If you weren’t familiar with the British term “gobsmacking” before, now you may get an idea of what it means after digesting the astonishing news that Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan of Sussex have decided they are not going to be “senior royals” anymore.

On Wednesday, they issued a “personal message” announcing they are stepping back from their roles as senior members of the British royal family, they’re working on becoming “financially independent,” and they’re planning to split their time between North America and the United Kingdom.

Then, an hour after that came another statement from the palace, this one from the office of the private secretary and communications director for Queen Elizabeth II, Harry’s grandmother. It suggested some in the palace were not amused.

“We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through,” the statement said carefully. Translation: Not so fast, Your Royal Highnesses.

By now, Americans unfamiliar with Brit-speak or the ins-and-outs of royal doings might be wondering: What? Have they quit being royals? Can they do that? And why would they?

Harry and Meghan are 'stepping back' as senior royals, will spend time in North America

Sally Bedell Smith, the acclaimed American biographer of the queen and of Harry’s mother, the late Princess Diana, says it appears from these statements that Harry and Meghan have acted on their own and without consulting anyone in the royal family.

“You would think that Harry would know that you can’t just go off and make decisions without taking advice,” Smith said. “For them to have cooked this up all by themselves – I think is a real violation of the way the royal family is supposed to operate. “

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