Everything to Know About the Sandringham Summit Surrounding Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Royal Exit

From who was in attendance to what was discussed, here's everything to know about the pivotal summit after Prince Harry and Meghan's announcement that they were stepping back from royal life

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on December 25, 2017 in King's Lynn, England.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's decision to step back from royal life was quickly followed by a meeting with the most senior members of the family to "talk things through."

In January 2020, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a statement sharing their intention to step back as senior working members of the royal family.

"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," they wrote on their now-defunct Instagram. "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. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. 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. 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."

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Following their announcement, Queen Elizabeth II and family members met to discuss the couple's future in what has since been dubbed the Sandringham Summit.

From who was in attendance to what was discussed, here's everything to know about the pivotal summit that lead to Harry and Meghan's official royal exit in March 2020.

When was the Sandringham Summit?

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on December 25, 2018 in King's Lynn, England
Prince. Mark Cuthbert/UK Press

In early January 2020, Queen Elizabeth ordered a family summit at her home to deliberate details surrounding Meghan and Prince Harry's royal exit. The meeting took place on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, at her country home of Sandringham, Norfolk — just days after Meghan and Prince Harry shared a statement on Jan. 8 about their decision to step back.

Who attended the Sandringham Summit?

The Duke of Cambridge and Duke of Sussex arrive for the unveiling of a statue they commissioned of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales
Prince William and Prince Harry at the unveiling of a Princess Diana statue in London on July 1, 2021. Alamy Stock Photo

Palace sources told PEOPLE that the Queen called for Prince Harry, Prince William and the then-Prince Charles to meet at her country home to "talk things through." While Meghan was thought to have called in from Canada, Buckingham Palace later said in a statement that Meghan and Harry ultimately decided that it "wasn't necessary" for her to do so.

The meeting was the first time they had all been together since Remembrance Day weekend in November 2019.

In the second installment of Harry & Meghan, Harry recalls that the family appeared to wait until Meghan returned to Canada to hold the meeting: "It was only once Meg had left and gone back to Canada that it was then arranged that there was going to be a meeting at Sandringham on the following Monday."

Added Meghan, "Imagine a conversation, a roundtable discussion about the future of your life. When the stakes are this high. And you as the mom and the wife and the target, in many regards, aren't invited to have a seat at the table."

What was discussed during the Sandringham Summit?

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex gesture during their visit to Canada House in thanks for the warm Canadian hospitality and support they received during their recent stay in Canada, in London on January 7, 2020
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. DANIEL LEAL/AFP

Years after their royal exit, many details from the date remain secret. In Finding Freedom, authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand reported that part of the meeting included Charles' assurance that Meghan and Harry were still a part of the family regardless of their royal exit as well as Queen Elizabeth's insistence that Meghan and Harry would not be "half-in, half-out" with their roles, per Vanity Fair.

Queen Elizabeth's official statement following the Sandringham Summit also implied that their source of income and location were part of the discussions.

"Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives," the Queen said at the time. "It has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the U.K."

In Harry's recollection, according to the Netflix series, he and Meghan were offered five options, ranging from "all in, no change," to "all out," and they asked to choose something in between. According to him, their choice was rejected, and his family did not seem willing to compromise.

"It became very clear very quickly that that goal was not up for discussion or debate," he said in the series. "It was terrifying to have my brother scream and shout at me, and my father say things that simply weren't true and my grandmother quietly sit there and sort of take it all in."

What happened after the Sandringham Summit?

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend The Endeavour Fund Awards
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Samir Hussein/WireImage

After the summit, Queen Elizabeth released a groundbreaking statement about Meghan and Harry's exit.

"Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family," the Queen said at the time. "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."

In March 2020, Harry and Meghan made their final round of royal engagements before relocating to California. Almost a year later, in February 2021, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the couple would not be returning to their royal roles.

"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have confirmed to Her Majesty The Queen that they will not be returning as working members of The Royal Family," the Buckingham Palace statement said. "Following conversations with The Duke, The Queen has written confirming that in stepping away from the work of The Royal Family it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service."

It was also announced that Harry would lose his honorary military appointments, which will subsequently be redistributed "among working members of The Royal Family." Other trusts and patronages were reverted to the Queen, including the Queen's Commonwealth Trust, the Rugby Football Union, the Rugby Football League, the Royal National Theatre and the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

Though the couple formally retained their His/Her Royal Highness titles, they no longer use them.

Prince Harry and Meghan pushed back with a statement that pointedly referenced the Queen's: "We can all live a life of service. Service is universal."

Prince Harry and Meghan's office also said that the pair "remain committed to their duty and service to the U.K. and around the world, and have offered their continued support to the organizations they have represented regardless of official role."

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