Why Queen will be angry about Prince Harry’s decision
Britain's royal family is at war, with the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William having a nuclear reaction to Prince Harry's bombshell that he and Meghan Markle were quitting and moving to Canada.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's shock announcement - considered by some commentators as momentous as King Edward's decision to abdicate the throne - is the second scandal to rock the monarchy in two months.
Already in crisis after Prince Andrew was forced out of public life over his friendship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, royals - including the 93-year-old Queen - were blindsided by the pair's defection, which they discovered on social media.
The monarch, a rock of stability in more than six decades of steady rule, wasted no time taking her grandson to task, issuing an extraordinary statement where she warned him that getting out of his duty was not easy.
"Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage," the Queen's office said in a statement.
"We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through."
The couple say they want to be financially independent and will refuse money from the Queen, but they still want their $A1.1 million security bill covered each year and expect Prince Charles to keep paying them up to $A4 million through his property investment fund until they find their feet.
The split, which has been labelled Megxit in a play on words of Britain's Brexit attempts to leave the EU, has been brewing for more than a year.
But the Queen's decision to publish a photograph of her with Princes Charles, William and George - the direct in line to the throne - was said to have angered Prince Harry and forced his hand.
The first signs of tensions emerged in November 2018 amid reports that Meghan had a falling out with Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, over Princess Charlotte's bridesmaid dress for her wedding.
In April last year, Prince Harry and Meghan moved from Kensington Palace, which Prince William and Kate call home, to Frogmore Cottage at Windsor in another marker of their distance.
Meghan broke with tradition and was not photographed outside the hospital after the birth of baby Archie in May and also tried to keep his christening private.
The couple split from William and Kate's charity, the Royal Foundation that Prince Harry helped set up, in June to run their own instead.
Tensions boiled over at the end of Prince Harry and Meghan's successful tour of southern Africa in September when they announced they were suing The Mail on Sunday over stories written about Meghan's father Thomas.
He was a notable absence from the couple's 2018 wedding after he sold photographs in the lead up to the ceremony, then suffered a heart problem. Meghan no longer speaks to him and he has not met Archie.
Prince Harry and Meghan have been struggling with their roles, admitting in an ITV documentary about their African tour they were finding it hard to cope with what they claimed was bullying from the British press.
Prince Harry confirmed the rift with Prince William in the documentary, saying he and his brother were on "different paths".
He also said that he was worried Meghan was being hounded in the same way as his mother, the late Princess Diana.
Meghan was spotted at London's Dorfman Theatre on Southbank on Thursday before the couple dropped their news on Instagram.
"After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution," Prince Harry and Meghan said in their statement.
"We intend to step back as 'senior' members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen."
The couple said they would divide their time between England and North America, with expectations they would move to Canada for part of the year.
"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," they said.
"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."
Former editor of the International Who's Who and royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams told News Corp Australia that the pair had caused an "earthquake" for the royal family.
"The real story has yet to be told, or most of it," he said.
Mr Fitzwilliams compared the couple's decision to King Edward's decision to abdicate the throne.
"This is unprecedented since 1936," he said.
"It's grossly irresponsible."
Royal biographer Penny Junor told News Corp Australia that she was concerned for Harry and Meghan following their shock announcement.
"I don't think they have thought this through properly," she said.
"They have an expensive lifestyle, how are they ever going to make the millions needed to fund that while dedicating themselves to charity?
The announcement from the couple has been a crisis for the royal family, but still does not compare to Prince Andrew's fall from grace, she said.
The Sun reported that Prince Harry had changed since he had met Meghan, which was the start of the spiral in his relationship with his brother.
"Harry and Meghan didn't spend any time with William and Kate, and the two wives don't get along at all - the distance and the differences between them grew into a vast chasm," a source said.
Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan, who was once friends with Meghan but fell out, said the statement had echoes of Meghan's dispute with her father.
"People say I'm too critical of Meghan Markle - but she ditched her family, ditched her dad, ditched most of her old friends, split Harry from William and has now split him from the royal family. I rest my case," he said.
Prince Harry and Meghan on Thursday also issued a new website, which was reportedly set up while they were in Canada on their recent six-week break, but did not tell their UK media team.
The couple made a fierce defence of their plans on the website and said they would no longer allow the British press access to their events, instead favouring grassroots outlets.
Harry is worth $A60 million in his own right, while Meghan amassed a $A7.6 million fortune from her acting career.