The royal summit over the future roles of Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan of Sussex concluded Monday with an endorsement from Queen Elizabeth II herself about what her grandson seeks to do, and a promise that “final decisions” will be reached in coming days.
Shortly after 5 p.m. local time, Buckingham Palace released a statement from the queen in which she described the discussions on the future of “my grandson and his family” as “constructive.”
“My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family,” the statement said. “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.”
She said Harry and Meghan made it clear they don’t want to rely any longer 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 U.K,” the statement said. “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.”
Prince Harry, his brother Prince William and father Prince Charles arrived for a royal summit at Sandringham to address the crisis set off by Harry and Duchess Meghan’s historic announcement last week to step back from their senior royal duties and live part time in North America.
It is as yet unclear whether Duchess Meghan joined her husband Harry over the phone for the rare sit-down meeting with his grandmother and senior royal courtiers from all the relevant households.
There was no immediate announcement about the specifics of what was discussed or any decisions made. The palace said the queen’s statement, sent to USA TODAY via email, would be the only comment of the day.
Buckingham Palace previously confirmed to USA TODAY that Harry would sit down with his brother , father and grandmother for face-to-face talks to discuss a resolution of the crisis that arose last week after Harry and Meghan announced their plans with little warning.
Meghan, who is in Canada, was expected to participate via phone but that was not officially confirmed ahead of time.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s plans have been widely attacked in Britain as unworkable, and amount to a painful split of the royal family.
The royal summit took place at Sandringham, the queen’s private estate in Norfolk about 100 miles north of London, where she typically stays between late December and early February.
Save for Meghan, the same group participated in a conference call on Friday, according to the Associated Press, quoting British media reports. Buckingham Palace confirmed that day that Duchess Meghan had returned to Canada to rejoin 8-month-old baby Archie.
Harry remained in the United Kingdom to deal with the fallout from the Sussex desire to change their royal roles, which has produced a fierce media storm. Overnight Sunday into Monday, reporters, cameras and media trucks appeared outside the gates of Sandringham to await news.
Prince Charles arrived at Sandringham from Oman late Sunday after attending the official mourning ceremony Sunday for the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who died Friday at 79 after ruling the country for 50 years, as a representative of the queen.
Prince William traveled from his home at Kensington Palace in London and Harry from his and Meghan’s home at Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor Castle estate west of London.
Ahead of the meeting, Harry and William issued a joint statement challenging the accuracy of a story in a London newspaper Monday about a severe breakdown in the relationship between the two brothers.
Their statement, sent to USA TODAY in an email from Buckingham Palace, denied a report in the Times of London that Harry and Meghan felt driven away from the royal family due to alleged “bullying” by William and his wife, Duchess Kate of Cambridge, who were supposedly unfriendly to Meghan.
“Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a U.K. newspaper today speculating about the relationship between The Duke of Sussex and The Duke of Cambridge,” the statement said. “For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful.”
By 2 p.m. local time, both princes had arrived separately at the sprawling estate, according to the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard.
Buckingham Palace said “a range of possibilities” would be discussed at Monday’s meeting, the Associated Press reported, but the goal was to agree on next steps to take to resolve the crisis. The unusual royal gathering follows days of talks among royal courtiers and officials from the U.K. and Canada, and any decisions will take time to be implemented, the palace said.
The meeting comes less than a week after Harry and Meghan dropped their bombshell announcement on Jan. 8: They want to step back as senior members of the royal family, become “financially independent,” spend less time in the U.K., and still continue to “fully support” the queen through charity work and royal tours.
The couple said they will split their time between the U.K. and North America but did not specify where on the continent they plan to set up shop. Meghan and Archie are currently somewhere in Canada, the country in which she previously lived while filming the television show “Suits” and one of the largest of the U.K.’s 53 Commonwealth nations.
Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, lives in Los Angeles, sparking speculation that the royal couple could spend time there .
“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,” the couple’s statement said.
About an hour after the announcement, a statement from the queen’s spokesperson suggested Harry and Meghan’s attempts to step away wouldn’t be quite as simple as they implied.
“Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage,” the statement said. “We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”
On Thursday, Britain’s national news agency, Press Association, reported that the queen had ordered officials representing her, Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan to meet and find “workable solutions” within “days not weeks.”
On Saturday evening, the palace confirmed that the queen had called a meeting of the princes and their top advisers for Monday.
Meanwhile, Harry does have at least one royal engagement scheduled this week: He’s due to host the Rugby League World Cup 2021 draws at Buckingham Palace on Thursday. Harry has been royal patron of the Rugby Football League since he succeeded the queen in 2016. No plans to alter or cancel the engagement have been announced.