Queen not consulted by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle over plan to ‘step back’ from duties
Mood at Buckingham Palace understood to be one of disappointment
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have announced they are to step back as Senior Royals and say they want to divide their time between the UK and North America. File photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
The UK’s Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not consult Queen Elizabeth or the Prince of Wales about the contents of their statement on Wednesday saying they plan to “step back” as senior royals and divide their time between the UK and North America, it has emerged.
It is understood Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had just begun talks with the queen and Prince Charles – Prince Harry’s father, about their future roles when they made their decision to go public.
The head of state and her son were only recently informed of the Sussexes intention to explore their public positions as members of the monarchy, and were not aware the statement was due to be issued.
The mood at Buckingham Palace is understood to be one of disappointment while the BBC has reported that senior royals have been “hurt” by the announcement.
The sequence of events is likely to lead commentators to speculate whether a rift has developed at the heart of the monarchy.
Prince Harry and Markle said in their ground-breaking personal statement they will work to become “financially independent”, while continuing to “fully support” the queen.
But Buckingham Palace warned the couple their decision to “step back” from the royal family will be “complicated”.
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “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.”
The Sussex’s financial aims have been outlined on their official website which states the couple “ . . . value the ability to earn a professional income, which in the current structure they are prohibited from doing. For this reason they have made the choice to become members of the royal family with financial independence.”
Any future role which the couple take on for financial gain will have to be scrutinised to ensure they are not seen as profiteering from their position as members of the monarchy.
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“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 Duke and Duchess of Sussex For more information, please visit sussexroyal.com (link in bio) Image © PA
Royal commentators are likely to interpret the couple’s decision — and the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal that has engulfed the Duke of York — as a full-blown crisis for the monarchy.
Prince Harry — one of the most popular members of the royal family with the public — and Prince Andrew will now have a far lower public profile at a time of potentially great change for the country as Britain leaves the EU.
The couple’s move follows weeks of speculation about their future after they took an extended break from royal duties over the festive period.
In an ITV documentary they spoke about the pressures they have been facing and family rifts, and in a separate move Prince Harry issued a damning statement against the media accusing sections of the press of bullying his wife.
The couple said in their statement: “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.”
Graham Smith from the organisation Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, said about Prince Harry and Markle’s decision: “This really is wanting to have your cake and eat it. They have said they will dip in and out of royal duties as it suits them but won’t stop taking public money until they find other sources of income.
“To suggest that they’re not already financially independent is incredibly crass and belies a sense of self-entitlement and a lack of self-awareness that is common among royals.”
“What should be more concerning is that the royal family’s star couple have effectively bowed out of their leading role, and that raises questions about the monarchy’s future.”
Prince Harry and Markle have only recently returned from their six-week break spent in the Canadian province of British Columbia with their eight-month-old son Archie.
Their first royal engagement of the new decade was to visit Canada’s High Commission in central London to thank Canadians in person for the warmth of the welcome they received.
It is likely they will be spending their time in the Commonwealth country when not in the UK and may travel to America, Meghan’s homeland and where her mother lives.
Any move to Canada, even for a period of the year, would throw up important questions about Markle and Prince Harry’s long-term future within the royal family.
Markle, a former actor, lived and worked in Toronto during her time starring in the popular US drama Suits, and the couple were famously pictured together when Markle joined her then-boyfriend Prince Harry at the 2017 Invictus Games in the city.
The cost of security for the couple would also be an issue, and as Canada is a realm, a country where the queen is head of state, it may have to pay for keeping the couple and their son Archie safe.
The couple’s aim to be “financially independent” may point towards them seeking a job, or a paid role with an organisation whose aims complement their own beliefs.
Other members of the monarchy who have salaried jobs include the queen’s grandchildren Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and Peter Phillips, who all work.–PA