Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle stunned the British monarchy on Wednesday by quitting as front-line members, without first consulting Queen Elizabeth II.
In a shock announcement, the couple said they would spend time in North America and rip up long-established relations with the press.
Media reports said the Duke and Duchess of Sussex made their bombshell statement without notifying either Harry’s grandmother the monarch, or his father Prince Charles.
The news follows after a turbulent year for the couple, who have openly said they have struggled in the spotlight and grown apart from Harry’s brother Prince William. They have also reacted badly to negative news coverage.
“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,” they said in a statement released by Buckingham Palace.
“We have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution,” they added.
“We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America.”
The announcement appeared to catch the royal family by surprise.
Buckingham Palace put out a second statement an hour and 40 minutes later, saying discussions with Harry and Meghan were “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,” it added.
It was understood that the mood in Buckingham Palace was one of disappointment and even “hurt”.
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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
The pair spent six weeks over Christmas in Canada after speaking of the pressure of being in the spotlight following their fairytale wedding at Windsor Castle in May 2018 and son Archie’s birth 12 months later.
They skipped the royal family’s traditional Christmas at Sandringham, the sovereign’s private estate in eastern England, spending the festive season instead with Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland.
Rumours that all was not well with the Sussexs surfaced in October when Harry, sixth in line to the throne, admitted that he and William were “on different paths” and had good and bad days in their relationship.
In October, Harry issued a stinging statement about general tabloid coverage and launched the first of a handful of lawsuits against newspaper publishers.
On a new website, the couple said they would no longer take part in the royal rota.
The rota system is an established arrangement between the palace and the press whereby news organisations take it in turns to cover events and then share the pictures, text and video with everyone in the pool, avoiding the mass media scrambles of the past.
Instead the couple will attempt to invite only “specialist”, “grassroots”, “credible” and “young, up-and-coming” media to events.
Currently, Harry and Meghan’s costs are largely funded from Charles’ private income from the heir to the throne’s estates, while the police foots their security bill.