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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are starting their new independent life thousands of miles apart, as Markle flew back to Canada and Harry stayed in England.
Buckingham Palace confirmed Friday that Markle, 38, had returned to Canada, where the Sussexes and 8-month-old son Archie spent a six-week holiday out of the public eye at a secluded luxury home on Vancouver Island.
Meanwhile, Harry, 35, is in England, where the royal family is seeking to contain the crisis sparked by the couple’s decision to effectively quit as senior royals.
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On Thursday, Neil Sean, a royal author and broadcaster, told Fox News that palace aides may not have been prepared for the unexpected announcement. “The palace aides are working in conjunction with the queen,” he explained. “It’s not lost on anyone that they decided to launch this without the permission of the queen.”
The announcement came in the evening, U.K. time. A source close to the palace told Fox News at the time that palace aides held an emergency meeting before Buckingham Palace officially responded to the couple’s announcement on social media.
“Discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage,” one palace spokesman told Fox News late Wednesday. “We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”
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Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex gesture during their visit to Canada House in thanks for the warm Canadian hospitality and support they received during their recent stay in Canada, in London, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. (Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas/Pool Photo via AP)
The spokesman added that “nothing is being ruled or ruled out.”
A source close to the palace also told Fox News: “Some members of the royal family were not consulted before the Duke and Duchess’ statement was issued.”
According to Sean, the work being conducted by palace aides is far from over and there was a “big meeting planned” Thursday with Prince Charles and the queen “to discuss the next steps,” he claimed.
“Charles’ private equerry (the royal private secretary) has delivered a note to the duke to demand a meeting … oddly though alone,” Sean said, also alleging that a source close to the palace informed him that Queen Elizabeth “is not best pleased with this news” and “the planning and progression of this will and could take considerably longer than first planned.”
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The crisis talks were triggered by Harry and Markle’s “personal message” Wednesday evening saying they were stepping back from being senior members of Britain’s royal family, would work to become financially independent and would “balance” their time between the U.K. and North America.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are stepping back from royal duties. (AP)
Harry is sixth in line to the British throne, behind his father, older brother Prince William and his brother’s three children. The former British army officer is one of the royal family’s most popular members and has spent his entire life in the public eye.
Before marrying the prince in a wedding watched around the world in 2018, Markle had carved out a successful career as an actress and lifestyle “influencer” with a popular blog, the now-defunct The Tig.
A friend of the couple, broadcaster Tom Bradby, said Harry and Markle 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. An image of the queen and the three next in line to the throne — Charles, William and his son George — underscored the message of who the Windsors see as their core members.
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“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,” said Bradby, an ITV television anchor who filmed revealing interviews with Harry and Markle while they were in Africa last year.
Bradby described the royal split as inevitable. He said the couple’s wish to leave the grind of front-line royal duty had been known, though the timing of their announcement was not.
Queen Elizabeth II tours Queen Mother Square on October 27, 2016 in Poundbury, Dorset. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty)
“It’s certainly not true to say the palace were blindsided by this,” Bradby told ITV.
The royal rift has exposed more divisions within the British monarchy, which was 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 relinquished 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 Markle have faced a barrage of criticism from the British press over their decision. They have long complained of intrusive media coverage and accused some British media commentators of racism toward the biracial duchess. This week 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.
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Many in Britain, though, expressed sympathy for the royal couple. Labour Party lawmaker 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.”
The couple’s statement on Wednesday left many questions unanswered — such as what they plan to do and how they will earn private income without tarnishing the royal image. At the moment, they are largely funded by Harry’s father, Prince Charles, through income from his vast Duchy of Cornwall estate.
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The couple said they plan to cut ties to the British taxpayer support given each year to the queen for official use, which currently covers 5 percent of the costs of running their office. But commentators have questioned whether the royal couple have misunderstood their true cost to the country, arguing their statement doesn’t appear to cover some of the expenditures embedded in royal life, such as security.
Harry and Markle have considerable assets of their own. Harry inherited an estimated 7 million pounds ($9.1 million) from his late mother, Princess Diana, as well as money from his great-grandmother. Markle has money from a successful acting career.
The Associated Press and Fox News’ Stephanie Nolasco contributed to this report
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