Prince Harry and Meghan are stepping down as ‘senior members’ of the Royal Family, they have announced.
The pair said they will now split their time between the UK and North America and work to become financially independent. The couple openly admitted struggling with the pressures of royal life in a candid TV interview last year.
They said the move will allow them to raise their eight-month-old son Archie away from the spotlight although they will still continue to ‘fully support’ the Queen. But it emerged that the Queen and Prince Charles were allegedly unaware of the contents of the couple’s statement, and were said to be hurt by the move.
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their decision to step back from the royal family were ‘at an early stage’, adding: ‘We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.’
In a statement, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said: ‘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.
‘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.
‘It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. ‘We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our 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.
‘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 pair have just returned from a six-week break in Canada and were said to have returned to the UK ‘energised and excited’ about their future. Friends of the couple added they have been being increasingly sidelined as the Royal Family looks to a more slimmed-down future focusing on Princes Charles and the Cambridge family.
However, taking a step back is still bound to send shock waves around the world and provoke concern amid some royal courtiers that they are in ‘self-imposed exile.’ It is unclear how ‘part-time’ royal roles will work in practice and whether they will still be bound by protocol and remain neutral on major issues.
Questions about who pays for their security are also likely to feature in future talks. Even Buckingham Palace tonight admitted it was ‘early days’ and there are ‘complicated issues to work out.’
It is understood the Queen and Prince Charles were unaware of the contents of the Sussexes bombshell statement before it was released on Wednesday evening.
Harry and Meghan’s base in the UK is still set to be Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor estate, which cost taxpayers £2.4 million to refurbish. It is likely they will spend their time in Canada when not in the UK and travel to America, Meghan’s homeland and where her mother Doria lives.
The couple are currently working with US PR team Sunshine Sachs to launch the Sussex Royal Foundation in the coming months. They have trademarked the brand Sussex Royal on more than 100 goods and services, opening up a potential revenue stream for the pair.
It is unclear whether the announcement will pave the way for Meghan to return to acting or whether Harry intends to give up his place in the line of succession. He is currently sixth behind Charles, William, George, Charlotte and Louis with Archie in seventh place despite his parents rejecting a royal title for him.
Last year, the couple came under fire for their use of private jets while championing environmental issues. If they split their time between North America and the UK, it is also unclear how they will escape criticism over their carbon footprint. Prince Harry would not be the only grandchild of the Queen who is financially self-sufficient as Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall all work for a living.
Wednesday evening’s announcement comes after a troubled 2019 in which they both spoke of the pressures of living life in the spotlight. Harry openly acknowledged wanting to leave the UK during an ITV documentary in which he also did nothing to quash the rumours of a rift with brother William, admitting they were on ‘different paths.’
He said the shadow of his mother’s relationship with the press loomed large, adding: ‘Part of this job is putting on a brave face but, for me and my wife, there is a lot of stuff that hurts, especially when the majority of it is untrue.’
Meghan said she felt unsupported after the birth of Archie and added: ‘It’s not enough to just survive something, right? ‘That’s not the point of life. ‘You’ve got to thrive, you’ve got to feel happy.’
Prince Harry is the second royal who has stepped back in the last six months after his uncle, Prince Andrew, was effectively sacked by the Queen over his friendship with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
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