Prince Harry ignored Queen's demand he hold 'step back' statement, released anyway

The Queen told Prince Harry not to issue a statement declaring he wanted to leave the royal family - but he did so anyway.

The Evening Standard reports the Duke of Sussex ignored the Queen's order and, along with his wife Meghan Markle, released the now famous statement announcing the pair wanted to stand down as senior members of the royal family and become financially independent. 

That "personal message" was quickly responded to by Buckingham Palace, which said discussions were only in an early stage and that the issues were "complicated". 

The two statements have re-fuelled speculation of a major rift in the royal family between Harry and Meghan - who have frequently voiced their desire to be more progressive and independent - and other senior members.

According to a report in The Evening Standard - which has been corroborated by CNN and The Guardian - Prince Harry told his father, Prince Charles, of his desire to spend more time in Canada and the United States before Christmas.

The heir to the throne told Harry he needed a more thought-out plan, which Harry sent to him after the New Year. But again, Charles said more time was needed to go through the implications of the decision.

After Harry and Meghan returned from their winter break in Canada last week, Harry reportedly asked for a meeting with the Queen at Sandringham. He was told the Queen was happy to see him, but would not discuss his plans.

The Queen then made it clear to Harry that he was not to release any statement about his plans, but Harry and Meghan decided to ignore that demand and did so anyway.

It's understood Prince Charles and Prince William were only sent a copy of the statement minutes before its public release.

"Harry and Meghan will be punished," the source told The Evening Standard.

One part of the statement highlighted the royal couple wanted to split their time between the UK and North America.

"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."

It is believed the pair want to spend a significant amount of their time in California, where Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, resides. However, reports also suggest the pair love Canada and want to set up a base there.

It has been widely reported that Thursday's statement by Harry and Meghan "hurt" other senior members of the royal family and outraged the Queen. 

Late last year, Prince Harry confirmed he and his brother William had drifted apart. The Evening Standard also reported on Friday that following that admission, William declared his desire to build a better relationship with Harry, but that never happened. 

Both Harry and Meghan have been under an intense media spotlight since their highly-publicised marriage in 2018.

After Thursday's statement's release, the pair also launched a new media policy, limiting how outlets can report of their activity.

Late last year, the pair said they were suing Associated Newspapers over the publication of a private letter - a rare move for members of the royal family who normally ignore press comment.

They have been critcised by some traditionalists for breaking royal protocol and conventions, including recently when the pair didn't attend the Queen's Christmas celebrations. Instead they visited Canada with their son Archie and Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland. Despite the disapproval, the pair said the Queen gave her permission for this.

However, the Duke and Duchess have also been applauded for their committment to progressive ideals, rallying behind women, wildlife campaigns and climate change advocates.