LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II convened a family summit on Monday to try to agree on redefined roles for Prince Harry and Meghan — with implications for the future shape of the British monarchy and for royals down the line of succession.
The queen, her son Prince Charles and her grandsons Harry and William were meeting at Sandringham, a royal residence in the east of England where the queen is based at this time of year. Meghan is expected to dial in from Canada.
The palace has made it known that the queen would like some kind of resolution quickly — within “days, not weeks.”
By all accounts, it could be a difficult chat.
The palace was caught off guard when Prince Harry and Meghan dropped the bombshell news, via Instagram, that they were “stepping back” from their roles as senior royals. The couple also said they wanted to split their time between Britain and North America, throwing up various interconnected challenges.
Hours before Monday’s meeting got underway, William and Harry issued a rare joint statement, batting down “offensive and potentially harmful” reports that bullying by William had pushed Harry and Meghan away.
It seems unlikely the meeting will conclude with white smoke or even a detailed statement. And who knows what the royal houses, dueling courtiers and government officials and their aides will dish on behind closed, gilded doors.
Here are five possible issues for discussion on the royal agenda:
Harry and Meghan say they want to split their time between “Britain and North America.” North America sounds a bit vague. Meghan is currently somewhere in Canada, fueling speculation that the Great White North is what they have in mind. Canada is a Commonwealth nation. And Meghan lived in Toronto for many years while filming the TV show “Suits.”
But where, exactly, in Canada? Toronto? Vancouver? Yellowknife, where they really wouldn’t have to worry about tabloid intrusion?
How will this impact the work they do for U.K.-based charities, which they say they want to continue? Would they return for big royal events, like “Trooping the Colour” to mark the monarch’s birthday? Where will their son, Archie, go to school when that day arrives? Harry went to very traditional, very posh boarding schools — first Ludgrove and then Eton College — before attending the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.
And where will they live in the U.K.? The Sussexes say they would like to continue to base themselves at Frogmore Cottage in Windsor. Some critics have suggested that if they do stay there, they should pay back the $3 million recently spent on renovations.
Harry is officially “His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex” and Meghan is “Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex.”
Will they keep some or any of those titles?
When Harry’s parents divorced, Princess Diana was stripped of her “HRH” title. Harry and Meghan have said that they would like to continue to carry out certain duties for the queen, “as called upon.” But might giving up their responsibilities as full-time working royals mean they have to lose the HRH of their titles, too?
They’d likely put up more of fight to keep Sussex, a courtesy title given by the queen. They use the “SussexRoyal” brand on their Instagram account and new website. They are also seeking to register the SussexRoyal brand as a global trademark on a wide range of items, the Guardian reported.
Of course, the British monarchy is its own brand. And the queen, who serves as its chief protector, will want to make sure that Harry and Meghan are careful about avoiding commercial entanglements and other situations that could undermine the Crown.
The couple say they want to be “financially independent” and that they “value the ability to earn a professional income.” They have said they will no longer accept money from the taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant, which has covered 5 percent of their expenses.
But what about the more than $6 million they receive annually from Harry’s father, Prince Charles, through his inherited Duchy of Cornwall estate? That money has covered 95 percent of their expenses. Will Charles continue to support them to such a large degree? Do they want him to?
There may also be some discussion about what kinds of jobs everyone agrees would be appropriate. Harry’s cousin Princess Beatrice works in finance, and Princess Eugenie is an art gallery director. Meghan, a former actress, has reportedly agreed to do voice-over work for Disney in exchange for a donation to the charity Elephants Without Borders. Would she take in a salary for that sort of work in future?
The royal family is determinedly apolitical, and the desire to remain so may play a strong role in guiding what work Harry and Meghan undertake.
Courtiers will have likely have outlined the potentially complicated tax situation the Sussexes could face. If they live for an extended period of time in both Britain and Canada, they may have to pay tax on their global earnings in both countries.
The question of who foots the bill for their security detail is likely to get lots of airtime. On their website, Harry and Meghan note that the provision of armed security is mandated by the British Home Office. But if the couple spends much of their time overseas, British taxpayers may balk at paying for their security.
So-called working royals representing the queen full-time at ceremonies and charities get their protection paid for by the state. But junior royals, such as Prince Andrew’s daughter, Beatrice and Eugenie, pay their own way.
Though they may be some of the most famous people in the world, and though they represent the somewhat abstract notion of “the crown,” the British royal family is still a family. And they will no doubt want to resolve questions related to Harry and Meghan’s new role as amicably as possible.
Much has been made about a possible rift between Harry and his brother William. The brothers sought to quash such speculation with their statement on Monday.
“Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a U.K. newspaper today speculating about the relationship between the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Cambridge,” the statement read.
“For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful.”
Harry and William did not name the article, but the Times of London carried a front-page story Monday, quoting an unnamed source saying that Harry and Meghan thought they were “pushed away by what they saw as a bullying attitude from the Duke of Cambridge.”
Putting an end to further speculation about divisions within the family may be one of the reasons the queen has signaled she wants a quick resolution.