Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced in a shocking statement earlier this month that they were stepping down as “senior” members of the royal family and looking to make major changes with their lives.
“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,” the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said on Jan. 8 in a post to their Sussex Royal Instagram account.
“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.”
The announcement set off a shockwave across the internet and left major questions for royal diehards and casual fans alike. Amid the chatter and the headlines, Harry and Meghan released more information explaining their plans, and the queen issued two statements regarding details of the Duke and Duchesses’ new, non-royal life going forward.
1. Why would they do this?
Harry and Meghan have not stated a reason other than telling their followers that they intend to “carve out a progressive new role within this institution.”
Of course, from the very beginning of their relationship, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have battled with the press and spoken out against the racist and sexist treatment of Meghan. Harry slammed the “long and disturbing pattern of behaviour by British tabloid media” in a statement in October. The couple said on their newly launched website that they will redefine their relationship with the press going forward.
“My impression is they’re pretty philosophical about it,” he said, adding that the pair was basically saying, “We are making a break for independence and freedom here. You wanted a slimmed-down monarchy. There’s no place for us in it. We need to learn to live on our own. We want to get on and do that.”
2. What does it all ... mean?
There are three main things to focus on as the duke and duchess step down: Harry and Meghan are moving, becoming financially independent, and planning to approach their relationship with the media differently.
3. Was this planned?
Meghan and Harry just returned from a six-week royal sabbatical in Canada, but it certainly appears the move and announcement were planned, as the couple said they reached their decision “after many months of reflection and internal discussions.”
Their new website, which contains in-depth information about how they will step back going forward, was also registered months ago. It was designed by the company Made by Article, which also oversaw Meghan’s former lifestyle blog, The Tig.
Harry and Meghan also filed for a trademark for their new foundation with the U.K.’s Intellectual Property Office back in June, though it was not published until Dec. 19, 2019. This means the duke and duchess have the potential to create merchandise — though it may just be a means to prevent other people from creating merch from their likenesses.
4. How did the royal family react to the news?
BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond reported that the royal family didn’t know beforehand that Meghan and Harry were putting out their initial announcement, and People quoted a royal source as saying, “There is a lot of hurt about this.”
Normally with news this big, the royal family would coordinate statements from Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Clarence House. But it took Buckingham Palace a few hours to issue a terse statement, which lent credibility to the idea that it didn’t have advance notice of the announcement.
“Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage,” the palace said in a statement. “We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”
But after a family meeting on Monday, the queen issued a statement saying she is “entirely supportive” of Meghan and Harry’s plan for their “new life.”
“Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family,” the queen said.
Her Majesty issued another statement on Saturday about the couple’s new life, declaring that the two will no longer use their “royal highness” titles and will stop receiving public funds as of spring of this year.
Prince Charles, Harry’s father, and Prince William, Harry’s older brother, have yet to respond publicly.
5. Have we ever seen anything like this from the royal family?
So glad you asked! As many have pointed out, Meghan and Harry’s move is drawing a lot of comparisons to Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne in 1936 in order to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcée (Simpson is often compared to Meghan, who also was previously married).
We also recently saw Prince Andrew step away from royal duties, but for a much different reason. The Duke of York, Charles’ younger brother, stepped down from public life in November after his ties with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein became too distracting for his role as a royal.
6. Where will Harry and Meghan live?
Harry and Meghan will be splitting their time between the U.K. (where they currently live at Frogmore Cottage in Windsor) and Canada.
In North America, they’ll likely reside in Canada and possibly Los Angeles, where Meghan was born and where her mother, Doria Ragland, lives. While in the U.K., the royals intend to live at the recently renovated Frogmore Cottage, which cost British taxpayers £2.4 million (or $3.06 million). It was announced Saturday that the Sussexes will pay back the cost of the renovations to the British public.
“Frogmore Cottage will continue to be the property of Her Majesty the Queen,” according to a statement on the Sussexes’ website. “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will continue to use Frogmore Cottage — with the permission of Her Majesty The Queen — as their official residence as they continue to support the Monarchy, and so that their family will always have a place to call home in the United Kingdom.”
7. How will they interact with media, specifically in the U.K.?
Starting this spring, Meghan and Harry said on their website, they will “provide access to credible media outlets” that do “accurate and honest media reporting.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex said that as they are moving toward financial independence, they will do away with their participation in the royal rota, which is a collection of royal correspondents from British media outlets including The Daily Mail, The Sun and The Daily Mirror.
In October, the Duchess of Sussex filed a claim against Associated Newspapers, the parent company of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, “over the intrusive and unlawful publication of a private letter.”
Prince Harry announced Meghan’s legal action on her behalf with a fiery statement in October, decrying the treatment she has received.
“My wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences — a ruthless campaign that has escalated over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son,” Harry said.
8. Are Meghan and Harry still royalty? Can they still use their titles?
Meghan and Harry are no longer working members of the royal family, Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Saturday, and they will no longer fulfill any royal appointments or use public funds for royal duties.
The palace also said that Meghan and Harry can keep their titles as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but they will no longer be able to use the titles His and Her Royal Highness.
It was thought that Harry and Meghan would be able to remains the Sussexes due to the fact that, after Prince Andrew announced in November that he was stepping back from his duties, there was no change to his royal status or his title as the Duke of York.
9. Will Prince Harry get a last name?
He already has one! Technically, in the military, Prince Harry used the name “Harry Wales,” and his full name is actually “His Royal Highness (HRH) Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales.”
If he needs a last name, he could also use the surname Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip came up with in 1960 for their direct descendants, which is “Mountbatten-Windsor.” Little Archie also uses the surname, as he doesn’t have a royal title.
9. What does this mean for Archie?
Right now little Archie’s biggest job is looking cute. But Archie will likely follow in the footsteps of Harry’s cousins, Zara Tindall, Peter Phillips and Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, who are not working royals and do not carry out any form of royal duties.
The children of Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, don’t have royal titles.
10. How will Meghan and Harry’s royal roles change?
Since the pair are no longer working members of the royal family, they will no longer be allowed to carry out royal duties or official military appointments, Buckingham Palace said Saturday.
Harry and Meghan will be allowed to continue to support their private patronages and charities.
The two said on their website, which was published earlier this month, that they’re focused on starting a new charitable entity, which will see them focused on issues like conservation, mental health, female empowerment and Harry’s beloved Invictus Games.
11. How will they become financially independent?
Currently, the royal family is funded by the Sovereign Grant, which supports Queen Elizabeth and her household’s official expenses. Harry and Meghan’s office only takes 5% of their funding from the Sovereign Grant and gets 95% of their funds from Prince Charles’ estate (which supports Prince Harry’s annual allowance).
Buckingham Palace said in a statement Saturday that Harry and Meghan “will no longer receive public funds for Royal duties,” but it’s still not clear what they’ll get from Charles.
We know that Harry inherited a large sum of money from his mother, Princess Diana, and Meghan has her own money from her entertainment career.
12. Will Meghan Markle ever act again? Are they going to get real-world jobs?
Just after announcing her engagement to Prince Harry in November 2017, Meghan announced that she was stepping away from her former life as an actor to focus on new royal duties.
Though it’s doubtful we’d see Meghan returned to the big screen, the two could venture further into the entertainment world. The U.K. Times reported on Saturday that even before the Sussexes’ announcement, Meghan inked a voiceover deal with Disney for a donation to the charity Elephants Without Borders.
Last year, Harry announced that he teamed up with Oprah Winfrey to produce a show for Apple TV+ focused on mental health, which leads us to believe the Sussexes could land something much like the Obamas’ major production deal with Netflix.
13. Are the Obamas and/or Oprah advising Harry and Meghan?
After reports surfaced that Oprah Winfrey and Barack and Michelle Obama were advising the Sussexes in their transition from being senior royals, the media mogul denied the claims.
“Meghan and Harry do not need my help figuring out what’s best for them,” she told People magazine. “I care about them both and support whatever decisions they make for their family.”
A source close to the Obamas also confirmed to HuffPost that the former president and first lady are not working with the duke and duchess.
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