The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have announced their decision to step back from royal duties. In a lengthy statement posted to Instagram, Harry and Meghan, who have just returned from their six-week break in Canada, revealed they plan to become financially independent and will split their time between the UK and North America. The couple wrote: "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.
"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."
WATCH: Prince Harry and Meghan are officially stepping down as senior members of the royal family
Harry and Meghan – parents to eight-month-old Archie – went on to say that they will divide their time between the UK and North America, adding: "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.
MORE: Where will Meghan and Harry live after dramatic announcement?
The family will divide their time between the UK and North America
"We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support."
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Later on Wednesday evening the Queen reacted via a statement from Buckingham Palace. "Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage," the statement read. "We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through."
The news will have come as a surprise to royal fans, who only just saw Harry and Meghan return to the limelight on Tuesday. The couple visited Canada House in London where they met with Janice Charette, High Commissioner in Canada to the UK, as well as staff to thank them for the warm hospitality and support they received during their stay in the country.
The couple have also launched a new website
Meanwhile on Twitter, others hoped their decision to step back from royal duties could signal a return to acting for the former Suits actress. "Reasonably sure Meghan can earn a shed load more as an actress than anything they'll get out of Royal Family," one user tweeted, while another quipped: "Please tell me we'll be seeing headlines like "Actress Meghan Markle and husband"."
MORE: The Queen reacts to Meghan and Harry's announcement
The news didn't go unnoticed by celebrities and the couple's famous friends too. Meghan's close pal and makeup artist Daniel Martin replied on Instagram: "On the UP and UP in 2020 my friends! Cheers to new beginnings and always here to support your cause." Strictly star Oti Mabuse also commented: "Wooooooaaaaahhhh." Oprah replied with a string of love hearts, adding: "Harry and Meghan's next chapter."
Others wondered whether the couple had hinted at the plan the day before when they posted their last picture on Instagram.
The final picture in a video montage was of the couple rather finally walking out of a door. A poignant indication of what was to come or a complete coincidence?
Harry and Meghan have also launched a new website, sussexroyal.com, which details their plans to serve the monarchy, strengthen the Commonwealth and support the community. Photos from their past engagements feature online, including the couple's tour to Australasia and high-profile royal events including Trooping the Colour.
"Sussexroyal.com was created as a source of factual information regarding the workstreams of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex," the About Us section of the site states. "Through this website you will find key information about their commitment to: Community, The Monarchy, and The Commonwealth, as well as answers to many questions. This information can be found on the following pages: Funding and Media."
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