Queen Elizabeth II, ‘Supportive’ of Prince Harry and Meghan’s ‘New Life’
While long-term arrangements will take time to settle, the queen wants final decisions to be reached “in the coming days.”
Queen Elizabeth II, seeking to defuse a spiraling crisis in the British royal family, said on Monday that she would allow Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, to make a transition to being part-time royals, splitting their time between Britain and Canada and supporting themselves.
“My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family,” the queen said in a statement after an extraordinary family meeting at her country home, Sandringham.
“Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working members of the royal family,” the queen said, “we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.”
The strikingly personal statement did not answer a host of thorny questions, including who would pay for the couple’s upkeep, whether they could achieve financial independence without unacceptably commercializing the monarchy or even whether they will keep their royal titles, given the queen’s pointed use of their first names.
But it was clearly calculated as a show of support and an exercise in damage control after the couple, known formally as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, abruptly announced a self-imposed exile from royal life.
While the queen acknowledged the complexity of the issues involved, she made clear she wanted the crisis settled soon, saying she had asked for “final decisions to be reached in the coming days.”
The statement came after one of the most-anticipated royal meetings in recent memory.
The queen gathered her eldest son and heir, Prince Charles, and his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, to hash out the arrangement, which could set a precedent for future generations of royals in a more streamlined royal family.
The British news media lost no time in breathlessly labeling the session the “Sandringham showdown” or “Sandringham summit,” depending on which tabloid one picked up — and dispatching TV crews to camp outside the gates of the 20,000-acre estate in Norfolk, where the queen spends the Christmas holidays.
By whatever label, the queen’s gathering was a watershed moment in the life of the royal family, the capstone to a turbulent week in which, at times, the family appeared to be coming apart at the seams.
“It’s as good an outcome as we could have hoped for,” said Penny Junor, a royal biographer. “It’s the right decision under the circumstances.”CANADA’S CONCERN Some Canadians worry that the royal migrants may come with a big price tag for security.
By putting in place a transitional period, during which the duke and duchess can spend time in Britain and Canada, Ms. Junor said, Buckingham Palace may have wanted to give the couple space to make reasoned decisions — even, perhaps, to reconsider what officials at the palace viewed as a precipitous and ill-considered announcement.
“I suspect there is a hope that with the pressure released from them, they may change their minds and come back into the fold,” she said.
Royal watchers said Buckingham Palace was also scrambling to regain control of the narrative, after days in which the palace seemed to be reacting to events and the news coverage grew ever more toxic, particularly about tensions between Harry and William.
On Monday, representatives of both princes issued a statement denying a report in The Times of London that William’s “bullying” of Harry and Meghan had triggered their decision to step away from the royal family. The report cited “a source that knows the couple well.”
“Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a U.K. newspaper today speculating about the relationship between the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Cambridge,” the statement said, using the formal titles for the princes.
“For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health,” the statement continued, “the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful.”
The report came hours after another anonymously sourced story, in The Times’s sister newspaper, The Sunday Times, portrayed William as frustrated but regretful about his brother’s tribulations.
“I’ve put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can’t do that anymore; we’re separate entities,” William is said to have told a friend, according to The Sunday Times.
“I’m sad about that,” he continued. “All we can do, and all I can do, is try and support them and hope that the time comes when we’re all singing from the same page. I want everyone to play on the team.”
The choice of Sandringham for the family meeting was freighted with history and symbolism. Unlike Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, which are owned by the state, Sandringham is owned personally by the queen, having been purchased in 1862 as a country house for the Prince of Wales.ImageThe entrance to the queen’s Sandringham Estate.
The estate, with its Jacobean-style gabled roofs, sprawling gardens, and tidal mud flats, has long been a favorite refuge for English monarchs. The queen’s grandfather, George V, described it as “dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere else in the world.” He died there in 1936.
George VI, the queen’s father, died there in February 1952, while his daughter was away on a royal tour in Kenya. The queen now stays at Sandringham from before Christmas until February to mark the anniversary of his death and her accession to the throne. She plays host at a Christmas lunch at the house, which is one of a handful of times the entire royal family is together.
Prince Harry and Meghan missed that gathering this year, having decided to spend the holiday in Canada with their eight-month-old son, Archie. After returning briefly with her husband to make their announcement, the duchess flew back to Canada last week to be with Archie, whom they had left with a friend.
She had been expected to take part in the family meeting via conference call from Canada, people with ties to the palace said, but the palace did not confirm on Monday whether she did.
The British press has been scathing in its coverage of the couple, particularly the duchess, an American actress who was once celebrated here as a breath of fresh air for the stodgy House of Windsor. The tabloids took offense on behalf of the queen, saying she had been blindsided by the duke and duchess.
Critics traced the over-the-top tone of the coverage back to a decision the queen made in 1969 to allow a documentary crew backstage access in Buckingham Palace and elsewhere to film a movie of the daily lives of the royal family. The decision to turn the family members into public figures, these critics said, planted the seeds of celebrity coverage, which has grown over the decades into the breathless headlines about Princess Diana and, now, Prince Harry and Meghan.
“The Queen went for the celebrity royal family because she thought it would make the family more relevant,” said Simon Jenkins, a columnist and former editor of The Times and the Evening Standard. “Now she’s paying the price for it.”
The struggles of Prince Harry and his wife, Mr. Jenkins said, were ultimately not very important, particularly in a country that will exit from the European Union in less than three weeks. But he acknowledged it was a “terrific story.”
“The rebellious younger son tears loose from the family and throws out the playbook,” Mr. Jenkins said. “The whole concept of the ‘Firm’ depends on the family sticking together. It’s like something out of the ‘Godfather.’”Prince Harry