Britain's Queen Elizabeth is urgently trying to resolve a crisis in the royal family following the bombshell announcement that Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex would be stepping back from senior royal duties.
British news outlets reported that the Queen had held a conference call with her son Prince Charles and grandsons Princes William and Harry from her royal residence Sandringham, eastern England.
The monarch has instructed aides to work urgently to try to resolve what has emerged as a rift between the Sussexes and senior members of the British Royal Family.
It is understood that senior royals were unaware that Harry and Meghan were planning to announce that they were seeking “progressive new roles” in the royal family, dividing their time between the UK and North America.
Meanwhile, Meghan has returned to Canada, where she spent six weeks over the Christmas holiday with Harry and the couple’s eight-month-old son Archie. The Sussexes had left their baby son in Canada with a nanny after flying back to Britain earlier this week.
The couple have faced criticism in the British press for their decision, in particular for leaving the Queen in the dark about the announcement beforehand.
Buckingham Palace’s official response said that there had been talks about the Sussexes future role in the family but that they were at an early stage.
"We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through," the palace said in a statement.
A YouGov poll published on Friday found that almost half of Britons (45 per cent) supported their couple’s withdrawal from senior royal duties.
However, 63 per cent of Britons believe they should stop receiving income from Harry’s father Charles, through his Duchy of Cornwall estate.
The couple said in their “personal message” on Wednesday evening that they would work to become financially independent.
US-based royal historian Marlene Koenig said the Sussexes already had a considerable amount of wealth between them.
“We know Harry has a lot of money. He inherited £21 million that his mother Diana left, including the divorce settlement from Charles and money she had inherited from her father. Harry is thought to have received about £7 million from his great grandmother, the Queen mother. He is not hurting,” she said. “Meghan is estimated to have $3.5 million from her acting career.”
Ms Koenig said it was highly unlikely the couple would choose to spend large amounts of time in the US, where Meghan was born and raised, because privacy laws are weaker than in Europe.
Before becoming a member of the British royal family, Meghan spoke out about US President Donald Trump .
“The people in the US, who do not like Meghan and write nasty things on Twitter about her, most of them are Trump supporters,” she said.
The royal rift is the latest drama in a tumultuous few months for the British monarchy, following a scandal involving her second son Prince Andrew over his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew stepped down from royal duties and patronages following a disastrous TV interview in which he was criticised for failing to show empathy for Epstein’s victims.
The 93-year-old monarch will have been “greatly upset” by Harry's decision but would be working hard to find a possible solution to the problem, according to Royal protocol expert William Hanson.
“Reaching the end of her reign, I’m sure she would have loved to have been leaving the monarchy in an absolutely golden tip top condition as it was just a couple of years ago,” he said.
“But the monarchy will survive.”