The true story of what happened between the Queen and the Sussexes

  • Video report by ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship


Given how far apart the two sides were, Harry and Meghan's formal split from the Royal Family was never going to be easy.

But here is my understanding of what happened this week that led to Friday's tense statements from Buckingham Palace and from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Throughout the talks, Harry and Meghan's position was clear.



Despite quitting their roles as senior working royals in March 2020, they wanted to maintain their connections to all the charities and organisations they'd worked with.

Those connections included the Royal patronages the Queen had passed to them - like the Rugby Football Union and the National Theatre - and the honorary military appointments Harry held - like Captain General of the Royal Marines.

Meghan with Artistic Director of the National Theatre Rufus Norris. Credit: Instagram/SussexRoyal

Their view? That they could still contribute in a meaningful way, despite moving their lives to California.

But the Queen did not agree and the promised the 12 month review was edging closer by the day.

The Queen and her senior staff set out very clearly that there was no model for half in, half out of the Royal Family.


ITV Royal Editor discusses the meanings behind the Royal's statements

The view was that a couple who wanted to be financially independent could not therefore expect to have formal links to the Royal Family which could be easily monetised.

And if you stop to think about it, Harry and Meghan do have something no other American celebrity or philanthropist has: a real-life connection to the British Crown.

And in January 2020, Prince Harry served notice on his grandmother that they wanted to step down from their roles as working royals.

The Queen held this view then, and she holds it now - that these titles could not stay with Harry and Meghan once they had embarked on their new life in California.

The Queen did make it clear in the statement that she is "saddened" by what had happened and the Sussexes are "much loved" members of the family.

And so this week, the Palace went into final negotiations with the Duke of Sussex, and yes the statement did just say "the Duke".

But the news, revealed first by ITV on Monday, that Harry and Meghan had done a deal with Oprah Winfrey for a big sit down interview on US primetime TV, did not help matters.


  • Royal Editor Chris Ship discusses Friday's developments with Presenter Charlene White


The Sussexes had planned to have the "divorce" settlement signed and sealed before announcing the Oprah news.

And given Buckingham Palace were not told about Oprah in advance, the opposing sides had to complete negotiations this week in a more tense atmosphere than they'd both anticipated.

What upset the Sussexes the most, was a line in the middle of the pre-prepared Palace statement: "In stepping away from the work of the Royal Family it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service."

The Palace says that is a statement of fact: Harry and Meghan chose to step away and therefore public service - in the Royal family sense - was simply no longer possible.

But over at Sussex headquarters, they hit the roof and prepared their own advance statement in response.

Harry and Meghan believe they are committed to public service but they simply want to do it from outside the Royal Family and from outside the UK.

Harry and Meghan at a Queen’s Commonwealth Trust event, an organisation they no longer formally represent Credit: Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/PA

And given Harry's closeness to the Queen - he still remains in regular contact with his grandmother - he will have been fuming at the way he felt he was being treated here.

That is what triggered Harry and Meghan's unusually sharp response in their statement: "We can all live a life of service. Service is universal."

And whatever public pretence there had been until this point that both sides were happy with the outcome, went up in a big white puff of smoke.

And in many ways, Harry and Meghan's view that they "live a life of service" has been evidenced today in the delight expressed by the charities who Harry and Meghan will keep working with.

Those not-for-profit groups - not bestowed by the Queen - include the Invictus Games tournament, the Smart Works charity which helps unemployed women and the Mayhew animal shelter.

But at the Palace, they had concluded otherwise when it came to the patronages handed to them by the Queen herself.

Do the Royal Marines want their figurehead to be someone who is rarely in the UK?

Does London's National Theatre want its Royal Patron to be someone who is very focussed on the couple's new roles and new life in the US?

The letter suggests The Queen concluded they didn't - and never could have done - and the Queen wrote to the Sussexes to confirm the military, Commonwealth and charitable associations were being removed.

Harry with his grandmother the Queen at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2015 Credit: Julian Simmonds/The Daily Telegraph/PA

The patronages will be "redistributed" among those members of her family who remain full-time working Royals.

Buckingham Palace did try to hold out an olive branch at the end of their statement by saying how they were "all saddened" and that Harry and Meghan did remain "much loved members of the family".

It echoed the statement they made in January 2020 when Harry and Meghan announced they wanted out.

Meghan and Harry Credit: Simon Dawson/PA

But that's not how they see it in California.

The Sussexes believe other members of the Royal Family with HRH titles are still given the freedom to earn a private income.

Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie and Prince Michael of Kent are names you will often hear mentioned.

Harry and Meghan will no longer use their HRH titles, they have the financial independence they sought and they remain the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (after all King Edward VIII who abdicated the throne in 1936 kept his Duke of Windsor title until the day he died).

Royal sources say that the Queen gifted the Dukedom to Harry on his wedding day and he and Meghan are entitled to keep it.

So the separation is now complete. To say it ended inharmoniously is an understatement.