SANDRINGHAM: Prince Harry and his brother Prince William put on a united front as they were summoned to showdown talks on Monday (Jan 13) on Harry's future after he and his wife Meghan unilaterally announced they were quitting as front-line British royalty.
The brothers lashed out at a story alleging that William bullied his younger brother, as newspapers speculated on what caused the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to quit their roles in search of a new life.
William, 37, and 35-year-old Harry formed a close bond following their mother Diana's death in 1997 but Harry admitted last month they had drifted apart and were now on different paths.
The fraternal show of unity came as they were summoned to talks with their grandmother Queen Elizabeth II and father Prince Charles aimed at charting a way through the crisis.
The 93-year-old monarch called the trio to urgent discussions at her private Sandringham retreat in eastern England.
A story in The Times newspaper said Monday that Harry and Meghan saw themselves as having been "pushed away from the royal family" by William's "'bullying' attitude" - adding that sources close to the princes had denied this version of events.
A statement on behalf of Harry and William said: "Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a UK newspaper today speculating about the relationship between the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Cambridge.
"For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful."
'PROGRESSIVE', INDEPENDENT PLAN
The Sussexes said Wednesday they wanted to step back as senior royals, divide their time between Britain and North America, rip up long-established ways of working with the media and seek a "progressive" and financially-independent new role.
That triggered the queen on Thursday to direct her officials, plus those of Charles, William and Harry, to seek urgent "workable solutions" following the bombshell announcement.
Charles, 71, the heir to the throne, flew back from Oman, where he attended a condolence ceremony Sunday following the death of the late Sultan Qaboos.
Meghan, 38, was expected to join the meeting via conference call from Canada as they attempt to work out the "next steps" towards a compromise.
Issues up for debate include how much money the couple will still receive from Charles - who largely bankrolls his sons and their families - the couple's royal titles and how they can raise their own finances without compromising the monarchy.
Their plan for a new way of working said they intended to continue to "fully support" Queen Elizabeth and honour their duties to the monarch, the Commonwealth and their patronages.
However, they want to make 2020 a "transition" year to carve out their new role and launch their new Sussex Royal charitable entity and seek to raise their own sources of income.
They also want to keep their newly-renovated Frogmore Cottage home on the queen's Windsor Castle estate as their British base.
The London Evening Standard newspaper said the family was "falling apart, and should try to put itself back together".
The Sussexes need to accept they have "caused a lot of upset", while the others must understand that the pair are "deeply unhappy with the role cast for them as minor royals hanging on the purse-strings of their relatives".
The way forward must involve the freedom to live abroad and earn money, the daily said.
Harry, now sixth in line to the throne following the birth of William's three children, has been open about his mental health issues in coming to terms with his mother's death in a Paris car crash, when he was just 12.
He and Meghan in October admitted to struggling with the spotlight following their wedding at Windsor Castle in May 2018 and son Archie's birth 12 months later.
US former television actress Meghan was widely welcomed as a breath of fresh air for the royal family when their engagement was announced in November 2017.
But the prince and the ex-"Suits" star have lashed out at negative news coverage since the wedding - some of which Harry says was racist - in light of Meghan's bi-racial heritage.
BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond said Harry and Meghan must commit to public service if they are to remain as royals.
"A deal will probably be crafted - however the direction of travel is one way. Prince Harry and Meghan are looking for the exit," he said.