LONDON — Queen Elizabeth is reportedly disappointed with the sudden announcement from Prince Harry and Meghan that they are stepping back from their position as senior royals, and palace watchers are questioning how much financial autonomy the couple will have in the future.
The BBC reported Thursday that the royal family was "hurt" by the decision. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not consult any senior royal before making the statement, the BBC reported without naming sources. Failing to consult the queen ahead of their shock announcement, in which the couple also said they will "work to become financially independent," is understood to have "disappointed" the monarch, Sky News reported.
Sky's royal correspondent Rhiannon Mills also said she was "told that the statement was solely written by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — no senior members of the Royal Family were consulted before it was released." Reuters reported that the family was hurt and disappointed, citing an unnamed royal source.
Harry and Meghan said Wednesday they would balance their time between the U.K. and North America, "continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages."
The "geographic balance" would enable them to raise their son Archie "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," they said without revealing further details.
Buckingham Palace responded by stating that "discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through."
There has been speculation for some time that Harry and Meghan could spend more time abroad as both have spoken of the pressures of media scrutiny and intrusion, as well as widespread reports of a falling-out between Prince Harry and his brother, William.
Meghan has previously lived in Canada, a member of the British Commonwealth, and some royal correspondents have suggested the couple might opt to move there, given the enigmatic reference to North America. The couple spent the festive period with Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, in what the media has described as a "luxury retreat" in Vancouver.
It's not known whether Harry and Meghan will retain their royal titles or how they will become financially independent, but the couple sought to answer questions over what their new financial autonomy could mean on their website SussexRoyal.com.
The couple has received a small portion (5%) of funding through what is known as the Sovereign Grant — money paid by the government (and hence taxpayers) to support senior royals' official duties such as overseas visits, hospitality and public engagements. The sovereign grant for 2018-2019 amounted to £82.2 million ($107.1 million), up from £76.1 million in 2017-2018, equivalent to £1.24 per person in the U.K. The rest of their funding (95%) comes from the Duchy of Cornwall, the estate of Prince Charles (Harry and William's father).
Princes Harry and William are reported to receive around £5 million a year in funding from the Duchy of Cornwall with Harry reported to receive a slightly smaller sum than his brother, of around £2 million a year.
The couple's U.K. residence, Frogmore Cottage, in Windsor was refurbished to the tune of £2.4 million in 2018-2019 and was funded by the Sovereign Grant. The couple said they would continue to maintain Frogmore Cottage "so that their family will always have a place to call home in the United Kingdom."
On their website, the couple addressed questions over their financial independence. "As they step back as senior members of the Royal Family and no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant, they will become members of the Royal Family with financial independence which is something they look forward to."
"This phased approach will take time to transition in consultation with other senior members of the Royal Family, but Their Royal Highnesses are hopeful that this change is in the best interest for all and look forward to carrying out their duties to the monarch as well as their charitable work with financial autonomy," the website added.
The couple will still be protected by Metropolitan Police bodyguards as they are designated as "internationally protected people" by the Home Office. It said: "No breakdown of security costs is available as disclosure of such information could compromise the integrity of these arrangements and affect the security of the individuals protected. It is long established policy not to comment upon the protective security arrangements and their related costs for members of the Royal Family or their residences."