Harry and Meghan are to ‘step back’ as senior royal family members

The Duke & Dutchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry & Meghan Markle wish farewell to the queen after Chri

The Duke & Dutchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry & Meghan Markle wish farewell to the queen after Christmas Morning Service at Sandringham Church last year - Credit: PAUL JOHN BAYFIELD

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are to 'step back' as senior members of the royal family and will now divide their time between the UK and North America, it has been announced.

Harry and Meghan's decision came in a statement, and the couple said they will work to become financially independent, while continuing to "fully support" the Queen.

The move follows weeks of speculation about their future after they took an extended break from royal duties over the festive period that followed an emotional appearance in a documentary.

In the ITV programme they spoke about the pressures they have been facing and family rifts, and in a separate move Harry issued a damning statement against the media accusing sections of the press of bullying his wife.

The couple said in their statement: "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.

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"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.

"It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment.

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"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."

Last year the Queen offered her support to the couple following their decision to spend Christmas away from Sandringham.

Harry and Meghan celebrated the festive period with the duchess's mother, Doria Ragland, instead of joining the royal family's traditional celebration in Norfolk.

Commentators speculated on the impact of Harry and Meghan's festive plans with broadcaster Piers Morgan among those to criticise the decison not to spend Christmas with the Queen at Sandringham although they were supported by others, including historian Kate Williams.

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