LONDON – Queen Elizabeth II will convene a portentous family meeting on Monday to thrash out the options ahead for Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex – and possibly shape the face of the royal house for years.
The meeting, already dubbed the ‘Sandringham Showdown’, will take place at the queen’s royal-owned country estate of Sandringham in the east of England.
An official at Buckingham Palace, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed reports in the British media that the meeting will go ahead. The official said that the top royals will review “a range of possibilities” and “what the Sussexes said earlier in the week” – the bit about wanting to live part-time in North America – will be “taken into account”.
The palace source also said that the 93-year-old queen wished to resolve the situation “at pace” – translation: “days not weeks” – but added that there’s an understanding that any solution will take “time to be implemented”.
The Monday summit is thought to be the first time that the four top royals have gathered since the bombshell news last Wednesday that Harry and Meghan want to step back from royal duties and seek financial independence.
Meghan flew to Canada a few days ago. The British media have speculated that she could dial in.
What kind of family holds such a meeting? The House of Windsor does, a dynasty whose monarch serves as the – albeit mostly ceremonial – head of state in Britain, as well as the Commonwealth nations, whose vast inherited wealth and extensive land holdings make them one of the richest families in Britain.
The meeting could be tense.
The palace was caught off guard – “shocked” or “hurt” or “dismayed”, according to the newspapers – by the Wednesday announcement, although some have suggested that it wasn’t so much the content of the news but the timing of the announcement, via Instagram, that startled the palace.
But talks are going ahead and will likely focus on how the royals plan to live part-time in two countries, what kind of work they will do on behalf of the queen, and also the sort of work they will pursue to become “financially independent”.
It is one thing to take salaries as heads of a popular charity and do good works, and entirely another to serve as possible “international influencers” promoting products and becoming a kind of top-shelf version of the Kardashians.
The issue of security arrangements, responsibilities and costs may also come up. Will their protection be paid for and provided by Britain? Or Canada? Or the Sussexes themselves?
On their new independent website, SussexRoyal.com, the couple say that “the provision of armed security by The Metropolitan Police is mandated by the Home Office, a ministerial department of Her Majesty’s Government, responsible for security and law & order”.
Hello! magazine, which has been watching the drama unfold very closely, noted that a line that initially appeared on the Sussexes’ website when it was launched on Wednesday – “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are classified as internationally protected people which mandates this level of security” – has been deleted.
Polls show that the majority of Brits are in favour of Megxit, which is what the separation is being called, but alongside that, there is also a majority who don’t want to taxpayers dollars to be spent.
The events over the last few days have amplified speculation that there are deep divisions between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and other members of the royal family
Rumours of a split have been simmering for some time. Harry seemed to acknowledge that there was tension when he was asked if there was a rift between him and his brother, Prince William, by the ITV broadcaster Tom Bradby. Harry told Bradby that he and William were “on different paths at the moment” but added that he loved him “dearly”.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Bradby, who is thought to be close to both brothers, said that things started to sour around the time of Harry and Meghan’s wedding when “really damaging things were said and done”.
He wrote that “it is pretty clear to me from conversations with both sides that this exit could suit everyone, at least in terms of narrow self-interest. But there is no doubt that Harry and Meghan feel they have been driven out.”
He also said that when he ever so gently pressed Meghan in that same ITV program if she “was OK”, she answered, “thanks for asking, as not many people have”. Bradby took that response to refer to the royal family rather than the public or media.
He also suggested that there was much that hasn’t come to light.
“I have some idea of what might be aired in a full, no-holds-barred, sit-down interview and I don’t think it would be pretty,” he wrote.
Megan van den Heever – All4Women
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