Updated Jan 13, 2020 12:25 PM EST
Sandringham, England — Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II presided Monday over an unprecedented meeting of royal family members amid turmoil over Prince Harry and Meghan’s decision to step back from their royal duties. Harry, his brother William and his father Prince Charles gathered at the queen’s home in eastern England to thrash out a solution.
Afterwards, the queen issued a statement saying they had “very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family.” She said she and the royal family “are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family” and “understand their wish to live a more independent life.” But the queen added, “we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family.”
She said there would be a period of transition in which Harry and Meghan will spend time in Canada and the U.K. while further details of these “complex matters” are resolved.
The meeting took place at the royal estate at Sandringham, which CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports is one of the queen’s favorite country retreats — a place she usually goes to get away from it all. But Monday it was the scene of a crisis summit that could impact the royal family for generations to come.
It was no friendly family gathering, but an unprecedented meeting called after Harry and Meghan said they wanted to pull out of their “senior” royal duties and spend more time in North America. The shock public announcement last week reportedly broadsided the queen.
CBS News had been told that Meghan, currently in Canada with son Archie, might take part in the meeting by phone.
The monarch and the senior members of her family were expected to try and hash out Harry and Meghan’s role going forward, including who’s to pay for their transatlantic lifestyle. Details include the kind of security they’ll need — something that, until now has been paid for by British taxpayers, how they’ll be able to keep their home near Windsor Castle, Frogmore Cottage, and what commercial deals they’ll be allowed to strike.
The crisis has sparked frenzied speculation in the media, from a backlash aimed at Meghan, to claims that she and Harry felt “bullied” by Prince William.
The brothers firmly denied that claim in a statement issued Monday morning, but there has been tension between them, felt by Prince William, according to royal reporter Roya Nikkhah.
“I think he (Prince William) feels very sad that there’s been this split that’s seen them go into what he describes as separate entities. He talked about not being able to put his arm around his brother anymore and that makes him sad,” Nikkhah said.
The increasing separation is something Harry has touched on recently, saying that while, “we’ll always be brothers, we’re certainly on different paths at the moment.”
Critics argue that Meghan knew what she was signing up for when she agreed to marry into Britain’s royal family.
But D’Agata said there have been signs William might try to find a way to keep the couple in the fold. Nikkhah said the elder prince “wants them to be able to play on the same team.”
“He’s hoping that there can come a point that Harry and Meghan feel happy enough in their progressive new roles,” said Nikkhah. “He’s keen that the royal family supports them.”
D’Agata said that, for the time being, Harry is still scheduled to carry out his official royal duties, including hosting wheelchair participants in the Rugby League World Cup later this week at Buckingham Palace.
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