After talking about a "bumpy" year in her 2019 Christmas Day message, Queen Elizabeth II's 2020 is not off to a good start. On Wednesday, her grandson, Prince Harry, and his wife, Meghan Markle, announced that they are planning to step back as senior members of the royal family, become financially independent, and split their time between the U.K. and North America.
The news was quickly followed by a somewhat contradictory message from Buckingham Palace, noting that "discussions" on the matter were still in the "early stage," adding that there were "complicated issues" at play and that the future of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had not yet been decided.
“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," a royal source tells ET.
The statement issued by Harry and Meghan, the source says, was “personal” and not sanctioned by the Palace.
“Many family members were very disappointed with the Sussexes,” the source adds, noting that some members of the royal family have called the move “selfish.”
ET spoke with royal expert Katie Nicholl about the shocking decision. She noted that the queen is still in Sandringham, extending her holiday after being there several weeks. Nicholl added that over Christmas, senior members of the royal family met and were in discussion with Meghan and Harry about "a change to their roles," but nothing had been decided, adding that the couple "completely jumped the gun" by announcing, leading to "a sense of betrayal."
"Senior members of the royal family, and, yes, I do mean the queen, were not aware that this statement was coming tonight," Nicholl told ET. "I think at the Palace the mood is one of deep disappointment, and I don't think it's too far to go as to say devastation. Harry is absolutely beloved -- not just by the British public and around the world, the queen adores Harry! And, you know, they were in the early stage of discussions, but the feeling is that Harry and Meghan have gone ahead and issued this statement without full cooperation, without her full blessing and approval."
Describing Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles as both "shell shocked" by the Sussexes' decision to "go nuclear," Nicholl added that the family is "privately devastated."