The Queen allowed Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to quit as senior Royals following a private heart-to-heart with her grandson at today's crisis summit, it was revealed tonight.
The Duke of Sussex is understood to have arrived at Her Majesty's Sandringham estate more than two hours before he was due to sit down with the monarch and Princes Charles and William to chart a way through the turmoil engulfing the Family.
According to friends, Harry wanted to put his side of the story to the Queen, who came into the crunch talks deeply disappointed with him and Meghan for wanting to step back from their official duties.
In an historic statement released tonight, her sincere regret was made clear, saying she "would have preferred them to remain full-time working members".
But after her one-to-one with Harry - followed by two hours of "calm" discussions with him, Charles and William - Her Majesty agreed to a "transition period" where the Duke and Duchess would wind down their Royal engagements as they spend more time in Canada.
After Princes Charles, William and Harry left the Norfolk estate in three separate cars this evening, the Daily Mail's editor-at-large Richard Kay revealed Meghan was barred from dialling in on the meeting from Vancouver.
Palace officials said such an idea was rejected because no one knew for sure who else might have been listening in.
An insider said: "This was a highly confidential family discussion, not a conference call."
The Queen has said that hammering out a viable blueprint for Harry and Meghan's financially independent future was proving "complex" and indicated more details need to be ironed out in the coming days.
And sources revealed that Prince Charles also views the matter far from concluded as he knows Harry will rely on his Duchy of Cornwall to meet family bills.
He has already lavished a small fortune on his younger son, from his wedding to the fitting out Frogmore cottage – the Windsor house he is now largely going to vacate when he uproots to North America.
A friend says: "He doesn't have unlimited resources. Harry needs to know that."
The Queen has ordered staff to find a solution 'within days' to the remaining sticking points, including the couple's future funding, which is expected to impose rigid rules on their commercial activities.
One figure said: "There will be strict instructions on branding, for example. No one wants to see the Sussexes' name on a tub of margarine."
This was a deliberate nod to what happened in the aftermath of Diana's death when her memorial fund began endorsing cash-raising schemes that appalled the public.
Today's unprecedented Royal showdown culminated with a 5pm statement from the Palace, in which the Queen gave Harry and Meghan the green light to press ahead with plans to become "financially independent".
The monarch said: "Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family.
"My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan's desire to create a new life as a young family.
"Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.
"Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives.
"It has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK.
"These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days."
The Queen, who is desperate to chart a way out of the crisis raging through the Family ranks, has ordered courtiers to double down efforts to develops blueprint for the Sussexes future, to be completed within days.
The head of state broke with protocol to refer to the couple by their first names rather than the "Duke and Duchesss of Sussex".
Some experts have decoded this to mean Harry and Meghan could be stripped of their titles, while others have played it down as the grandmother, 93, simply striking a soft tone.
Royal commentator Victoria Arbiter said the move was likely to be telling, tweeting : "I do think it was very striking, particularly in a statement from the Queen. Are they having to give up their titles? This would be an indication they are..."
And reacting to the statement, Queen Elizabeth biographer and royal historian Robert Lacey said the language was an immensely personal intervention uncharacteristic of typical Palace communiqués.
He told BBC Radio 4: "It is remarkably hands-on. I mean it may have been processed through officials but this is the Queen, speaking to her people and speaking about her family, and I think coming right through it is the concern she feels."
The Queen's statement also acknowledged Harry and Meghan's ambition to become financially independent, which appears to give them licence to strike commercial deals as part of their Sussex brand.
Most of their funding currently comes from Prince Charles's Sovereign Grant - taxpayer money - which the statement seems to suggest will cease.
The announcement also confirmed speculation of the couple's intention to relocate to Canada, where they spent a six-week Christmas break on Vancouver Island - where Meghan is currently believed to be caring for baby Archie.
However, while Her Majesty gave ground to the Duke and Duchess, her sincere regret at their breakaway decision was explicit.
In the fallout of the Sussexes' bombshell announcement they were quitting last Wednesday, Palace insiders have spoken of the Queen's bitter disappointment, while William was said to be "incandescent".
But despite her regret, an expert interpreted Her Majesty's 5pm statement as a "warm" olive branch to Harry and Meghan which took into account the couple's "vulnerabilities".
Royal author Penny Junor said: "I think it will take the pressure off them. I think they're in a very vulnerable state at the moment.
"I think they're unhappy, they feel isolated and unloved, unappreciated and they needed careful handling.
"My reading from that statement is that the family has been sensitive to their vulnerability."
However, Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan, who has been highly critical, of the Sussexes, tweeted: "Harry/Meghan have successfully bullied the Queen into letting them have their cake & eat it."
Earlier today Harry drove into Sandringham via its rear entrance in a blacked-out Range Rover Evoque at 11.20am - just as he and his older brother released their first joint statement since the abdication crisis blasting claims William has been bullying the Sussexes.
William arrived from nearby Anmer Hall at 1.45pm - 15 minutes before the 2pm meeting started - suggesting he chose to miss lunch with his brother and the Queen, who has been there since Christmas, as well as Charles, who arrived by helicopter yesterday.
The Duke of Cambridge was pictured driving out of the back entrance in his Land Rover at around 4.20pm, suggesting the summit lasted just around two hours.
The Prince of Wales left in his silver Audi A6, believed to be heading to nearby RAF Marham to be whisked away by helicopter.
Ahead of the Queen's historic Royal statement:
• Harry decided to pull the plug on his royal role 'without a thought' for his older brother and his family with William heartbroken about the broken bond with his only sibling, according to insiders;
• But in show of unity the brothers issued statement denying claims in the The Times that William had 'bullied' the Sussexes;
• Charles has been giving millions more than thought to the couple to support them since they married in 2018;
• Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to comment on the Royal crisis
• Prince Philip has been supporting the Queen but stayed away from meeting this afternoon to spend time in the grounds of Sandringham;
• Royals will try to get a deal for Harry this week - but will warn him that his exit will take months to plan;
• Although the Sussexes will be settling in Canada, their ultimate goal is to have a home and business in LA – but only after Donald Trump is no longer President, sources have said.
• Harry's close friend, broadcaster Tom Bradby, warned that the couple could do an explosive "tell all" interview if they didn't get their way and it wouldn't "be pretty". Their friend Oprah rumoured to be lined up.
•Her Majesty has been supported by Prince Philip throughout the abdication crisis and her husband of 72 years has acted as her sounding board for finding a solution.
The Duke of Edinburgh ducked out of the palace before the mega-summit started, leaving his wife to broker the deal, but is said to be furious with his grandson and his Californian-born wife.
The Times claimed today that Meghan told Harry she must step away from the royal family just 20 months after marrying into it, partly blaming his older brother's "bullying attitude" and told her husband over Christmas: "It's not working for me".
But hitting back Harry and William said today it was a "false story", adding: "For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful".
The purpose of today's summit, news of which broke on Friday night, was to plot a "direction of travel" for the Prince and ex-actress following their bombshell announcement last Wednesday to retire from official duties.
Heading into talks this afternoon, Her Majesty was said to want guarantees that the proposed Sussex business empire does not damage the Family.
The heirs react
William and Charles were expected to reject the couple's demands for taxpayer-funded police bodyguards while in the UK and are concerned about the environmental impact of criss-crossing the Atlantic, but the statement suggests they appear to have lost this particular battle.
Charles is also said to be "hurt" by Harry and Meghan's decision to quit because he has secretly given them millions to fund their lavish lifestyle and furnish their Windsor home in a show of 'love' for the couple since they married 20 months ago, according to the Evening Standard.
Royal aides believe the meeting started at 2pm so Meghan could "dial in" at around 6am after fleeing back to Vancouver Island on a BA flight hours after the couple quit last Wednesday - but the Duchess of Cambridge will not be supporting her husband in Norfolk today and stayed at Kensington Palace to look after their three children.
A grim-faced Prince Philip was seen at Sandringham this morning but will leave it to his wife, Prince Charles and Prince William to broker an exit deal with the Sussexes.
The Queen has been leaning heavily on her husband for support - and Philip, who has lived in a cottage of the Sandringham estate since retiring from public life in 2017, has been staying in the main house with the Queen since the crisis broke.
Philip was reportedly "spitting blood" with anger when he found out last Wednesday and yelled at his aides: "What the hell are they playing at?"
Aides from each of the Royal households were involved in today's discussions.
Each of the top four Royals' principal private secretaries accompanied their respective member - Sir Edward Young (Queen), Clive Alderton (Charles), Simon Case (William) and the recently appointed Fiona Mcilwham (Harry).
Sir Edward's position is said to be under scrutiny following the two main crises which have bruised the Family in recent months - the first being the Prince Andrew's friendship with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Prince Edward and Princess Anne have reportedly called for his sacking.
Looming over today's talks were aides' fears that Harry and Meghan to give a tell-all interview to their friend Oprah Winfrey and "sound off" about the royal family's "racism and sexism" if they do not get their way.
The couple are said to see their long-term future in the US – but not while President Donald Trump is President - with friends claiming while the couple plan to live in Canada at first their ultimate aim is to have a home and business in Los Angeles.
Senior royals are gravely disappointed by Harry's decision to pull the plug on his position "without a thought" for William and his family, insiders revealed.
The 35-year-old is said to be so caught up in his own misery he hasn't considered the fall-out for the brother he was once inseparable from – and his little niece and nephews.
I'm sad about that. All we can do, and all I can do, is try and support them and hope the time comes when we're all singing from the same page. I want everyone to play on the same team.'
When it was put to Harry last week that he needed to discuss his plans with William at least before 'pressing the nuclear button', he made clear he hadn't any intention of doing so.
Neither had it occurred to him that there would also be ramifications for the young Cambridge children, George, six, Charlotte, four, and Louis, just one. The siblings have only seen their cousin Archie, eight months, once or twice since he was born.
"He is so caught up with his own problems and just hadn't thought through how it would affect everyone else," said a source with intimate knowledge of the week's events.
Friends say the rift between the two is so deep now that it is unlikely to be repaired for the foreseeable future.
At today's summit staff have managed to achieve the unthinkable in preparing a series of proposals to put on the table, Harry will also be warned that the crisis is not over yet.
There have already been consultations between the UK and Canadian governments, but working out the detail is likely to take weeks or months rather than days.
She and Harry had left their son, Archie, eight months, at their rented home on Vancouver Island when they returned to Britain.
Harry is set to follow her later this week with no clue of when he will be returning. Following a series of meetings and consultations, the family will be given a range of possibilities to review which take into account the demands outlined by the Sussexes last week.
ITV presenter and friend of the Sussexes Tom Bradby, who is believed by the royal household to be acting as Harry and Meghan's "mouthpiece", said last night that the Royal Family had to achieve a "sensible" agreement and give "them the freedom they want, the role that they want in the Royal Family, [and] make sure British taxpayers don't feel cheated."
But aides have warned that making such a seismic change to their working life and role in the monarchy will take "complex and thoughtful discussions".
"That's certainly the aim. But there will need to be an understanding that any decision will take time to be implemented and is complicated by issues including the HMRC, security and the like."
Charles arrived in Norfolk after a 24-hour visit to Oman – a key British ally.
"The prince is already the hardest working royal in the business. And the business of the Royal Family is having to go on while all this is happening," said a source.
"He has a strong sense of duty and service. He is going into the meeting not just as a 'chief executive' but as a concerned father as well."
There have even been jokes that a stream of papal-style "white smoke" may be seen coming from the Sandringham House chimney.
What palace aides have done to get to the point of having this range of options to discuss is delivering on the Queen's request.
"The family can say, 'look we haven't dragged our feet, we've come up with something for you to decide'. But it's then up to them [the Sussexes]."
Friends have also told the Mail that although the pair plan to settle in Canada at first – although probably not on Vancouver Island – their ultimate aim is to have a home and business residence in the US, Meghan's home country.
But staunch Democrat Meghan, who has openly been critical of Mr Trump, has said she won't move back while he is in charge. "It's by no means an immediate thing but there is a long-term plan to end up back in the US with a second home in Canada, where they will also spend a great deal of time," the source said.
It was reported on Saturday that the Duke of Cambridge is grief-stricken at the broken bond with Harry. "I've put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can't do that any more; we're separate entities," he told a friend according to the Sunday Times.