Queen Elizabeth Speaks Out on Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's Decision to Step Back From Royal Family
By Antoinette Bueno
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Queen Elizabeth is responding to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's shocking decision to take a step back as senior members of the royal family.
In a statement on behalf of Queen Elizabeth on Wednesday, royal communications called the decision "complicated."
"Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage," the statement issued by Deputy Communications Secretary to The Queen, Hannah Howard, reads. "We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through."
On Wednesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced their decision to "step back" as senior members of the royal family and "work to become financially independent while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen." 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 II and their royal patronages.
"This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity," Meghan and Harry's statement reads, in part. "We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support."
Following the couple's announcement, ET spoke with royal correspondent Katie Nicholl about the unexpected news.
"This has been an absolute bombshell of an announcement that hasn't just shocked all of us, it has come as a massive shock to the royal family," Nicholls tells ET. "Senior members of the royal family -- and yes, I do mean the Queen -- were not aware that this statement was coming tonight."
"When you read the statement from Buckingham Palace this evening, I think it's quite clear the statement has come as a surprise to them," she adds. "The word that was used to me by a senior palace aid this evening was that there was great 'disappointment' that their statement had been made so prematurely ... [the Sussexes may] have jumped the gun with this."
Meghan and Harry enjoyed an extended break in Canada over the holidays and made their first official appearance of the new year on Tuesday to visit Canada House in London, where they thanked the High Commissioner for the hospitality they received abroad. Nicholl previously told ET on Tuesday that the couple was looking to spend more time in the United States where Meghan grew up in 2020, and that sources told her that they could even be buying a second home in Los Angeles near where Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, still resides.
"I think they will be traveling in the U.S. certainly during 2020 ... they do want to have a second home in the States," Nicholl said. "It's very important to Meghan that Archie grows up aware of the fact that he is half American, and it's very important to her that she gets to go home, see her mom, see her friends and have a place of their own there."
"Prince Harry grew up very much in the spotlight, never far away from the gaze of the cameras, and at points in his life that's been something he has resented," she explained. "My understanding is that at Frogmore, they have essentially built a fortress. One of their closest friends told me it was their oasis -- their sanctuary where they're going to raise their child away from the spotlight."
Meanwhile, 38-year-old Meghan has been vocal about having a hard time dealing with media scrutiny as a royal, most recently in the documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, which aired in the U.K. in October.
"It's hard. I don't think anybody could understand that, but in all fairness, I had no idea," she said. "When I first met my now-husband, my friends were really happy because I was so happy, but my British friends said to me, 'I'm sure he's great, but you shouldn't do it, because the British tabloids will destroy your life.'"
"I didn't get it," Meghan admitted, adding that her relationship with the press has "been complicated."
"I would say, any woman, especially when they're pregnant, you're really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging, and then when you have a newborn, you know -- and especially as a woman, it's a lot," Meghan shared, referencing her pregnancy with Archie. "So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed… a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes."
Meghan and 35-year-old Harry announced in October that they were pursuing legal action against Associated Newspapers -- owners of the Daily Mail, MailOnline, Metro and more -- after the Mail on Sunday published a private, handwritten letter that Meghan wrote to her estranged father.