The Queen has summoned senior royals to an emergency summit at her Sandringham estate in Norfolk on Monday to discuss the future of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The meeting, to be attended by the Queen, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cambridge and Duke of Sussex, will be the first time the four have met since the Sussex crisis exploded on Wednesday.
While the Queen has been in Norfolk, Charles has been at Birkhall in Scotland, William at Kensington Palace, and Harry at Windsor.
The meeting will be an opportunity for them to discuss proposals, drawn up after a series of consultations between palace officials and representatives of the UK and Canadian governments over how Meghan and Harry can achieve their aim of carving out new “progressive” roles as hybrid royals.
The country’s most senior civil servant, cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, was reportedly one of the senior figures around the negotiating table, along with senior aides from Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace.
It is understood Meghan, who is in Canada, is likely to take part take part in the discussion via conference calling, if she is able to given there is a considerable time difference.
A royal source said the meeting was to “talk things through”. The proposals had been drawn up following “a series of meetings and consultations across the last few days.”
“There are a range of possibilities for the family to review, which take into account the thinking the Sussexes outlined earlier in the week”, the source added.
The couple made their bombshell announcement on Wednesday that they intend to “step back” from being frontline royals, split their time between the UK and North America, and work towards becoming “financially independent”.
Sources once more stressed that making changes to the working life and role in the monarchy of the couple “required complex and thoughtful discussions”.
“Next steps will be agreed at the meeting,” the source added. It remains the Queen’s wish that it be resolved “at pace”, and the aim remains days not weeks. But there was “genuine agreement and understanding that any decision will take time to be implemented,” the source added.
The meeting has been called as palace insiders denied reports the couple had been “driven out”. A narrative has developing of a rift within the royal family, including from ITV’s Tom Bradby, who is considered a friend of the Sussexes, of a “toxic” relationship between them and the rest of the family.
Meghan flew back to Canada on Thursday, the day after the couple dropped their explosive statement on Instagram and their new website Sussexroyal.com, blindsiding Buckingham Palace.
She had spent just three days in the UK. The fact that the couple’s two dogs are also in Canada has been interpreted as a possible indication they intend to stay there for some time in the immediate future.
Harry remained at Frogmore Cottage, their Windsor residence. He has an official engagement at Buckingham Palace on Thursday, carrying out the draw for next year’s Rugby League World Cup. It is thought the royal family want some workable deal on the table before he makes his first public appearance since the crisis broke.
There is speculation he may then fly out to Canada to join his wife and eight-month-old son, Archie.
Palace officials have shed no light on future official engagements for the couple. One insider would only say: “We’re operating under business as usual, and we’ve got a programme and a schedule.”
The key issue is clearly funding. Aides stress that funding will not be the “driving force” behind the negotiations; neither used as a beating stick nor an incentive to push the couple in any preferred direction.
It is felt imperative the couple feel they have been given every opportunity to explore their revolutionary idea of becoming “hybrid” royals in new “progressive” roles, without being stymied by cost implications.
The last thing the palace wants are negative briefings from the Sussexes’ camp that they are being forced into something they do not want.
The couple say they receive 5% of their official expenses directly from the sovereign grant, though this excludes the high cost of their armed police protection and overseas official travel. The majority of their living expenses are met by Charles, through his income from the Duchy of Cornwall.
According to a poll for the Daily Mail, almost three-quarters (72%) of people believed the couple should be allowed to leave for Canada, with just 16% believing the Queen should ask them to stay. But more people (76%) believed that if they step back from senior royal roles they should sacrifice their Metropolitan police protection, and 73% said the same for tax-payer funded security measures.
The fact that Harry defied the Queen’s wishes not to go public while talks within the royal family were at the earliest stage, leaving members feeling “disappointed” and “hurt”, has not played well with the public. Almost two-thirds, (60%) believed the Queen had been treated “shoddily” by the couple, the poll showed.
How the couple intend to become financially independent without facing accusations of cashing in on their royal titles is far from clear. As so-called international influencers, there will be commercial opportunities aplenty, though if they can monetise these for personal rather than charitable gain remains the question.
Before their announcement, Meghan had already reportedly agreed to a Disney voiceover in return for a donation to the charity Elephants Without Borders. Harry has collaborated with chatshow queen Oprah Winfrey on a documentary about mental healthwhich will be broadcast on Apple+ this year but is not thought to have been paid a fee.
The couple has already trademarked more than 100 items for their Sussex Royal brand, but this is thought to be connected with their charitable foundation. They are understood to have turned for advice to the former US presidential couple, Barack and Michelle Obama, who have successfully set up their own foundation after leaving the White House.