Prince Harry, Prince Philip 2014 ARCHIVE Credit Anwar Hussein/EMPICS Entertainment

Sussexes Summit: 90 Minutes Which Saved The Royal Family?

Royal historian Christopher Lee’s insight into the Royal Family's Sandringham meeting where Prince Harry and Meghan's future was agreed.

Prince Harry, Prince Philip 2014 ARCHIVE Credit Anwar Hussein/EMPICS Entertainment

By Christopher Lee, royal historian

It took 90 minutes in the Long Library at Sandringham for the Queen to save the monarchy, agreeing to a "period of transition" for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and outlining her support for the couple's "desire to create a new life".

The royal family was forced to act in council.

Also looking on, the royal refugee every one seems to have forgotten in this affair – Prince Philip, perhaps the person who understands Harry's angst better than any of them.

Philip of Greece, a royal refugee scorned by the establishment and in those early years forced to leave his military career and, as he put it, become nothing more than a 'bloody amoeba'.

A prince with a mother rejected by the royal family and a prince without a job - which is where Harry began, long before he met Meghan.

In the corridors of that meeting stood the grandees, the people who make things happen.

These are the private secretaries and comptroller who hold the palaces together. They would say they protect the very existence of the monarchy.

Not even the royal family gets anything past them.

If a prince or even a sovereign wants something done, they have to talk to the private secretaries, who then talk to each other.

A prince who wants to talk to his grandmother has to talk to an official who will or will not talk to the Queen’s official.

Put all this together and you have the mess of the past few weeks.

Prince Philip Royal Navy officer
Christopher Lee suggests the Duke of Edinburgh perhaps understands Prince Harry's desire for a "new role" better than other royals (Picture: PA).

Since the African tour it has been reasonably clear that Prince Harry wanted out.

Last week, instead of recognising a solution to a simple problem, someone in one of the other groups (Prince Charles’s office, Prince William’s office, or something adjacent) leaked what was going on to a national newspaper.

Harry had had enough.

Thirty years ago the Queen tried to reform them all with meetings of 'The Firm' (as the Royal Family has been called in the past).

Nothing happened.

Charles was getting close. In fact one of them says that Harry was even more determined to go because last September Charles had told him that he was being demoted anyway – to the second row of the balcony scene.

Prince Harry and Meghan waving in carriage procession on their wedding day
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their wedding day, in May 2018 (Picture: MOD).

The Queen took charge. Simple.

The options were few. An extended period, two years perhaps, will see how the Sussexes will do.

Money is not a problem. Harry is wealthy. Meghan is wealthy. In North America there are lines of top people waiting to invest in the most famous couple in the world.

Charles will give them a continued allowance from his Cornwall estate.

The British Government will keep a team of ten protection officers for that same period.

The three service units, Royal Marines, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force do not need Harry very much and the notice of when he is on parade is probably 18 months – so the unit and palace can fix those dates.

Prince Philip asked him personally to take on the role of Captain General Royal Marines.

Monday’s meeting was easy because the choices were few.

The Sussexes stay royals and Harry stays on the balcony when needed.

We are seeing the shuffling of the court cards.

One day there will be a new monarch and quite possibly a new royal deck: the monarch, an heir plus one, and - maybe nothing more.

That what this week has been about.

Cover image: Prince Philip and Prince Harry in 2014 (Picture: PA/Anwar Hussein/EMPICS Entertainment).