemented.”
ELLE also understands that “no one wants to be vindictive or punish Harry” despite reports to the contrary in the press. Harry is “loved by his family.” While the situation is “complex,” they want to find a compromise and give him the support he needs.
The mood is “let’s just get something fixed. Let’s get a structure and a plan and move on. The drama and division is doing the most damage,” according to a source close to Prince William.
Conversations about the Sussexes’ future plans and desires have been taking place internally with senior courtiers and family members for several months before the couple’s statement was released to the public.
Tom Bradby, an ITV journalist and friend of the couple who interviewed them following their immensely successful Africa tour revealed, “There’ve been a lot of fallouts; a lot of harsh things were said around the time of the wedding. And it’s gone a bit too far.”
He continued, “And certainly the rest of the family find Harry and Meghan very difficult and, from Harry and Meghan’s point of view, they’re just being driven out as they see it. And it’s sad.”
The couple are understood to have wanted to make a change after a number of incidents made them question what their role would be in the future, under a “slimmed down monarchy.” During the queen’s annual Christmas broadcast, the Sussexes’ photo did not appear with other members of the royal family, and more recently, a photo of Her Majesty was released with the Queen and her three heirs, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George.
A source close to the family conceded that while the optics of the Christmas message could come down to an error made by the production team preparing the set for the Queen’s message, “the Prince of Wales’ vision of a slimmed-down monarchy had always included both his sons.”
A longtime friend of the family believes the photo of the monarch with her three heirs was to send a message of continuity following the Prince Andrew scandal. “What they want to be doing post-Andrew is showing the queen in her ’90s and Philip ailing, that the path is set for the future. Everything is in safe hands. So I don’t think it’s a sin by omission. I genuinely don’t think it’s spiteful. The narrative was just to show those that are going to be monarchs, which don’t include Harry.”
Ultimately this is a family who love each other and are seeing things played out on the public stage. Initially there was a lot of anger and hurt last week, a source close to the family shared. “It is not a permanent split between Harry and his brother.”
Everyone wants to “give Harry and Meghan support so they can feel like they’re on the path they want to be on.”