No one can truly say they didn’t see this coming. The die, after all, was cast at that historic Sandringham summit when it was announced that Harry and Meghan were forsaking their royal life for a future that may yet prove to be elusive.
Even so there was a ruthlessness to the news that they have given marching orders to virtually all their Palace staff whose only crime had been to serve the Duke and Duchess of Sussex with nothing short of absolute devotion.
How hollow those reassuring words, issued just a month ago on behalf of the couple that they would divide their time – and their responsibilities – between the UK and Canada, now sound.
For the only interpretation to be drawn from the Daily Mail’s revelation is that the idea of a half-in, half-out existence – with them choosing what they would do to help the Queen and when they would do it – was nothing less than half-baked.
It now looks like little more than a slice of royal deception, sold to us to make their departure from these shores somehow more palatable.
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex leave Canada House on January 07, 2020 in London, England
Privately, many in the royal household questioned how practical such an arrangement could possibly be. For the staff, who even yesterday were still fire-fighting on Harry and Meghan’s behalf, notably over reports that the Prince was cosying up to Goldman Sachs, the world’s most powerful investment bank, their sackings are, of course, a personal tragedy.
Many had been recruited in the heady excitement that surrounded the couple following their 2018 wedding, attracted by their promise to be the most forward-looking and modern members of the Royal Family ever.
Some had given up other posts, and it is likely that only a few can be absorbed into other palace roles. But while they will have every reason to feel bitterly disappointed at how their loyalty has been rewarded, the implications of these substantial domestic changes are profound.
Richard Kay: For the only interpretation to be drawn from the Daily Mail’s revelation is that the idea of a half-in, half-out existence – with them choosing what they would do to help the Queen (pictured in June last year) and when they would do it – was nothing less than half-baked.
Courtiers believe they do not just signal an ending of the Sussexes’ links to Britain, but also a ‘power shift’ towards Meghan. In a little over a month Harry has lost a terrifying amount. He has broken with his family, his friends and his way of life. He will never again wear the military uniform he so treasured. By parting company with his dedicated London secretariat he is now effectively severing his royal connections, too.
There will also be speculation about what this means for the couple’s son, Archie, and his education. Will he become the first of the Queen’s great-grandchildren to be schooled abroad?
Harry’s wife, meanwhile, has secured her move back to her adopted home of Canada where she has in place a team of mainly US professionals who helped her develop her career as an actress.
It is they who will now be guiding the couple. They include a sharp-elbowed US public relations company, Sunshine Sachs, along with Meghan’s former agent, lawyer and business manager.
Without the familiarity of his London advisors, Harry is likely to become ever more dependent on Meghan’s team.
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex stand with the High Commissioner for Canada in the United Kingdom, Janice Charette (4thL) and the deputy High Commissioner, Sarah Fountain Smith (7thL), as they pose for a photograph with High Commission staff at a Canada House visit in January
And with such figures at the helm there is every chance that the couple will be making more appearances of the kind they conducted last week when they were guests at a conference for the bank JP Morgan in Florida, where they rubbed shoulders with some of America’s richest figures.
In her statement a month ago, Harry’s grandmother spoke carefully and precisely about the discussion she’d had ‘on the future of my grandson and his family’.
By allowing a transition period for both sides to adjust and by refusing to strip the couple of their HRH titles – though they will not use them – the Queen was making clear, despite her sadness, that the door was still open.
The inescapable conclusion is that, by issuing redundancy notices to their staff, Harry and Meghan have themselves slammed the door shut.