As he awaits his return to Canada following his longest stint away from wife Meghan Markle and their son Archie, Prince Harry is said to be taking full responsibility for his family’s royal exit in a bid to protect Meghan from public backlash.
The couple recently announced they were stepping down as senior members of the royal family, and over the weekend, Queen Elizabeth II confirmed they would lose their HRH titles and repay the money spent on refurbishing their Frogmore Cottage home in Windsor, England. The two now plan to split their time between England and Canada.
The news has seen British media coin the term "Megxit," with many blaming Meghan for pulling Harry away from his family, however during a heartfelt speech at a charity event on Sunday, Harry notably referred to the drastic changes as his decision. According to royal expert Katie Nicholl, this was probably to help protect Meghan from the backlash she has received.
"He said it was his decision to walk away and that really he had no choice," Nicholl tells ET. "This was a joint decision and I think Prince Harry's been very magnanimous by taking it all on himself. I think he's simply doing that to protect Meghan."
"Over here, all of the headlines are dominated by one word: Megxit," Nicholl continues. "The insinuation being that she is responsible for this move [and] pulling Prince Harry over to North America. It's really not the case. I think Harry has been looking for a way out -- a way for a new life -- and Meghan has simply been the catalyst. But make no mistake -- this was a joint decision. Harry didn't make it on his own and Meghan didn't force him into it."
Amid the drama, Harry put on a brave face and enjoyed a night out with friends in London on Friday as he awaits his return to Vancouver. He was seen laughing and joking with pals at Brook House Pub in Fulham, which is owned by Harry’s friend and Archie’s godfather, Mark Dyer.
“Harry was in high spirits but I have spoken to a very close friend of his, who's known him for a long time, who says that Harry is really putting on a brave face throughout all of this -- that he's positive about his future but very torn [and] very sad about leaving his family,” Nicholl says. “He's very sad about leaving the United Kingdom.”
“We pretty much saw Harry say that himself in that speech for the charity Sentebale,” she adds about Harry’s candid words at Sunday’s event. “He's always been very honest about his emotions and I think you could see that heartache quite clearly written all over his face.”
Although Harry has taken countless flights out of the U.K., there’s no doubt his coming departure will hold extra significance, and likely heightened emotions.
However, he is also said to be anxious to be reunited with Meghan and Archie, with Nicholl noting he hasn’t seen them for almost two weeks -- presumably the longest period of time he has spent away from little Archie, and the longest he has been away from Meghan since their May 2018 wedding.
“There aren’t any engagements for the immediate future, so we are expecting Harry to fly back to Vancouver and be reunited with Archie and Meghan, who he hasn’t seen now for nearly two weeks,” Nicholl says. “One of the things I was told by a friend of Harry's is how much he has been missing them. Given the enormity of everything's that's happened, Prince Harry has really been left here to pick up the pieces on his own. He's absolutely desperate to get back to his new home.”
Harry’s return to Vancouver is “imminent” according to Nicholl. He is likely to return to England for official engagements, although it’s unknown whether Meghan and Archie will accompany him.
“My palace sources tell me that there will be some more engagements in the run up to this transition happening in the spring, so I think we can expect to see Harry back over in the U.K. carrying out charitable work and engagements,” Nicholl says. “We're wondering if this is the last we've seen in the U.K. of Meghan and there's no word as to whether she'll be coming back to carry out those engagements with Prince Harry, but they will be working behind the scenes on their charitable foundation.”
As they adjust to their new life and work towards becoming financially independent, Nicholl says Prince Charles will give the couple a $2 million salary to help them support themselves as they begin their new life.
“The couple are now going to go out and try to earn a living,” she says. “They are going to be financially independent. That means they are able to go and cut deals. There's an interest in Netflix we understand -- they're open to making a possible series with the couple. Autobiographies are [a possibility] as is a big sit-down talk with either Oprah [Winfrey] or Gayle King.”
See more on Harry and Meghan's decision below.