Queen's ‘ruthless’ Meghan and Harry move following royal split

Marni Dixit
·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·5-min read

New book Battle of Brothers, which looks into the breakdown of Prince Harry and Prince William's relationship after the younger Prince and his wife Meghan Markle decided to leave the royal family, has revealed the 'ruthless' move by the Queen following the split.

The book, which is written by royal biographer Robert Lacey, reveals new insight into the meeting between the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry and the negotiations that took place to allow the younger royal to leave.

The Queen with grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle
A royal expert has revealed the Queen's 'ruthlessness' during Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's royal split. Photo: Getty

At the beginning of 2020, Harry and Meghan were enjoying six weeks in Canada and had been able to enjoy their time privately until the news they were staying in a waterfront mansion on Vancouver Island broke.

At this point, they had told both the Queen and Charles they were looking to make a change to their official roles. When Harry asked for a date, he was offered January 29.

Lacey reports that when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex landed home on January 6, they were "seething" at the proposed date.

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Finding Freedom, another biography about the royal couple, reveals the couple was frustrated with the lengthy wait and had even thought about driving straight to Sandringham to have a meeting with the Queen.

Lacy writes in Battle of Brothers that the couple had already started thinking about how they would make a living after leaving the royal family.

Lacey wrote, "Their US managers had been confident that both of the couple could command substantial fees from talking engagements in the States and Canada. Agent Nick Collins was even then negotiating contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars per appearance."

The Queen sits with Harry and Meghan
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's early announcement that they would be leaving the royal family "devastated" the Queen and Prince Philip. Photo: Getty

On January 8, the couple was forced to pull the pin on their announcement after concerns the media was learning of their plan, this came after the front-page of The Sun that day announcing they would be leaving the royal family.

That evening, the couple decided it was time to reveal their news.

Both Finding Freedom authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand and Battle of Brothers' Lacey wrote that the move shocked the palace.

In Finding Freedom, the authors write that the move "blindsided" the Queen, while Lacey shared that it had "devastated" the Queen and Prince Philip.

Five days later at the 'Sandringham Summit' where the Queen, Philip, William and Harry met to discuss the arrangements, it was decided Harry and Meghan would quit as working members of the royal family all together.

Buckingham Palace then shared two statements - one that shared that the couple "can no longer formally represent the Queen" and another unusual one from the Queen saying, "Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family".

Prince William and Prince Charles were also involved in talks about Prince Harry's exit. Photo: Getty
Prince William and Prince Charles were also involved in talks about Prince Harry's exit. Photo: Getty

"I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life."

In the next four days, representatives for the various parties were trying to come to a deal as to how Harry and Meghan would leave.

An insider reportedly said the negotiations were "like dealing with a hard-nosed Hollywood lawyer".

"They totally misplayed the negotiations, but then so did the palace. The tragedy was that the Queen's broader objective was actually to bring everyone back together, not split them apart."

While the couple was given their freedom, they had to lose their right to the His/Her Royal Highness titles and the Duke would need to step down from his honorary military roles.

Lacey writes, "On the face of it, Rachel Zane’s (Meghan’s) tough tactics had backfired disastrously. The Sussexes could still call themselves ‘Duke and Duchess’ if they chose and they had the right to go on living in Canada as they were at that date – but not much more.

"Small wonder that when Harry was offered the possibility of a review of the whole arrangement after twelve months, his first impulse was to refuse. He wanted no more to do with the royal family."

However, it was what came next that was the biggest blow. The Queen decided the couple couldn't use the Sussex Royal brand.

Lacey said, "It was also said by those in the know that the couple’s erratic and impulsive behaviour for the past year had not inclined Queen Elizabeth II to entrust the Sussexes with the use of the word ‘royal’ any time soon."

Speaking with Vanity Fair, Lacey added, "At the end of the day we saw a ruthlessness from the Queen over her absolute refusal to allow the Sussexes to use the word royal for their new branding, and we’re seeing the same ruthlessness in William."

He added, "The challenge for William is whether while being true to his principles he can also modernize the institution by making his brother part of it. That’s what everyone wants, some kind of reconciliation."

Lacey adds that while Harry and Meghan are unlikely to return to Frogmore Cottage anytime soon, they would be wise not to alienate themselves from the family as the terms of the exit are renegotiated next year.

"At the moment they are enjoying their new lives," he said. "But if there is no reconciliation next year there is going to have to be a cut, and they will have to be ex royals. As the Duke of Windsor [former King Edward VIII who abdicated] discovered, that’s not much fun."

Luckily for Harry and Meghan, however, they have been able to make money without the Sussex Royal brand with the couple inking a $130 million deal with Netflix to produce content.

The couple is set to fully debut their US-based charity Archewell, which filled the hole of the Sussex Royal brand, next year.

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