Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are to "step back" as senior royals "to become financially independent," the couple have announced — a major shakeup in the British monarchy that appeared to take Buckingham Palace by surprise.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they had taken the decision "after many months of reflection and internal discussions."
"We have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution," they said in a statement. "We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the royal family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen."
However, Buckingham Palace appeared not to have been informed of the couple's decision.
A terse statement issued more than an hour after the couple's announcement said: "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. "
In their statement, which was posted on Instagram, the Sussexes said: "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.
"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."
Further details of the new charity would be shared "in due course."
This announcement came after the couple returned from a Christmas break in Canada.
Their absence in the traditional Christmas photos with senior royals had been read by royal chroniclers as a sign of tightening around the direct descendants to the throne, Prince Charles and his eldest son William.
Meghan, 38, lived for seven years in Toronto, where she participated in the filming of the series "Suits".