We knew they wanted a new kind of royal life and we knew there was going to be a review into how it was playing out.
But Friday’s announcement confirmed the split was final and no one, it seems, is a winner in all this.
While the statements are largely official in tone on both sides they do portray a sense of sadness, disappointment and deep frustration, showing signs of a rift in the family that couldn’t be patched up, and a couple who feel they’ve been pushed out.
It’s not entirely surprising it came to this. Nearly 12 months ago Harry and Meghan had said they wanted to continue to serve the Queen and have a financially independent life. It was always hard to see how those two things would be compatible.
From what I understand from a palace source it was made clear during the “Sandringham Summit” last January, where the family discussed the Sussexes new plan, that the Queen, the Prince of Wales and Prince William didn’t see how they could be half in half out, make their own money but still do some royal duties on behalf of the Queen.
It just wasn’t acceptable to their ethos of public service. As it was put to me, you work for the monarchy, the monarchy doesn’t work for you. You get the sense that many within the palace saw this handing back of patronages as inevitable and a tying up of loose ends.
The problem hasn’t necessarily been the financial deals that the Sussexes have signed with the likes of Netflix or Spotify, but more the ways they’ve made announcements without letting the rest of the royal family know.
Take their baby announcement this week and the confirmation that they’re doing Oprah – both caught the palace on the hop. No longer working royals, they didn’t have to tell the institution but it’s how it makes the rest of the family look and I’m just not sure members of Harry’s family could tolerate that.
Of course we still have an interview with Oprah to come, and this final split only increases the anticipation around what the Sussexes may have to say.
The couple are in some ways a loss to the institution.
When I spoke to Harry and Meghan in Cape Town in 2019 they could not have seemed more in tune with each other on what they wanted to achieve together.
There is no doubt they can connect with an audience that other members of the royal family can’t through their commitment to issues around diversity and equality.
And don’t forget that Harry before he met Meghan had his own star power, always the one to joke with the crowds on a walkabout, never happier than when he was with members of his military family. He once told me he could never move away because of his commitment to helping his grandmother.
She was the boss of the Armed Forces, the matriarch of the royal family and it was his duty to serve Queen and country.
But in the end his wife and son came first, and a new life for them was more important.
Overall no one comes out of this well. Some will say the Sussexes have just stamped their feet again after they didn’t get what they wanted.
Others will criticise the royal firm for being too traditional, too old-fashioned and unwilling to work on a compromise with the couple. One thing it has done, which neither side would want, is ramp up the stories of a rift, which will potentially be stoked further by their interview with Oprah.
It was Harry and Meghan’s decision to step away, but this certainly wasn’t how they wanted it. As the Queen has shown many times before she loves her family very much, but no one is bigger than the reputation of the institution.
— to news.sky.com