New year, new headache for Queen with Harry, Meghan rift

LONDON (AP) – Queen Elizabeth II ended 2019 with a public plea for global harmony after a rocky year. She’s starting 2020 trying to heal disharmony within her own family after Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, decided to “step back” as senior royals – and announced the news without consulting the monarch.

As the British media went into meltdown, the royal matriarch moved quickly to take back control, summoning her son and heir Prince Charles and grandsons Prince William and Harry to a crisis meeting to sort things out.

Elizabeth, who assumed the throne in 1952, has weathered family crises before, and is determined not to let her restless grandson and granddaughter-in-law weaken the House of Windsor or undermine the monarchy.

After initial talks between courtiers to the senior royals over the couple’s unorthodox declaration of independence, Buckingham Palace said last Saturday that the Queen would meet today at her Sandringham estate in eastern England with Charles, William and Harry to agree on “next steps.”

The palace said “a range of possibilities” was on the table, but the queen was determined to resolve the situation within “days not weeks.”

Harry’s next scheduled public appearance is a rugby event at Buckingham Palace on Thursday. Meghan, meanwhile, has flown to Canada, where the couple and their eight-month-old son, Archie, spent a six-week Christmas break. They announced this week they plan to “balance” their time between the UK and North America, with Canada their likely base.

Meghan is American but lived in Toronto for several years while filming the TV show Suits.

The prince and the former actress married in 2018, and broadcasts of their Windsor Castle wedding were watched around the world. Harry, 35, is sixth in line to the British throne, a former British army officer and one of the royal family’s most popular members.

He has spent his entire life in the public eye, but has not always been happy with scrutiny by a media he blames for the death of his mother, Princess Diana. She died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being pursued by photographers.

British tabloids have a voracious appetite for stories about the royal family, who are treated as an engrossing national soap opera. While much royal media coverage is positive, it is also relentless.

At times, news outlets have crossed the line from invasive to illegal, as when the News of the World hacked the voicemails of Prince William and royal staff in search of scoops during the early 2000s.

Some columnists have been critical of Meghan, depicting her as a meddling American interloper into the royal family; others highlighted her biracial heritage with words like “exotic.”

In 2017, Harry accused the media of directing “a wave of abuse and harassment” at his then-girlfriend that included articles with negative “racial undertones.”

File photo shows Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, and from left, Meghan the Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry, Prince William and Kate the Duchess of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace in London. PHOTO: AP