Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau quietly filled a long-vacant role of secretary to the Queen in mid-November – prompting speculation he was perhaps aware of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s move to the country months before their explosive announcement last week.
According to the National Post, Justin Trudeau appointed a long-standing federal civil servant, Donald Booth, to the role at the end of last year. The secretary acts as the primary link between the federal cabinet and the Crown, but the role had been left vacant for three years.
The recent appointment came two months before Prince Harry, 35, and Meghan Markle, 38, announced they’d be stepping back as senior royals and splitting their time between Canada and the UK.
Meghan and Mr Trudeau are believed to have been friendly since meeting in 2016 through their commitment to the One Young World summit. In October 2019 the Duchess of Sussex shared a throwback photo of Mr Trudeau hours after he was re-elected as Prime Minister of Canada.
Meghan is also thought to have befriended Mr Trudeau’s wife Sophie – a mutual friend of stylist Jessica Mulroney – while living in Toronto filming Suits. Yesterday, the Canadian PM said there is still ‘much to discuss’ over the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s move to North America.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau quietly filled a long-vacant role for private secretary to the Queen, 93, in November, months before Prince Harry, 35, and Meghan Markle, 38, announced their plans to split their time before North America and the UK
Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the appointment.
Kevin MacLeod was appointed full time secretary to the Queen in 2009, putting him in charge of coordinating royal tours of Canada and chairing the Diamond Jubilee Commitee, amongst other things.
He was responsible for the visit of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to Cornwall in November 2009, and was responsible for coordinating the Queen’s visit to Canada in 2010.
Kevin went on to retire in 2017, leaving the role of Canadian secretary to the Queen empty.
The role had existed since 1959, with Kevin reporting directly to the prime minister about matters to do with the monarchy.
The Duchess of Sussex has known Mr Trudeau for four years, and is also believed to be friendly with his wife Sophie (pictured, with the Canadian Prime Minister in 2016)
It is the principal channel of communication between the monarch and the Canadian government, as well as managing Her Majesty’s other correspondence in Canada and drafting speeches the Queen delivers in the country or on Canadian topics.
The secretary is also responsible for advising the prime minister on matters related to the Crown in Canada, including providing advice on royal tours.
Donald told the NationalPost in December that his role involves ‘supporting the prime minister in his unique relationship with the Queen and the palaces, and to serve as a single point of contact with the palaces to ensure that things run efficiently’.
The role of private secretary to the Queen had been vacant since Justin Trudeau was first elected in 2015
Harry and Meghan enjoyed much of their recent six-week break from royal duties in Canada, spending Christmas in a lavish resort on Vancouver Island.
In October, Meghan shared a snap showed her chatting to Mr Trudeau at the One Young World summit in Ottowa in 2016 – with her post coinciding with his re-election as PM.
At the time, some speculated that it could be seen as a subtle congratulatory nod to Mr Trudeau, whom Meghan and Harry have met on several occasions.
The move to fill the role in Canadian government was reportedly taken quietly in mid-November (pictured, the Queen with Mr Trudeau in November 2015)
Today, Mr Trudeau said there are discussions going on about the Sussexes’ move.
‘We’re not entirely sure what the final decisions will be, what the dispositions are and those are decisions for them,’ he said.
He added that the federal Canadian government had not been involved ‘up until this point’ about what the couple’s move to the country will involve.
‘There are still a lot of decisions to be taken by the Royal Family, by the Sussexes themselves, as to what level of engagement they choose to have,’ Mr Trudeau concluded.
Mr Trudeau, who has known Meghan since 2016, said he is ‘supportive of the couple’s reflections’ in a statement today (pictured together in 2016)
‘We are obviously supportive of their reflections but have responsibilities in that as well.
‘I think most Canadians are very supportive of having royals be here, but how that looks and what kind of costs are involved, there are still lots of discussions to have.’
The Sussexes enjoyed a ‘general feeling of appreciation’ in Canada, he added.
Earlier today the Duchess of Sussex denied she was barred from ‘dialing in’ to the landmark Sandringham summit from Canada as senior royals discussed her stepping down from the Royal Family with Prince Harry.
Palace sources said: ‘In the end, the Sussexes decided that it wasn’t necessary for the duchess to join.’
It comes as the Sussex team continues to negotiate an abdication deal on money, titles and establishing their international commercial brand.
Meanwhile it was also revealed that the Queen allowed Harry and Meghan to quit as senior Royals following a private heart-to-heart with her grandson at yesterday’s crisis summit.
After a family meeting at Sandringham, Her Majesty released a historic and emotionally-charged statement regretting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision to split their time between Canada and the UK as they wind down their royal duties.