LONDON – The crisis gripping Britain’s royal family over Prince Harry’s plan to step down from royal duties moved to Queen Elizabeth II’s rural retreat in eastern England Monday afternoon. The 93-year-old monarch summoned Prince Charles, heir to the throne, and his sons, princes William and Harry, to Sandringham House to thrash out difficult issues. The queen said after the meeting that the family respects the couple's decision, but many important matters haven't been resolved.
Here are some key questions regarding the couple's future:
WHY HAVE THEIR PLANS CAUSED A CRISIS?
Prince Harry and Meghan, formally known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are charismatic senior royals known throughout the world. Many saw them as playing a vital role in building the monarchy's popularity with future generations. But they both seem disillusioned and unhappy and have now said they want to step back from royal duties, become financially independent, and spend much of their time in North America. This has caused a fissure at the highest ranks of the world's best known royal family.
CAN THEY BREAK AWAY FROM TAXPAYER SUPPORT?
Harry and Meghan have said on their website that they will no longer use a fund called the Sovereign Grant to pay for a small part of their office costs. The grant is provided by Britain's Treasury to fund the monarchy — last year it totalled more than 80 million pounds ($104 million). The couple said they would still use public money to pay for official overseas trips carried out at the request of the government and continue to use the recently renovated Frogmore Cottage as their U.K. base — if the queen agrees to allow them to use what is part of the Crown Estate. The queen said in a statement Monday that Harry and Meghan “have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives,” but said many details remain to be worked out.
WILL PRINCE CHARLES KEEP HELPING OUT?
Each year, Charles receives a substantial amount of revenue from the Duchy of Cornwall estate that was established in 1337. He’s not allowed to sell any of its considerable assets, but he receives income from it each year and uses it to fund many of his activities, along with those of his wife Camilla, William and his wife Kate, and Harry and Meghan. Last year the income amounted to more than 20 million pounds. It is not at all clear that Charles would want to provide extensive support for Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, if they are no longer carrying out royal duties. The queen's statement didn't address this difficult matter.