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Harry, Meghan quit royal front-line in shock move

News follows a turbulent year for the couple, who have had to deal with negative press

LONDON : Prince Harry and his wife Meghan stunned the British monarchy on Wednesday by quitting as front-line members - reportedly without first consulting Queen Elizabeth II.

In a shock announcement, the couple said they would spend time in North America and rip up long-established relations with the press.

Media reports said the Duke and Duchess of Sussex made their bombshell statement without notifying either Harry's grandmother the monarch or his father Prince Charles.

The surprise news follows a turbulent year for the couple, who have openly said they have struggled in the spotlight and grown apart from Harry's brother Prince William. They have also reacted badly to negative news coverage.

"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," they said in a statement released by Buckingham Palace.

"We have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America."

Buckingham Palace put out a second statement an hour and 40 minutes later, saying discussions with Harry and Meghan were "at an early stage".

"We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through," it added.

It was understood that the mood in Buckingham Palace was one of disappointment and even, according to the BBC, "hurt".

Prince Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, spent six weeks over Christmas in Canada and skipped the royal family's traditional Christmas at Sandringham, spending the festive season instead with Meghan's mother Doria Ragland.

Queen Elizabeth's former press secretary Dickie Arbiter told Sky News television that the couple's approach was "a succession of doing things their own way - which is the wrong way".

"Sometimes there's good press; sometimes there's bad press. You take the rough with the smooth."

Currently, Harry and Meghan's costs are largely funded from Charles' private income from the heir to the throne's estates, while the police foot their security bill.

Former BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt told Channel 4 television that royals thinking they can earn money in a side career "has always ended in tears". - AFP

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