When Archie was born, the couple's focus shifted even more to "doing what's right for their family," says a friend

By Stephanie Petit
January 15, 2020 03:07 PM
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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry‘s desire to have a normal family life played a huge role in their decision to step down as senior royals.

The couple welcomed son Archie on May 6 — and a palace source tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story that by that month, “they knew they were going to hit the nuclear button.”

While a rift developed between Prince Harry and Prince William, stemming from a conversation where William warned his younger brother against things moving too fast with Meghan, many imagined the siblings working “shoulder-to-shoulder” as they got older, according to a source. However, that proved to be more complex in reality.

“When Meghan came around and she was interested in making changes, he welcomed it,” says a friend. When Archie was born, the couple’s focus shifted even more to “doing what’s right for their family,” adds another friend.

Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Archie and Prince Harry
| Credit: Sussex Royals

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a statement last week announcing their intent to “carve out a progressive new role within this institution.”

Though the particulars are still being worked out, Meghan and Harry want to focus on “their own causes with a little less constraint and still be supporting the institution and the monarch,” says a friend.

But there was bewilderment within the palace walls at the couple’s statement that they look forward to “continuing to collaborate with Her Majesty the Queen.”

“You don’t ‘collaborate’ with the Queen,” one courtier says. “To say that about the Queen is remarkable.”

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
| Credit: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty

Their decision includes splitting their time between the U.K. and Canada, where Meghan lived while shooting Suits and where the family of three vacationed at the end of 2019. During the couple’s visit to London’s Canada House last week, Meghan revealed that Archie was in awe of the natural beauty of Canada.

While Meghan returned to Canada to reunite with Archie, Prince Harry stayed in the U.K. this week to meet with grandmother Queen Elizabeth, father Prince Charles and brother Prince William to discuss next steps.

Meghan Markle, Prince Harry and Queen Elizabeth
| Credit: John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty

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“Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family,” the Queen, 93, said in a statement released after the 90-minute meeting. “My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family.”

She continued, “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.”

Royal historian and biographer of the Queen Robert Lacey notes that the monarch’s statement was “incredibly personal.”

“I can’t recall a royal statement where one gets the sense so much of the Queen herself speaking,” he tells PEOPLE. “Using phrases like ‘my family and I’ is very moving. It clearly shows her wish to resolve everything.”