“They just felt totally unwelcome,” a source told The Daily Beast Wednesday, as they attempted to make sense of what had prompted Harry and Meghan to make the bombshell announcement that they would be stepping down as “senior” members of the Royal Family.
Indeed, Meghan hinted, none too-subtly, at something similar when she told interviewer Tom Bradby in a documentary in October, when he asked how she was doing: “Thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I’m OK. But it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.”
For their part, Buckingham Palace made clear that senior members of the royal family were utterly in the dark about Harry and Meghan's news and plans. They learned of it, just like the rest of the world, via the statement Harry and Meghan posted on the Sussex Royal Instagram account.
Senior members of the family—which usually can be taken to include the queen, Prince Charles and Prince William—are said to be “hurt” and “disappointed,” according to BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond.
The Daily Beast’s source, who has old friends mainly among Harry’s set, said: “People expected Harry to tell his wife to wind her neck in after they got married, to be like, ‘Look, I’m third or fourth in line to the throne or whatever, and this is the way it’s going to be,’ but, the opposite happened. He went along with all her decisions, and went from being an easy-going guy who was a bit of a laugh to this neurotic, faux-woke millionaire. A lot of his old mates and the old boys at the palace say they now just find both of them a complete pain in the arse. I don’t think anyone will be too gutted to see a bit less of them, to be honest.”
Of course, it is precisely this kind of snobbery and anti-Meghan sentiment that Harry and Meghan have found so misery-producing in the last few years, along with the relentless attacks on her in the media.
On Tuesday, her most vociferous British critic, Piers Morgan—who has angrily accused Meghan of “ghosting” him—accused her of tearing every relationship in her life apart, and now ripping Harry away from his family.
There has been chatter that Meghan and Harry are demanding and difficult to work with. But so are plenty of other royals (Prince Andrew anyone?), and this final separation should not just be laid at Meghan’s feet; it also represents a dramatic and damaging failure by the royal family to help her transition into royal life.
Some say much of the trouble goes back to a tactless but well-intentioned question Prince William asked his brother after he first introduced him to his new girlfriend, Meghan Markle, and confided that he was planning to ask her to marry him.“This seems to be moving quite quickly. Are you sure?” William is said to have asked Harry.
Harry and William are both hot-tempered individuals, and Harry flew into a rage, with some saying he has never quite disabused himself since of the suspicion that his brother doubts Meghan.
In fact, William and Kate rolled out the red carpet for Meghan once it became clear that marrying her was Harry’s settled choice, welcoming her into their home for Christmas 2017.
This, it would turn out, was the high point of their relationship, and over that first, joyous festive period the ‘fab four’ excitedly sketched out plans for how they could work together.
But the entente soon fell apart, along with their joint charitable foundation, and then at the end of 2018, it was announced that Harry and Meghan were not going to take up residence in a grand apartment in Kensington Palace that had been refurbished for them, but would instead move to a large country home in Windsor, the misleadingly named Frogmore Cottage. (The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, who were days from being kicked out of their apartment at KP, were quietly delighted, sources told The Daily Beast, when they got a reprieve from being evicted that was sufficiently last minute to ensure they still benefitted from the Sussex-ordered face lift.)
The move to Windsor was originally portrayed as Harry and Meghan asserting their independence but soon a compelling counter-narrative emerged. Sources said that Meghan and Harry had in fact been pushed out by William and that the move to Frogmore Cottage in Windsor has “been as much an exile as an escape.”
The Sunday Times carried a story quoting a source as saying: “People are telling William, ‘Don’t worry. Your influence will grow and Harry’s will fade.’ This is peak Harry.”
Meghan and Harry were said to have felt they had been “cut adrift,” and sources began gossiping about the possibility that the troublesome little brother and his American wife (who developed an unfortunate reputation for having staff quit on her) might be well suited to getting out of the country for a few years. Those who dismissed such stories as mendacious nonsense now must reconsider.
In retrospect it is clear that for months, Harry and Meghan have been dropping hints that they were planning to dramatically reconfigure their lives, yet no-one expected this.
In their statement, the couple said: “After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.
“It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honor our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages.
“This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son 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. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.”
While it is not expected that the couple will renounce their HRH titles, the announcement is effectively a resignation by any other name, and shatters any hopes that Meghan and Harry would return from a recent six week sabbatical from royal life ready to conform to the norms of royal life.