Harry and Meghan are axing 15 staff and closing their Buckingham Palace office.
It is the surest sign yet that the couple and their son Archie are unlikely ever to return to the UK to live.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex broke the news to their team in person in January following the announcement that they were stepping down as senior working royals.
While one or two may be absorbed back into the royal household, most are now negotiating redundancy packages.?
They are the latest casualties of Harry and Meghan’s bombshell decision to move to North America and make their fortunes outside the Royal Family.
Last night Buckingham Palace said it did not comment on staffing matters but it is understood senior royals, including the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William are aware of the office closure and redundancies.
A source told the Mail: ‘Given their decision to step back, an office at Buckingham Palace is no longer needed. While the details are still being finalized and efforts are being made to redeploy people within the royal household, unfortunately there will be some redundancies.’
Among those to lose their jobs are the couple’s newly appointed private secretary, Fiona Mcilwham – although she is on secondment from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and is likely to be found in a role in Whitehall – and their hugely experienced communications chief Sara Latham.
Harry’s long-standing program coordinator Clara Loughran, who was so well regarded by the prince that she was asked to hand Meghan her bouquet in church on her wedding day, will go.
As well as Miss Latham – who previously worked for the Obamas and was Hillary Clinton’s senior campaign adviser – her deputy, assistant communications secretary Marnie Gaffney, is understood to be leaving.
A much-loved and long-serving member of Buckingham Palace press staff, she played a major role in supporting Harry on his military work and organised his and Meghan’s hugely successful official tours to Australia and Africa,
The Queen made her a member of the Royal Victorian Order because of her devoted service.
The other press officer to lose her job is Julie Burley, who worked for Harry, William and Kate on their successful mental health campaign Heads Together.
David Watkins, poached from fashion house Burberry in August as the couple’s social media expert, is also out.
The source insisted that while ‘Megxit’ had come as a complete shock to the team, most accept their fate. ‘The Duke and Duchess have a small team, less than 15 people. The team are very loyal to the Sussexes and understand and respect the decision they have taken,’ the source said.
‘They are all close and supporting each other. The team are busy helping to set their Royal Highnesses up for the future and working on a series of final engagements.’
It is understood that this includes the Mountbatten Festival of Music at the Royal Albert Hall on March 7, which will be Harry’s last engagement as Captain-General of the Royal Marines. He and Meghan are also expected to attend the Commonwealth Day service on March 9.
One or two other engagements are being scheduled before the couple return to Canada to embark on their new life. When they announced their decision to step back in early January, Harry and Meghan insisted they would be splitting their time between the UK and North America. But this latest move suggests that any trips back to the UK will be limited. One source said: ‘I do think they will be back a little bit. They genuinely do plan to keep their patronages and maintain that work in the UK.’
Some of the outgoing staff started working with Harry long before his marriage to Meghan.
One royal source told the Mail: ‘I don’t think it will comes as surprise to anyone that these have been incredibly trying circumstances for their team, who have experienced some very difficult times of late. They are all good people, very loyal and brilliant at their jobs, and everyone feels incredibly sorry for them.’
Another insider made clear that the couple’s decision to hire a team of US-based agents and publicists, many of whom worked for Meghan when she was an actress, had made life incredibly difficult for their Palace staff.
The couple have been organizing private engagements and briefings with the US team and hired a Canadian designer to create a new website without any involvement from the royal advisers.
This has led to a number of embarrassing blunders. ‘There are several instances when advice was clearly been given to them by the Palace team and wasn’t listened to,’ the source revealed. ‘They have done the best they possibly could against a backdrop of multiple international advisers, publicists and high-profile friends.’
‘Harry and Meghan’s team are so loyal, probably to a fault sometimes. They are firefighting for the couple while knowing they are about to lose their jobs. Efforts are being made to redeploy some people. But in truth that will be a small fraction of the total staff.’
A small team will continue to be employed privately in London to mastermind Harry’s new eco-friendly travel initiative, Travalyst, launched last year.
It is thought that the redundancies will be concluded by the time Harry and Meghan’s ‘transition’ in stepping down as senior royals is formally concluded
This is likely to be around mid to late March, when they return for their final official duties.
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