In a six-sentence statement that mentioned the word “family” six times, the queen said that “though we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.”
Earlier Monday, Princes William and Harry slammed a newspaper report describing a severe strain in their relationship, calling the story offensive and potentially harmful as they embark on talks regarding the future of the British monarchy.
The two brothers issued the unusual statement before the queen held face-to-face talks with Prince Harry for the first time since he and his wife, Meghan, unveiled their controversial plan to walk away from royal roles. The dramatic family summit was meant to chart a future course for the couple.
Though the statement did not name the newspaper, the Times of London has a front-page story about the crisis in which a source alleged that Harry and Meghan had been pushed away by the “bullying attitude from" William. The joint statement insisted that the story was “false.''
“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,” the statement said.
The meeting reflected the queen's desire to contain the fallout from Harry and Meghan’s decision to “step back” as senior royals, work to become financially independent and split their time between Britain and North America. The couple made the announcement Wednesday without telling the queen or other senior royals first.
The meeting at the monarch's private Sandringham estate in eastern England included Harry's father Prince Charles and his brother Prince William after days of intense news coverage, in which supporters of the royal family's feuding factions used the British media to paint conflicting pictures of who was to blame for the rift.