JANUARY 8, 2020
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s announcement that they are stepping down as senior members of the royal family came as surprise to Queen Elizabeth.
While there was some idea of the couple’s desire to take a different route, as discussions have been confirmed to be taking place, insiders tell PEOPLE that the 93-year-old monarch and senior members of the royal family, including Prince Charles and Prince William, were caught off guard by the release of the couple’s statement on Wednesday.
“There is a lot of hurt about this,” one royal source tells PEOPLE.
There is also consternation that the release went out via Buckingham Palace email, as it was a personal statement.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have also set up their website and dispatched hundreds of lines of a clearly thought-out mission.
The disappointment among the royal family is palpable this evening — and it “was so avoidable,” the source adds.
Just hours after Harry and Meghan shared their plan to “carve out a progressive new role,” the monarch reacted by saying the conversation is still in “early” stages.
“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,” the Queen’s office of Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Wednesday.
The transition means they will no longer be based full-time in the U.K., the country where the British royal family has reigned for centuries. Harry is currently sixth in line to the throne, behind his father, Prince Charles, brother, Prince William, and William’s three children George, Charlotte and Louis.
A post shared by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (@sussexroyal) on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:33am PST
Multiple insiders say the chill between the Sussexes and Cambridges runs deeper than many outsiders realize. Today, fallout from the rift that began two years ago with Harry’s engagement to Meghan (sources say William cautioned Harry about moving too fast with the American actress) continues to ripple across the royal family, from seating to staffing to Christmas plans, as Meghan and Harry announced they would not be spending the holiday with the royal family at Sandringham.
In addition to redefining their royal roles, Harry and Meghan also plan to become financially independent from the Crown.
“We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages,” they wrote on Instagram. “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.”