NOEL KING, HOST:
Sandringham is a beautiful country estate about a hundred miles north of London. There today the mother of all family meetings is taking place. The queen is meeting with Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry. They're talking about Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle and their decision to walk away from their royal roles.
NPR's Frank Langfitt is following this. I talked to him earlier this morning. Hey, Frank.
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey, Noel.
KING: So I've seen this called a family crisis meeting. Is that really how this is being...
KING: ...Viewed, as a crisis here?
LANGFITT: Oh, absolutely, it's a crisis. And what they're going to try to do is try to figure out a new role and respond to the couple's wishes. And I think what the queen really wants to do is avoid a rupture here. Meghan and Harry have said they want to split their time between the United Kingdom and North America. Meghan has already flown back to Canada - actually, will be dialing in to today's meeting, we understand. And the couple, what they've said is they want to be part of the royal family, but they also want to be apart from it. They want to start a new charity, be financially independent.
And you know, they don't say this explicitly so much but the sense is build a separate brand - a brand separate from the royals. Now, Meghan and Harry, known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, they trademarked a thing called Sussex Royal last year, which would allow them to brand products. There's no real model for this in the past, but people think they're looking to do something like what the Clinton Foundation and the Obamas have done - maybe book deals, speaking engagements, that sort of thing.
KING: So can we suss out - or can we guess how much of this is about family relations and how much of this is actually about business?
LANGFITT: Well, this is what I think makes it such an intriguing story beyond people who would be royals watchers, and that is they're completely intertwined. You know, inside the royal family, it's called the firm because it is a family business. It's a part of - a big part of brand Britain.
And up until now, you know, actually, Harry and the queen have been the most popular royal brand ambassadors basically. But what he's trying to do here is strike out on his own, and that could be seen as a threat to the brand. It's also a risk to him because without the royal family - you know, that is - has been his platform. And it's a little like a star of a band thinking about going solo.
KING: OK, that's really interesting - that he is such a popular member of the family...
LANGFITT: Oh, he is. He's very - he's seen as the most down-to-earth and the most relatable of all the major royals.
KING: So as this thing has been evolving, what has the couple said about their decision to move away from the family?
LANGFITT: Well, there's a bunch of things. And they've been unhappy for a long time - even before the wedding. You know, when she first started dating him publicly, there was stuff in that tabloids that he complained was racist, and he had very good reason to say so. Meghan Markle, of course, is a biracial American actress. She'd grown up in LA. I'll just read you a headline from The Daily Mail back in 2016 - "Harry's Girl Is Almost Straight Out Of Compton, Gang-Scarred Home Of Her Mother Revealed." So they had to deal with that.
But there have also been comparisons - unfavorable ones - with Kate Middleton, Prince William's wife. Another thing that's going on here, Noel, that's really interesting is Prince Charles is trying to streamline the monarchy, and Harry is the second-born. He's what they call the spare, not the heir. So they're looking for a new role.
KING: What could come out of this meeting, Frank?
LANGFITT: I think a big question is how they balance out their duties as royals with the money that they get. They get a lot of money from Prince Charles from a thing called the Duchy of Cornwall. And there's going to be a lot of questions of trying to have their cake and eat it, too, which is where they've come in for criticism even from ordinary people in Britain.
KING: NPR's Frank Langfitt. Thank you.
LANGFITT: You're very welcome, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.