Prince Harry Defied Queen Elizabeth's Request to Not Release His Statement, Source Says
By Antoinette Bueno
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The drama continues for the royal family.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shocked royal watchers around the world on Wednesday when they announced they were taking a step back from being "senior" members of the royal family and wanted to work to become financially independent. The couple also said they plan to balance their time between the United Kingdom and North America while continuing to honor their duties to Queen Elizabeth and their royal patronages.
Now, a source tells ET that Queen Elizabeth actually asked 35-year-old Harry not to release their statement on Wednesday, but he defied his grandmother and did it anyway. However, the source says that despite any bad blood over Harry and 38-year-old Meghan's shocking announcement, courtiers from all four households met Thursday afternoon to discuss how best to help Harry and Meghan with their transition. The royals are now resolved to help the couple, the source says.
A royal source told ET earlier on Thursday that 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth is "devastated" about Harry and Meghan's decision to distance themselves from the royal family.
"The queen is devastated by the decision, although she had been aware of their struggle the last few months and has been concerned for their well-being and happiness," the source said.
"Many family members were very disappointed with the Sussexes," the source added, noting that some members of the royal family have called the move "selfish."
"Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage," her statement read. "We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through."
ET spoke with royal expert Katie Nicholl on Thursday, who said that sources tell her that while there were discussions over Christmas while Harry and Meghan were in Canada for the two to take on a reduced role in the royal family, nothing was set in stone.
"Nothing had been signed off, nothing had been decided upon, and the idea was that it was going to be developed, talked about, a strategy would be worked out and then an announcement would be made, but the Sussexes appear to have completely jumped the gun here and by announcing this statement on their Instagram page and essentially on their terms," Nicholl said. "I think that is what has led to a sense of betrayal at the palace, a sense of anger, possibly even fury on the queen's part. What's understood is the queen had personally asked Harry not to make any of this public until it had been agreed, signed off, and properly discussed."
Nicholl added that Harry and Meghan's decision was a "huge shock" for the family.
"I think there is a feeling of deep disappointment behind the palace walls," Nicholl said. "Private devastation. I was told it is how the senior members of the royal family are feeling. Prince William, Prince Charles, the queen have said to be incredibly disappointed, privately devastated, and very upset with how the Sussexes have chosen to announce this news that they are stepping down as senior members of the royal family."
However, Nicholl noted that senior advisors are now looking for a resolution to all the drama.
"I think the dust is beginning to settle after that bombshell statement and the most senior advisors, the most senior quarters will be gathering at Buckingham Palace to dissect, to discuss and to try to come out with frankly some way out of this situation," she said. "They are looking for resolution. These are very experienced, courteous people who have a wealth of experience behind them and as I say, they will be trying to come up with some sort of resolution."
Meanwhile, amid all the headlines, Kate Middleton celebrated her 38th birthday on Thursday. Meghan and Harry did greet her publicly by leaving a comment on Kensington Palace's Instagram post that thanked followers for their birthday messages to Kate.
"Wishing a very happy birthday to The Duchess of Cambridge today!" the official Sussex Royal account commented.