Queen Elizabeth and senior royals have been in discussions with royal aides to find a solution to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's decision to step back

By Maria Pasquini
January 11, 2020 01:30 PM

In the wake of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s shocking announcement that they would be stepping back from royal life, palace insiders have denied claims that the couple felt like they were being “driven out.”

Speaking on his ITV News program on Thursday, following the bombshell news, the couple’s friend Tom Bradby said that “there’ve been a lot of fallouts.”

“A lot of harsh things were said around the time of the wedding. And it’s gone a bit too far. And certainly the rest of the family find Harry and Meghan very difficult and, from Harry and Meghan’s point of view, they’re just being driven out as they see it. And it’s sad,“ he said.

“My impression is they’re pretty philosophical about it. [It’s] ‘We are making a break for independence and freedom here. You wanted a slimmed-down monarchy. There’s no place for us in it. We need to learn to live on our own. We want to get on and do that,’ “ he added.

This line of thinking has since been discredited by numerous palace aids.

“I don’t think you could point to any evidence of them being forced out, or made to feel unwelcome,” one palace aid told U.K. newspaper The Times. “The future of the monarchy always had the Sussexes very much at the heart of it, and perhaps still will depending on what structures they arrive at.”

“It is strongly disputed that the Sussexes are not at the center of any future slimmed-down monarchy,” another aide added.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/POOL/AFP via Getty

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Another one of Harry’s close friends has said the royal, 35, made the decision in order to “protect his family.”

“He’s less the captain in the army I knew, and he’s more a father,” JJ Chalmers, who met Harry while they were both serving in the military, said during an appearance on the UK show The One Show on Friday.

“And I think the decision that he has made, at the forefront of that is to protect his family, because that’s the number one rule is to be a father and to be a husband,” Chalmers added, noting that tensions with the media also played a role.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry with son Archie
Samir Hussein/WireImage

“He is a very principled individual and so when he looks as how the media reacts and how social media talks about someone, he has to answer to his son one day when he begins to understand this and be able to look him in the face and say, ‘I made the right decision and I did right by you,’ ” Chalmers said.

“And ultimately he grew up in the limelight and knows how it will end if this isn’t handled correctly,” Chalmers added, in reference to the 1997 death of Harry’s mother Princess Diana.

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Since the announcement was made on Wednesday, Queen Elizabeth and senior royals including Prince Charles and Prince William have been in emergency discussions with royal aides to find a solution to Harry and Meghan’s “desire to take a different approach.”

Just hours after Harry and Meghan shared their plan, the Queen’s office at Buckingham Palace responded by saying the conversation is still in “early” stages.

“There is a lot of hurt about this,” one royal source told PEOPLE.

Since their historic announcement, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have kept a low-profile. While Meghan, 38, flew back to Canada on Thursday to reunite with their 8-month-old son Archie, Harry has stayed at their Frogmore Cottage home to work out a deal with his family.

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