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Queen Elizabeth II agrees to let Harry and Meghan split time between Canada and U.K.

But the queen said she would have preferred that they stay as full-time working members of the royal family.
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LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II gave a reluctant blessing Monday to Prince Harry and Meghan's decision to "live a more independent life" in both Canada and the U.K., but she said she "would have preferred" that they remain "full-time working Members of the Royal Family."

"My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family," the queen said in a statement. "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 U.K."

The details of how the young couple will forge a new life separate from the royal family still have to be worked out, the queen added.

"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," the queen said.

The announcement came after the British royals held an unprecedented summit that was triggered by the couple's surprising announcement that they planned to "step back" from their traditional roles.

Last Wednesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex posted the announcement on social media and their own new website that they would split their time between North America and the United Kingdom as they "carve out a progressive new role within this institution."

“This bombshell had been dropped on the royal family and yet they still hadn't met to discuss it face to face,” NBC royal contributor Camilla Tominey said.

Image: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II departs from church on the Sandringham estate
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II leaves church on Sunday at her Sandringham estate in eastern England.Chris Radburn / Reuters

“I think people really couldn't relate to that, so the idea of a face-to-face meeting was urgently needed as is a solution to this problem. [The royals] don't want it to be strung out over weeks. They want it done in days,” she added.

The meeting took place at Queen Elizabeth II’s Sandringham estate in the east of England. The heir to the throne, Prince Charles, was there after returning from Oman, where he had gone to pay his condolences after the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Prince William was also at the meeting.

The family needed to work out how exactly Harry, who is sixth in line to the throne, and Meghan would continue to support the queen while also working to become “financially independent.”

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Megxit made headlines and sparked nationwide speculation on what prompted their announcement, which came on the heels of a joint statement from William and Harry publicly denouncing an "offensive" newspaper report about their reportedly strained relationship.

"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 from the offices of William and Harry said, according to Reuters.

The rumors of a rift between Harry and William, who were once very close, surfaced last summer. In June, Harry and Meghan confirmed that they were separating from William and Kate's Royal Foundation charity to start their own initiative, Sussex Royal.

Harry appeared to confirm the distance between the brothers in the interview with journalist Tom Bradby in Africa when he said that he and William were on “different paths.”

Image: Prince Harry, his wife Meghan and Prince William on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in July 2018.
Prince Harry and his wife Meghan split off in June from the charity they ran together with Harry's brother Prince William, seen here on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in July 2018.Tolga Akmen / AFP - Getty Images file

Just days after returning from a six-week break from their royal responsibilities, Meghan flew back to Canada where they had left their son, Archie, who was born in May. She had been expected to call into the meeting, a palace source said, and other people whom "the royals want in the room" might also attend.

“As the ultimate decision maker in all this and also the wisest head there with six decades on the throne, the queen is probably the best moderator of the situation,” Tominey said.

Despite the desire to come to a swift conclusion on the couple’s future role, there is "genuine agreement and understanding that any decisions will take time to be implemented," the palace source said.

Since the announcement, news of the latest royal family drama has captivated the nation and dominated news headlines.

"Things are quite broken but from what I'm told, William is very keen to see if he can try and support Harry and Meghan in their new lifestyle, in the new path that they take. Everyone is hopeful that at some point down the line, they'll reconcile," Roya Nikka, the royal correspondent for The Sunday Times newspaper, said.

This solution could well end up being a blueprint for future royal siblings. William has three children, Prince George, who is third in line to the throne, as well as Princess Charlotte, 4, and Prince Louis, who will turn 2 in April.

“This is going to be the test case, and the decisions made here could affect the likes of Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis because they may find themselves in a similar situation when they reach adulthood,” Tominey said.

The couple’s decision comes less than two years after their celebrity-studded fairy-tale wedding at a medieval church on the grounds of Windsor Castle. Harry and Meghan, who is biracial and an American actress who appeared in the television series “Suits,” were hailed for modernizing the monarchy and bringing a breath of fresh air into a centuries-old institution.

At the time, there was optimism about Meghan's ability to fit in with the rest of the royal family and adapt to the demands of her new role.

“I know that the fact that she'll be really unbelievably good at the job part of it as well is a huge relief to me because she'll be able to deal with everything else that comes with it,” Harry said in an interview with NBC News’ British partner ITV after the couple announced their engagement.

The British tabloids quickly turned on Meghan and began probing everything from her own troubled relationship with her family to the couple’s trips on private planes, while promoting environmental causes.

"To begin with, it was easy because everyone loved them and all the press was positive, but then when stuff did start to go negative, their instinct wasn’t to just take it on the chin," said Bradby, who interviewed the couple for a documentary filmed in September during a trip to Africa. "Their instinct was that it was unreasonable and unfair and that you should try to fight it."

In October, the couple revealed a lawsuit against the parent company of the Mail on Sunday for misuse of private information, among other claims. At the time, Harry released a scathing statement accusing the tabloid press of a "ruthless campaign" against his wife.

Rachel Elbaum reported from London, and Corky Siemaszko from New York.