The Queen offered Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a "safety catch" when they departed for the US, royal commentators have claimed.

Harry and Meghan announced that they would officially be stepping down from royal duties in January 2020, before moving across the Atlantic to the US via Canada.

At the time, the Queen said that the Sussexes “will always be much loved members of my family” and recognised the “challenges” that the couple had faced following the recent scrutiny on their lives.

Now, new Channel 5 documentary The Queen’s Terrible Year has examined how the monarch reacted to Harry and Meghan’s extraordinary choice.

The documentary’s contributors recognised that Harry and Meghan’s decision to pursue a non-royal life only a year and a half after their extravagant wedding ceremony in Windsor was a personal issue for the Queen.

So, it was claimed that the monarch offered the Duke and Duchess of Sussex a probation period so they could freely return to royal life within a year if they decided civilian life didn’t suit them

“They went off to Canada for a bit and then they came back and then they threw all this at the Queen and said what they wanted to do. And she very wisely said, ‘well, give it a try and have a year’s probation’,” royal biographer Hugo Vickers suggested.

The Royal Editor of Hello Magazine Emily Nash explained further, noting: “It’s almost like granting them a year-long sabbatical, if you like.

“The transitional period was put in place as almost a kind of safety catch, so that should the couple could go to America and decide that, actually, they’ve made the wrong decision, had they found themselves unable to make things work, that they still had this opportunity to return and resume.”

However, when the year’s so-called “sabbatical” was almost over, Harry’s reported intentions to fly to the UK for a face-to-face conversation with the Queen were put on hold when a ban on non-essential travel was introduced because of high coronavirus rates.

This, the documentary’s contributors claimed, left the Queen in a difficult position.

“There was this concern that they were going to set up shop in direct competition in the US and that would have proved difficult,” alleged associate editor of the Telegraph Camilla Tominey.

“On the one hand, the Queen had the pressure on her to preserve the institution of monarchy, while also trying to preserve her own familial relations with her grandson.”

Ultimately, Meghan and Harry have not returned to the royal institution since their departure.

Instead, the couple have gone on to pursue a number of ventures under their charitable Archewell banner – including a deal with Netflix – as well as becoming impact partners with an investment firm partners.

In fact, the couple even went on to level a number of accusations against ‘The Firm’ in an explosive interview with US host Oprah Winfrey, where they claimed Prince William was “trapped” and alleged that an unnamed royal had made comments about the colour of Archie’s skin.

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