The Queen has sanctioned the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s new “independent life” away from full-time royal duties and said they will now begin a transition period living in the UK and Canada.
In her first public comments since Meghan and Harry released their bombshell statement last week the head of state also expressed her regret at the Sussexes’ wish to step back as senior royals.
But she said her family “respect and understand” their wishes for more independence while still remaining a “valued part” of the monarchy.
The move has raised questions over whether Canadian taxpayers would have to pay for the couple’s security costs during during their time in North America but the country’s prime minister Justin Trudeau said no discussions had taken place on the matter.
Speaking to Global News on Monday, he said: “There will be many discussions to come on how that works.
“But there’s still a lot of decisions to be taken by the Royal Family and by the Sussex’s themselves as to what level of engagement they choose to have and these are things that we are supportive of.”
Royal biographer Penny Junor described the Queen’s comments – which featured the word family eight times – as “warm and friendly and supportive”.
In a highly unusual move Harry and Meghan were not referred to as the duke and duchess in the statement, only as the Sussexes and by their first names, raising questions about whether they will retain their titles in the future.
The Queen was joined by the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge for the face-to-face talks with Harry at her private Norfolk estate, described as “very constructive”, and it is thought Meghan joined the discussions by telephone from Canada after the monarch made reference to comments by the duchess and her husband.
It is unusual for the Queen to issue a statement in her own name – when not paying condolences following a natural disaster or the death of a world leader – and is symbolic of the sovereign taking charge of the crisis that threatens to cause lasting damage to the monarchy.
Ms Junor said about the monarch: “I think what she’s done quite cleverly is take the pressure off Harry and Meghan. I think they are in a very vulnerable, fragile state at the moment.
“I think they’re feeling unhappy, isolated, unloved, unappreciated and they’re lashing out in the only way they know how – to kind of walk away from the whole thing.
“It looks as though the Queen has calmed the situation a bit, giving them a bit of time to think about it – go across to Canada, there’s no pressure on them to do anything – it looks to me as though she’s not allowing anyone to burn any bridges.”
The head of state also expressed the “support” of herself and the rest of the family for the couple’s aspiration to create a new life together with their eight-month-old son Archie.
But she stressed the discussions were “complex matters” for her family to resolve but she wanted “final decisions” in the “coming days”.
Harry and Meghan made clear in their statement last week they want to step back from being senior royals, become financially independent and split their time between North America and the UK.
The head of state said: “Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family. My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family.
“Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.
“Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives.
“It has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK.
“These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days.”
In another development, William and Harry made a joint show of strength by issuing a statement denying a newspaper claim about their relationship which they branded “offensive and potentially harmful”.
The statement did not name the newspaper but the Times has a front page story about the crisis, and says a source told the publication that Harry and Meghan “regarded themselves as having been pushed away by what they saw as a bullying attitude from the Duke of Cambridge”.
A number of questions remain unanswered, with the central issue being how will the Sussexes fund their future lives and whether any future deals will have to be scrutinised by the palace.