The Queen will host crisis talks at an unprecedented royal summit at Sandringham on Monday, with implications not just for the future of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but for other members of the royal family.
The Queen will be joined by Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry – with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, likely to dial in from Canada – and will seek to make key decisions on how the couple fulfil their desire to “step back” from frontline royal duties and become self-funding.
The crunch meeting at the Queen’s Norfolk estate comes after five days of turmoil amid claims that the Sussexes feel “driven out” of the royal family.
As the crisis continued, William expressed his sorrow over the breaking of the brotherly bond. “I’ve put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can’t do that any more, we’re separate entities,” he told a friend.
“I’m sad about that. 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 same team,” the Sunday Times reported him as saying.
As the beleaguered Queen attended church at Sandringham on Sunday, Charles was in Oman attending the funeral of Sultan Qaboos bin Said. He was flying back in time to attend the summit, aides said.
It will be the first face-to-face meeting between members of the royal family since Harry and Meghan dropped their bombshell on Wednesday. The couple wish to split their time between the UK and North America, to become financially independent and to be allowed to earn an income without royal constraints.
The day after the announcement, Meghan flew back to Canada, where the couple spent six weeks over Christmas with their baby son, Archie. Their two dogs are also in Canada, prompting speculation Meghan has no plans to return in the immediate future.
After days of briefings and counter briefings, the atmosphere will undoubtedly be tense. Palace sources have claimed the Queen, Charles and William had been blindsided by the timing of the couple’s announcement, and were “disappointed” and “hurt”.
But the Queen will want all personal feelings to be put one side and for the family to adopt a pragmatic approach. She is keen for a swift resolution to prevent lasting damage to the monarchy.
The Sussexes also want a quick solution, with a source saying it was in everyone’s interests that the matter be “figured out quickly, but not at the expense of the outcome”.
The issues under discussion are complex. Whatever is decided will have huge implications, including for Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, the two youngest of William and Kate’s three children, and how they will be able to live their adult lives.
Any decisions are likely to reshape the monarchy under Charles, and provide a very different model to what has pertained during his mother’s long reign.
Sources stress that whatever progress is made on Monday, there is “genuine agreement and understanding that any decision will take time to implement”.