‘Incandescent’: Gloves off in Megxit royal rift
The gloves have come off in the royal family rift with Prince Charles and Prince William said to be "incandescent" after Prince Harry and Meghan's decision to step down in defiance of the Queen's orders, while aides have broken ranks to accuse the couple of wanting to "have their cake and eat it".
As Britain digested the news of Prince Harry and Meghan's shock decision to quit as "senior" members of the royal family in favour of a hybrid public-private role that would allow them to earn their own income, the mood was one of shock and disappointment at the decision.
On Thursday the Evening Standard reported Prince Harry ignored instructions from the Queen not to make any any announcements this week.
The Daily Mail reported Prince Harry had requested to meet the Queen at Sandringham last weekend after returning from a six-week break in Canada however it did not go ahead, with Prince Charles and Prince William allegedly receiving a copy of the statement just 10 minutes before it was published.
On Thursday, the news overshadowed celebrations for the Duchess of Cambridge's 38th birthday, where senior members of the family gathered at Kensington Palace to celebrate.
On Wednesday, the Sussexes announcement created global headlines with the announcment they would ditch the royal life Prince Harry had been born into. The couple said their decision had been long coming, with their plans outlined on a newly created Sussex Royal website. However minutes later, Buckingham Palace issued a terse rebuttal, saying discussions were at an early stage and "complicated".
The hugely unconventional move has taken a wrecking ball to the royal institution and drawn comparisons with the abdication of the Queen's uncle, Edward VIII when he gave up the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
A senior royal source told The Sun: "Their statement was not cleared with anyone. It breaks all protocol. This is a declaration of war on the family."
"There is fury over how they've done this without any thought for the implications for the institution. The Queen is deeply upset. The Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge are incandescent with rage.
"Courtiers can't believe it. There are so many unanswered questions but they've just up and done it without a thought for anyone else.
"The plan was there to discuss it and work out a way that works for everyone in the family."
Meghan's most high-profile critic Piers Morgan blasted the couple as "royal hustlers" and "deluded clowns" for seeking "glitz, the glamour, the splendour and the stupendous wealth….they just don't want to have to actually earn it."
Royal aides have described feeling "stabbed in the back" after working hard to accommodate the couple in their recent move to Frogmore Cottage and decision to form their own charitable foundation.
However it's not the first time palace workers have been blindsided by the couple's moves to issue "personal statements" that have overshadowed official duties. On the final day of their successful royal tour of Southern Africa in 2019, the couple announced they would sue owners of the Mail on Sunday and Prince Harry issued a bitter personal statement blasting the tabloid media.
"My deepest fear is history repeating itself," he wrote at the time. "I've seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."
On Thursday, a royal source told the Daily Mail members of the royal household felt they had been "stabbed in the back".
"It's a masterclass in wanting to have your cake and eat it," the source said.
"Even their own staff cautioned against them making this public until they actually sat down and discussed it with the family properly.
"But they are in this weird bubble and have this strange siege mentality. They feel like it's them against the world and are painting a very unfair picture of how this is a family that supposedly doesn't understand or support them, which is complete and utter rubbish."
Another staffer said the team had "bent over backwards for them".
"They were given the wedding they wanted, the house they wanted, the office they wanted, the money they wanted, the staff they wanted, the tours they wanted and had the backing of their family. What more did they want?"
The decision to make a public announcement rather than hold quiet discussions was also the subject of consternation.
"Why on earth they have put it out in the public domain is a decision only they can justify," one source told the organisation.
"The feeling is one of deep disappointment that they have chosen to do this unilaterally and without prior warning or consultation.
"People understand they want to get things moving and there remains a desire to help them get this right but you do not turn 1,000 years of British royal history on its head in eight days."
The couple now faces huge questions about how their "progressive" new role will work. Their new website makes no mention of giving up royal titles or protection, and says they will remain living in Frogmore Cottage - which has recently been given a $4.56 million taxpayer funded renovation.
The couple claim only five per cent of their operating costs are covered by the Sovereign Grant - a $155 million a year funding stream for royals and their activities. However the couple also received $9.5 million split between the Sussexes and the Cambridges from Prince Charles' Duchy of Cornwall which is used to finance the official duties of the two brothers.
While the royals consider this "family money", it in fact comes from the Duke of Cornwall title which is held by the heir to the throne.
Renouncing their royal status begs the question of whether this income stream will remain in place, and what will happen when Prince William and Prince George become the heir instead.
Prince Harry has an estimated personal fortune of around $56 million, while Meghan Markle's is around $7.6 million and the couple could earn millions from endorsements, public speaking and products in future. But it also raises questions about how their commercial links would be governed and whether companies could be seen to be profiting from the royal brand.
The desire to have a "normal" life could also be more difficult as media interest is unlikely to wane in the couple following their "unprecedented move", Professor Kate Williams said.
Prince Harry and Meghan took aim at the "royal rota" system of press management on their new website. However in reality, the system has underpinned an uneasy truce between British media and the royals - allowing an outlet to highlight their work while ensuring private lives remain largely off limits.
Consider, for example, the small number of official photographs released of the Cambridge children each year designed to satisfy public curiosity while avoiding having the children subject to a barrage of paparazzi each day. As private citizens, Meghan and Harry may find they have no such protection.
Republic Spokesman Graham Smith - who campaigns to abolish the royal family - accused the couple of being "crass" and wanting to "have your cake and eat it".
"They have said they will dip in and out of royal duties as it suits them but won't stop taking public money until they find other sources of income," he said.
"To suggest that they're not already financially independent is incredibly crass and belies a sense of self entitlement and a lack of self-awareness that is common among royals."
He said the move raises questions about the monarchy's future.
"In the meantime taxpayers will rightly ask who will be funding their overseas lifestyle, their extra security and trips back and forth between here and North America."