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    THE ROYAL FAMILY AT THE BREAKING POINT
    Insiders tell all about Harry’s unprecedented decision to abandon the monarchy and his fortune — and how Meghan is influencing him

    Sources say the final straw for Harry may have been this royal portrait of the queen and her three heirs.

    “Meghan is definitely leading the charge on this move,” says a source.

    It was business as usual for Harry and Meghan as they made a visit to Canada House in London on Jan. 7 to thank officials for the hospitality extended to them during their recent stay on Vancouver Island, where they celebrated the holidays with their 8-month-old son, Archie. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were in good spirits as they chatted with staff members and posed for press photos during the appearance. Little did the world know the controversial couple was about to drop the biggest bombshell to hit the monarchy in decades. The following day, Harry and Meghan announced their plans to “step back as senior members of the Royal Family” — an unprecedented move that sent shock waves through the palace and beyond. In the statement, the pair said they’d be working to become financially independent and would also be splitting their time between the U.K. and North America “to provide our family with the space to focus on the next chapter.” For Harry, 35, that means finally carving out an identify for himself outside his royal lineage and duties — and making sure his son doesn’t suffer the same way he has under intense media scrutiny. “Harry wants a fresh start,” says an insider. “He’s desperate to get as far away as he can from all the negativity.”

    In recent months, Harry and Meghan, 38, have been open about the pressures of life in the spotlight and feeling bullied by the British press. “Meghan knew life as a royal wouldn’t be easy, but nothing prepared her for the constant criticism and drama and backstab-bing that goes on behind palace doors.” Harry’s felt responsible for his wife’s suffering: “To say he’s upset about the way the royals and the U.K. press have treated Meghan is an understatement,” the insider reveals.

    “IT’S CLEAR ROYAL PRESSURES HAVE MADE THEM DEEPLY UNHAPPY. THEY’RE GOING TO DO THINGS THEIR WAY.”
    ROYAL EXPERT RICHARD FITZWILLIAMS TO US

    PROTECTING ARCHIE

    As Us exclusively reported in October 2019, Harry and Meghan’s plans had been in the works for some time. “This is something they’ve been talking about since they got married,” a source tells Us. While the former Suits actress tried to adapt to life in London, it proved too difficult. “She doesn’t have many ties to Kensington Palace or the other royals there,” says the source. (They plan to make their home base in Canada and also have a house in Los Angeles.)

    Harry knows all too well how suffocating growing up in a royal fishbowl can be. “They both want to raise Archie their way, out of the spotlight,” says the insider. “Their main goal is to give him the most normal upbringing possible.”

    RIPPLE EFFECT

    But their decision isn’t going over well back at home. While the queen released a statement on Jan. 13 saying she’s “entirely supportive” of Harry and Meghan’s wishes to reduce their royal roles, the insider says that behind closed doors, the 93-year-old is “furious.”

    The queen is desperately scrambling to do damage control, “but it’s a very messy situation,” says the insider, noting that things could get even nastier in the weeks to come, with Harry and Meghan’s camp whispering that the pair will do a tell-all interview painting the royals in a negative light if they don’t get what they want. “That’s the queen’s worst nightmare,” says the insider.

    BROKEN BONDS

    Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, aren’t happy with Harry and Meghan, either. William, 37, and Kate, 38, “can’t get over the chaos they’ve brought upon the royals,” says the insider, adding that the already strained relationship between Harry and William —who released a rare joint statement on Jan. 13 to dispute rumors that William had been bullying Harry — may be damaged beyond repair. “For William, this is the final nail in the coffin.”

    Meghan’s October ITV interview was the public’s first inkling that the duchess was unhappy overseas.

    And things are as icy as ever between Meghan and Kate. “Since Harry and Meghan released their statement, Kate’s given up hope of ever making amends with her sister-in-law,” says the insider, who confirms that the two have cut ties.

    As for Harry’s dad, Prince Charles, the insider says he’s “livid” and blames Meghan for his son’s decision to flee the palace. Their relationship stands to get even more complicated over money. (The royal family is reportedly worth $88 billion.) Meghan and Harry currently get 95 percent of their income from Charles — a reported royal stipend of $6.5 million — “so now it’s a question of whether Charles will decide to keep paying them or not,” says another source.

    MOVING ON

    Either way, Meghan and Harry aren’t looking back. “They’re not having any second thoughts,” says the insider. They already have a three-year plan: They’ll settle in Canada, keep a vacation home in L.A., continue with their charity endeavors and work on expanding their family. “It won’t be long before we’ll be seeing the couple welcome another baby,” the insider reveals.

    In the meantime, Meghan’s already returning to her Hollywood roots. She’s signed a deal with Disney to do voiceover work in exchange for a donation to Elephants Without Borders. And the insider says she’s hoping to land some producing and directing gigs too. “She wants to do documentaries focusing on her charities.” There’s also the possibility of a talk show. “Meghan’s determined to break free from royal life,” says the insider, “and Harry’s standing by her all the way. They’re both ready for a new start.”

    READER POLL!

    Do you think it was the right decision for Meghan and Harry to step down from their royal duties?

    51% SAY NO

    Hooray for Hollywood?

    Meghan and Harry are more interested in being American royalty than duke and duchess

    Lots of little girls dream of being a princess, but royal duties aren’t all they’re cracked up to be — at least not for Meghan Markle. “She didn’t realize how much responsibility she’d have in the monarchy,” says a source close to her. “That’s not the life she wants.” The former Suits star would rather be hobnobbing with famous A-list pals like Serena Williams, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, and even Barack and Michelle Obama, the source claims: “She wants fewer royals and more Hollywood, and there’s nothing wrong with that!” Well, depends who you ask!

    FROM LEFT: SHUTTERSTOCK; MATT BARON/SHUTTERSTOCK