Updated at 3:55 p.m. ET

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex — also known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — have announced that they will step back from their duties as senior members of the British royal family.

The intrigue may be only beginning, amid reports that the Queen and the rest of the royal family were not given advance notice of the move.

The couple, who welcomed a son in May 2019, say they intend to become financially independent. Harry is sixth in the line of succession to the British throne, after his father Charles, his older brother William, and William's three children.

In a statement on their website and Instagram, Harry and Meghan explained their decision.

"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. "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."

They say they plan to split their 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."

Buckingham Palace followed shortly with its own terse statement on the matter.

"We understand their desire to take a different approach but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through," the palace said, according to Reuters. "Discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage."

The BBC reports that no other member of Buckingham Palace was consulted before the couple issued their statement, and that the royals are "disappointed."

The couple married in May 2018. Their wedding did nothing to dampen the intense public scrutiny of the pair. Meghan is an American actress, and she has repeatedly faced racist comments in some media and from online trolls.

A step back from royal duties has been anticipated since the couple returned from a six-week sojourn in Canada earlier this month. The speculation grew when Queen Elizabeth gave her Christmas address with family photos prominently displayed on her desk — but no such photo of Harry and Meghan and their son, Archie.

In recent years, there has been a narrowing of the royals who appear in official capacities. As The Guardian noted, at the queen's 2012 Diamond Jubilee celebrations, extended family members were on a separate boat from the queen and Prince Charles and their immediate families.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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