Meghan Markle has returned to Canada, where she just holidayed for almost two months, amid the increasing storm over the bombshell news she and Prince Harry plan to retreat from the frontline of royal life.
The BBC and other media outlets say Meghan has decamped to the country where she and Harry are tipped to start their new lives, leaving the duke to face down a family crisis.
Some reports say the former actress left son Archie, 9 months, in North America while she made her lightning return trip to the UK and will now be reunited with him.
As the royals face calls for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to give up their titles, the Queen has called for an emergency family summit to find solutions for Harry and Meghan’s wishes within days, say reports.
The monarch and Prince Charles are reportedly locked in “calm” conversations with Harry via a series of conference calls, Her Majesty in Sandringham and the heir Birkhall, Scotland.
Governments on both sides of the Atlantic are reportedly being asked to co-operate with navigating the next steps.
Kate Middleton’s 38th birthday on January 9 was overshadowed by the crisis, which has been called “a declaration of war” by Harry and Meghan. They broke off any unspoken hostilities to post an upbeat comment on social media (“Wishing a very happy birthday to the Duchess of Cambridge!”)
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It was the only sign of buoyancy on a bizarre day for the royal family, which in the last months has already endured the exiling of Prince Andrew over his friendship with late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and Prince Philip’s hospitalisation at Christmas.
“The Queen, the Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Cambridge have directed their teams to work at pace with governments and the Sussexes’s office to find workable solutions and this is expected to take days, not weeks,” a royals source told People.
The monarch’s major goal? A speedy conclusion and working through the tangled issues to put forwarded a plan “that works” for the aggrieved duke and duchess.
“This has moved from shock and a range of emotions to something more constructive,” the source said.
“It is complicated. This is happening very quickly. And the proof in that is the fact that this will take days and not weeks.”
Said to be central to the summit discussions are funding for the couple and their team, security and protection, and whether they will have official residences.
On Thursday (Australian time), Harry and Meghan detailed plans to “carve out a progressive new role within the institution” on their new Sussex Royal site.
They said they want financial independence from the palace and will give up the $10 million a year they have received under the Sovereign Grant to forge careers or businesses.
The issue of what kind of roles Harry and Meghan want to carry out on behalf of the monarchy also needs to be thrashed out by the UK government and that of wherever that choose to live.
The Sussexes’ social media announcement and information on their website suggests they still plan to carry out official foreign tours. As they put it, they will “fly the flag” for the royals “as called upon.”
According to the Evening Standard, Harry’s grandmother and father had asked the Sussexes to “hold off” after the family held “early talks” about the shock proposal before Christmas.
Harry approached Charles about spending more time in North America, and was told a “thorough plan” had to be devised, the newspaper said.
A request to meet with the Queen was blocked by courtiers, with the monarch reportedly explaining plans for Harry’s role needed to be handled by his father.
“There is a lot of hurt about this,” one royal source told People.