Palace expected Harry and Meghan's shocking decision, friend claims

The Duke and Duchess' decision to stand down as senior members of the royal family may not have been as big a surprise as Buckingham Palace made it out to be.

The royal family have been planning for a "slimmed-down monarchy" without Harry and Meghan, according to a close confidante of the royal couple, ITV reporter Tom Bradby. 

It was just the timing of the shocking reveal that angered the Queen, he claimed.

"It's certainly not true to say the palace were blindsided by this. The couple's view was they came back and wanted to talk to the family about their plans. 

"It had been made clear to them in their absence there was going to be a slimmed down monarchy and they weren't really a part of it."

Bradby, who reportedly became close to the couple after filming them in Africa said the plan for a "slimmed-down monarchy" - an idea allegedly devised by Prince Charles to slash the number of working royals - was one of the main reasons why the couple decided to stand down from their positions.

"Harry has been talking to his family for some weeks at least about all this and certainly my understanding of what happened is he was asked by some members of the family or at least their officials to put some of these ideas in writing.

"He said, 'I really don't want to do that because it normally leaks,' and they were very insistent in order to go forward and discuss it properly - it had to be put in writing. He did put it in writing, and it did leak."

UK tabloid The Daily Mail also suggested the Queen's portrait marking the beginning of a new decade, which featured Prince Charles, Prince William and William's son Prince George but not Harry and Meghan, was the final straw for the couple.

ITV royal expert Chris Ship said the photo suggested Harry wasn't a part of the monarchy's future.

"I'm not saying they were cutting Harry and Meghan out because it was a brutal fact that Harry was never part of that line of succession, but start of a decade it felt like the royal family was very much focusing on the future - the Queen and her three heirs."

Although some traditionalists have criticised the couple for breaking royal protocol and conventions, the Duke and Duchess have also been applauded for their commitment to progressive ideals, rallying behind women, wildlife campaigns and climate change.