Queen Elizabeth II has broken her silence with a statement expressing the British royal family's sadness at the allegations levelled by her grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle.
Buckingham Palace said the claims about race that were raised by the couple in an interview with Oprah Winfrey would be addressed by the monarchy.
"The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan," it said.
"The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. Whilst some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.
"Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved family members."
That assertion "some recollections may vary" was closely scrutinised in the UK after the intervention. While many welcomed Buckingham Palace open response to the claim an unidentified royal had asked about the colour of son Archie's skin, others saw the wording as pointing to a difficult reckoning between conflicting accounts.
In their interview, Prince Harry and Meghan told Winfrey that the royal relative had made remarks on “how dark” the skin tone of their then unborn son’s skin tone.
The allegations have deepened the controversy over the interview. A post-broadcast poll has show support for stripping the couple of their royal titles. Among those aged 45 and older, 62 per cent were in favour of the couple losing their royal status, with 21 per cent saying they should retain the Sussex dukedom. The divide was smaller among younger people. For those aged 18 to 44, 38 per cent called for them to forgo their titles, while 36 per cent said they should keep their status.
The comments were not made by the Queen or the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Harry said.
He made it clear that tensions had ruptured relations with Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and his brother, Prince William.
Prince Harry detailed the depth of the family divisions that led the couple to step away from royal duties and move to California last year.
The couple dropped their bombshell while Prince Harry’s 99-year-old grandfather, Prince Philip, remains in hospital in London after a heart procedure.
With so many factors in play, Queen Elizabeth has appeared to struggle to balance her sometimes-conflicting roles as monarch and grandmother.
Angela Levin, author of Harry, a Biography of a Prince, said the delay between the interview airing and the release of the statement show how hard the situation was for the head of the family.
But Levin said there was little doubt that ultimately Elizabeth, 94, would make her decision based on what was best for the 1,000-year-old institution she has led since 1952.
The monarch's reticence echoed her widely criticised response to the death of Princess Diana in 1997.
Britain's press blasted the royal family for being cold and uncaring when the queen initially refused to drop the Royal Standard to half staff and took nearly a week to release a public statement expressing her grief.
Royal biographer Andrew Morton said the fallout from the interview would “shudder down through the generations in the same way that Diana’s did”.
Morton drew parallels with Diana's infamous Panorama interview in 1995, in which she accused royal aides of being 'the enemy" and questioned Prince Charles' suitability as king.
Prince Harry described feeling "really let down" by his father, who stopped taking his phone calls for a while.
He said Charles – the queen's heir – and his elder brother William were trapped by the conventions of the monarchy.
"They don't get to leave. And I have huge compassion for that," he told Winfrey.
Meghan, who is of mixed race, said she was naively unprepared for life in the pressure cooker of the royal family.
But she said she was denied help for a mental health crisis and was the target of lies in an incident involving her sister-in-law, William's wife Kate.
She said her depression was exacerbated by concern about the skin colour of her unborn son.
"I ... just didn't want to be alive any more. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought," she said.