The Queen ordered a series of crisis meetings to deal with Prince Harry and Meghan’s decision to quit the royal family and ensure the future of the monarchy.
The 93-year-old led an emergency four-way call from Sandringham today, with Prince Charles dialling in from Scotland and Princes William and Harry in London.
She ordered the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge to find “immediate solutions” to the crisis as she fought for the survival of the monarchy at all costs.
Still reeling from the scandal over Prince Andrew’s friendship with paedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, palace sources say the family is at a “huge crisis point in their recent history”.
Charles and William told their teams this afternoon to “drop everything” and arrange meetings with No10, the Home Office and their US and Canadian counterparts to come up with proposals for a solution in “days, not weeks”.
It came less than 24 hours after Buckingham Palace claimed discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were at an “early stage” following the couple’s bombshell announcement.
One royal insider said: “The fact that Buckingham Palace said these were ‘complicated issues that will take time to work through’ and now aides have a matter of days to solve an almost impossible problem shows you just how serious this is.
“Courtiers and government officials are as furious as they can be that they are dealing with this mess in such a rush.”
It came after Harry and Meghan ignored instructions from Her Majesty over the Christmas holidays not to go public with their bombshell announcement that they were quitting their roles with the family.
She implored her grandson to wait until he had spoken to his father and brother to find a solution behind closed doors that would be agreeable to everybody.
But their rash decision to go it alone and launch attacks on the media has left the monarch “deeply saddened” that the couple betrayed her confidence and put the Firm in such peril.
The couple insisted they were resigning from their royal roles whether “they had the support of the senior members of the family, or not”.
The Queen and Prince Charles were in agreement that the couple’s proposals were “completely unworkable” in their current state.
Their makeshift plan has been labelled “ill thought-out” and “haphazard” by senior courtiers and has caused fury inside the palace.
A senior palace source said: “What Harry and Meghan need to remember is it is the admiration of the public that keeps the family where it is, and by riding roughshod with the institution and the Queen’s feelings there will be huge implications for them in the future.”
Prince William and wife Kate – who looked downcast today while out driving on her 38th birthday – have been told by the Queen they have more responsibility than ever now to ensure the family’s future.
One royal source said Harry made the decision to end his royal career after falling out with William and “fearing he would be cut off from the family funds” if he did not make his move.
It emerged today that he first contacted Charles before Christmas to discuss his hopes of spending more time in North America.
He even sent a draft proposal of his plans to his father in the New Year, but was told more time was needed to talk through the complex implications, notably around finances.
Harrt later requested a meeting with the Queen at Sandringham upon his return to the UK this weekend with Meghan and their eight-month-old son Archie, which followed a six-week Christmas break in Canada.
The Queen offered to meet Harry – a move blocked by courtiers. But she still made an explicit request to her grandson that he first discuss his future plans in detail with Charles.
Aides say the Sussexes have been told they could face an “almighty backlash” from the British public over the way they have treated the Queen and the family.
Our royal source said: “There are so many facets at play here which even on their own have rocked the natural order of the royal family but together threaten its very existence.
“Charles and William are absolutely furious about the turn of events but determined to sort the mess left by Harry and Meghan.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex told Charles and William of their decision to announce their move just 10 minutes before they published it on their Instagram page.
While the Prince of Wales was already masterminding a plan to create a slimmed-down monarchy, the couple’s decision sent shockwaves throughout the entire institution.
One senior palace source said tonight: “The move to become working royals could have been approved by all quarters given time.
“But the suggestions by Harry and Meghan, which are sparse at best, might never even be achievable.
“The overriding feeling is they haven’t thought this through at all and ploughed ahead anyway to force everyone’s hand.
“It amounts to emotional blackmail and that at its core is extremely sad for the family.”
David McClure, an investigator into royal finances, said the couple’s desire to combine royal life with making money will be a “toxic mix”.
Mr McClure, who examined the wealth of the royal family in his book Royal Legacy, said: “It hasn’t worked well in the past.
“How can you be half-in, half-out – half the week perform public duties and the other half earn your own income with TV, lectures, books?
“It is fraught with dangers. What happens if one of them is sponsored by a tobacco firm or something like that?”
Former Home Office Minister Norman Baker called for Harry and Meghan to give up heir titles and repay the £2.4million of public money spent on renovating their Frogmore Cottage home in Windsor.
MPs accused the pair of trying to “have their cake and eat it”.
Insiders have suggested the Sussexes have let PR gurus’ claims that they could become “one of the world’s most influential couples” go to their heads.
One well-placed source said Harry and Meghan’s rhetoric about becoming “financially independent” from the family, enabling them to potentially earn millions from private ventures, has caused deep concern inside the Palace.
Silicon Valley giants are understood to be queuing up to sign them up.
Sarah Ferguson has spoken previously about her struggle to become financially independent after divorcing Prince Andrew in 1996.
Although she remained a Duchess, she was not allowed to keep her HRH title.
Her ventures included a 10-year stint as a Weight Watchers spokeswoman. And in the US she put her name to Wedgwood china, a line of jewellery and products with the US firm Bath & Body Works.
In 2010 she was filmed by an undercover reporter indicating she could aid access to Andrew for £500,000. And she once accepted £15,000 from Epstein.
Meghan’s best friend, Canadian stylist Jessica Mulroney – thought to have been instrumental in the Sussexes’ decision – posted on Instagram today: “A strong woman looks a challenge in the eye and gives it a wink.”
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