Latest update: The Queen has made a statement about the Sussexes’s decision to step down as senior royals. Read it below!
Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan are kicking off 2020 with some huge, history-making news. On January 8, the royal couple set the Internet ablaze when they made a bombshell announcement via social media that they will be taking a step back from their roles as senior royals. The unprecedented move also sees the two royals planning to earn their keep and split their time between the UK and North America, Canada in particular.
“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 pair wrote.
“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 pair explained that it is with their fnthat they plan to make the transition, and they will continue to honour their time between supporting the Queen and their various patronages.
“This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity.”
The royal couple finished their post: “We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.”
The news has come as a shock to royal watchers, especially given the pair had just made their first official royal appearance of 2020 at Canada House in London just this week.
The Palace responds
Shortly after Meghan and Harry’s announcement, the Palace released a terse statement on behalf of The Queen, which reads:
DISCUSSIONS WITH THE DUKE AND DUCHESS OF SUSSEX ARE AT AN EARLY STAGE. WE UNDERSTAND THEIR DESIRE TO TAKE A DIFFERENT APPROACH, BUT THESE ARE COMPLICATED ISSUES THAT WILL TAKE TIME TO WORK THROUGH.
A STATEMENT FROM BUCKINGHAM PALACE
This suggests the palace is contradicting the pair’s announcement, and is further exacerbated by reports that the Queen and Prince Charles were not aware of the content of the Duke and Duchess’ statement before it was published.
The Queen is supportive
On Monday (Jan 13), an emergency summit was called between senior royal family members to discuss the Sussexes’ new role. The Queen issued a statement that same day, saying that she is “entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family”.
She expresses that even though they “would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family”, they are respectful of the couple’s wish to “live a more independent life”.
She also notes that there will be a “period of transition” and that these are “complex matters for [her] family to resolve”, and has asked for “final decisions to be reached in the coming days”. You can read her statement in full at the Royal Family’s website.
What does it all mean?
First things first, Harry and Meghan are not quitting the royal family and appear to be retaining their titles as Duke and Duchess of Sussex. According to their website Sussex Royal, they will “no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant, [but will] become members of the Royal Family with financial independence which is something they look forward to”.
Currently, 95 per cent of their office is being funded by an allowance from Prince Charles, which comes from profits off his Duchy of Cornwall estate. The other five per cent comes from the Sovereign Grant from UK taxpayers.
This means that while the Sussexes will still perform some royal duties on behalf of the Queen, they will have the financial autonomy in future to take on other paying jobs. Yes, it means Meghan can act in movies and TV shows again, something she previously had to give up when she married into royalty.
The clues that led to this moment
Meghan and Harry are not, and have never been, a conventional royal couple. From the moment they started dating to their wedding ceremony and even Meghan’s pregnancy, the dynamic duo have been determined to forge their own path, even if that means pushing – and breaking – the boundaries of royal tradition.
The more we look back at their decisions over the past couple of years, the more we realised that this moment was a long time coming. Below, we detail eight tell-tale signs that show the royal couple have been wanting to step away from royal life:
When they got married in May 2018, Meghan and Harry moved into a cottage in Kensington Palace, where they lived next to Prince William and Duchess Kate.
However, just a few months later, the couple announced that they were moving to Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, located about an hour’s drive away. They cited the birth of their first child as a reason for the move as they wanted to raise baby Archie away from the public eye.
What’s especially significant about the move is that it marked the end of a decade-long shared household between the two brothers, William and Harry.
Following the split of their residences, royal fans believed that the “Fab Four” would continue working in unity through their joint charity, The Royal Foundation. However, those hopes were dashed when it was announced in June 2019 that the Sussexes would be leaving the joint office they share with Cambridges.
The Royal Foundation was renamed “The Royal Foundation of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge”, and Buckingham Palace confirmed that Meghan and Harry would be starting a new charity foundation called Sussex Royal which is set to begin this year.
Rumours of the split swirled earlier in the year when Meghan and Harry created their own official Instagram account, @sussexroyal. The previously shared an account with William and Kate, @kensingtonroyal.
For their first post, the couple wrote: “we look forward to sharing the work that drives us, the causes we support, important announcements, and the opportunity to shine a light on key issues.”
Unlike his elder brother William, Harry has always been one to shun the royal spotlight. Back in 2017, when Harry and Meghan were still dating, the former admitted that he had “wanted out” from being a royal entirely after his stint in the army back in 2007. In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, the prince said he felt like he was living in a “goldfish bowl”. He said that he didn’t want to become just a celebrity people came to see, but wanted to use his role “for good”.
He described his time serving in Afghanistan as “the best escape I’ve ever had”. “I felt as though I was really achieving something […] I wasn’t a Prince, I was just Harry.”
However, he revealed that his loyalty to his grandmother the Queen is a big reason why he didn’t give up his title in the end.
Traditionally, members of the royal family spend Christmas at the Queen’s residence in Sandringham . But late last year, the Sussexes made an unexpected announcement via Buckingham Palace that they would be celebrating with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, over in North America instead.
The full statement reads:
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are looking forward to extended family time towards the end of this month. Having spent the last two Christmases at Sandringham, Their Royal Highnesses will spend the holiday this year, as a new family, with the Duchess’ mother, Doria Ragland. This decision is in line with precedent set previously by other members of the Royal Family, and has the support of Her Majesty The Queen”.
This is not an uncommon move, as other royals like Prince William and Duchess Kate, have also opted for enjoy their holidays elsewhere before. However, what happened next raised more than a few eyebrows…
For more than six decades running, Queen Elizabeth has delivered a Christmas address every year and the setting has always looked about the same: She sits at a stately-looking table with framed photographs of her closest family members.
In 2019 though, the Sussexes (Meghan, Harry and baby Archie) were conspicuously absent from the lineup. There’s the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their three children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis; another of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall; one of the Queen’s father, King George VI; as well as a picture of her own husband, Prince Philip.
Perhaps Harry and Meghan wished to keep their family Christmas photo private, but whatever the reason, it was certainly a foretelling of things to come.
When Meghan gave birth to a healthy baby boy in May 2019, the world waited with bated breath for the announcement of his name. It was revealed to be Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor, without a royal title attached to it. He will officially go by “Master Archie Mountbatten-Windsor” instead.
This is because Meghan and Harry want their offspring to grow up as private citizens, which all starts by giving them relatively “normal” names. And as seventh in line to the throne, it is unlikely that baby Archie will become king, so there’s a higher chance that he can enjoy life as an ordinary citizen.
It therefore makes sense that the couple are easing back on their royal commitments, so that they can spend more time giving Archie (and whatever future children they may have) a more “normal” upbringing.
When The Mail on Sunday leaked one of Meghan’s private letters to her father in October 2019, Prince Harry made the groundbreaking move to take legal action against their “ruthless” campaign against his wife.
“Unfortunately, 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,” he wrote in a lengthy statement published on Sussex Royal.
“The contents of a private letter were published unlawfully in an intentionally destructive manner to manipulate you, the reader, and further the divisive agenda of the media group in question,” wrote Harry. “There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behaviour, because it destroys people and destroys lives. Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences people. We all know this isn’t acceptable, at any level. We won’t and can’t believe in a world where there is no accountability for this.”
“I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces,” he adds, referring to his mother, the late Princess Diana.
In that same month, the Sussexes talked candidly about their troubles in an ITV documentary about their African royal tour in September 2019, in which new mum Meghan was visibly upset when she described the intensity of pressure put on her as a royal family member.
Describing her reception from the British public, Meghan stated that she didn’t think it would be easy but, “I thought that it would be fair”.
“It’s not enough to just survive something, that’s not the point of life, you’ve got to thrive and feel happy,” she continues. “I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stuff upper lip. I tried, I really tried. But I think what that does internally is probably really damaging,” she says.
Meanwhile, Prince Harry also explained how the increased pressure on himself and Meghan had a severe impact on his mental health, sparking some of his old issues to resurface.
“It’s management. It’s constant management,” he said. “I thought I was out of the woods and then suddenly it all came back and I suddenly realised, ‘Actually this is something that I have to manage.’ ”
Instead of suppressing their feelings and keeping the status quo, the couple have decided to take matters into their own hands as proven by their decision to ease off from their duties as senior royals.
How that will unfold is yet to be seen, but we’re excited to see where 2020 will take them.