London: Prince Harry and his wife Meghan will step back as senior members of the royal family and spend more time in North America, the couple said in a shock announcement on Wednesday.

The surprise news follows a turbulent year for the monarchy, with signs that the couple have increasingly struggled with the pressures of royal life and family rifts.

“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,” they said in a statement released by Buckingham Palace.

“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 added.

“We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America.”