The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have announced they are stepping back as ‘senior’ members of the royal family.
The announcement was made just seven weeks after the Queen’s second son Andrew stepped back from royal duties after his calamitous Newsnight interview about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The couple said in a “personal message” via their joint Instagram account and website, that they intend to step back as senior members of the royal family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to support the Queen.
Their statement makes no mention of them losing their HRH titles nor of Harry being removed from the line of succession. The duke and duchess said they have chosen to “carve out a progressive new role within this institution”.
The Queen, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge on Thursday, were engaged in crisis talks and instructed their senior aides to work with the UK and Canadian governments to help shape new roles for Meghan and Prince Harry within “days not weeks”.
The shock announcement that they would be “stepping back” from the royal family, and split their time between Britain and North America was done without any discussion with any members of the royal family,leaving Buckingham Palace blindsided, with the Queen said to be ‘hurt and disappointed by the sudden move’.
The Sussexes statement stated that "after many months of reflection and internal discussions" they want to step back as senior members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent. Planning to split their time between the UK and North America, while "continuing to honour their duty to the Queen, the Commonwealth, and their patronages".
The couple said: “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.”
Did their recent documentary subtly announce their plan?
Late last year, Meghan and Prince Harry’s admission that they were struggling under fierce scrutiny prompted speculation they could leave Britain for good, with a royal commentator claiming that there was “nothing to stop them" from resigning from royal life altogether.
Meghan and Prince Harry spoke candidly about struggling under the pressure of their royal roles in the documentary. Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, filmed during the Sussexes 10-day tour of Africa. While Meghan revealed she was naive about the amount of attention she would receive as a member of the Royal Family, Prince Harry admitted he fears for Meghan, after the tragic death of his mother, Princess Diana.
What happens next?
Palace officials hope a resolution,that will result in a fully worked out and agreed plan, could be announced within days, to help achieve the couple’s ambitions for “progressive” new roles.
Buckingham Palace warned that the Sussexes’ decision to step back will be “complicated”.
A string of royal commentators have criticised the decision, with some describing it as the biggest surprise since the Panorama interview with Harry’s mother, Princess Diana.Others have seen it as a ‘declaration of independence’.
Becoming financially independent
There are no indications as to how the couple intends to become financially independent.
Their website claims they receive just 5% of their funding for official duties from public money through the sovereign grant, the formula for funding the monarchy.However, this does not account for the high costs of their armed security detail, or their domestic and overseas travel.
The remaining 95% of their funding comes from Charles’s private income from the Duchy of Cornwall. It has not been made clear whether they intend to become financially independent of Charles. When Charles inherits the Duchy of Lancaster,he could continue to fund the Sussexes through that.
Harry inherited £7m from his late mother’s estate, which will have grown with investment.He is also thought to have received money from a trust fund left by the Queen Mother.
While in the UK, it appears the couple expect their bill to be met by taxpayers.If Harry and Meghan base themselves in Canada, there are questions whether the Canadians will have to contribute to their security costs as well, or even pay for an official residence.
Harry is a former soldier and Meghan is a former actress but the pair are about to launch their new SussexRoyal foundation.