Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan of Sussex came back from their royal time-off with a big announcement: They’re stepping down from their senior royal roles and plan to split their time between North America and the United Kingdom.
“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 couple said in an announcement Wednesday issued by Buckingham Palace.
“We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honor our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages.”
It was stunning news, even for the frequently surprising Sussexes. Their announcement said they were encouraged by their many supporters in Britain to make this move.
“It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment,” the statement said.
American-born Meghan, 38, has close family in California and close friends in Canada, so their desire to spend more time in North America suggests this plan might be designed to help her stay in touch with her friends and family on both sides of the Atlantic.
“This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son (8-month-old Archie) 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 statement said.
“We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with (Harry’s grandmother) Her Majesty The Queen, (Harry’s father) the Prince of Wales, (brother Prince William) the Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.”
It is not immediately clear what the couple mean by becoming “financially independent.” In their royal roles, Harry and Meghan are supported in part by his father, Prince Charles’ rich Duchy of Cornwall, and in part through the queen and the taxpayers of Britain, and in part through his own resources, having inherited a substantial sum from his mother, the late Princess Diana’s, estate.
Harry, 35, and Meghan just returned to Britain after six weeks off at the end of 2019, following months of exasperation with their media coverage and widespread mocking in the media for such issues as their use of private planes while campaigning against climate change.
Both had expressed publicly, in media interviews, their unhappiness as 2019 wound down: He said he was in a “different place” from brother Prince William at the moment, and she lamented the unstinting media scrutiny. Both have filed lawsuits against major newspapers complaining about copyright violations and hacking.
“I never thought that this (media scrutiny) would be easy, but I thought it would be fair,” she told ITV in a film about their wildly successful 10-day tour of Southern Africa with Archie.
All this angst was a dramatic change from the happy days following their May 2018 wedding at Windsor Castle, when the two were the toast of the United Kingdom and hailed as the future faces of the modern royal family.
Soon after Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was born in May 2019, things took a different turn, as least in the royals-focused tabloids.
In November, the couple announced they were suspending their royal duties temporarily to take some “family time,” and would spend Christmas away from the royal family.
Again, Brits were shocked and some were peeved that the couple were turning away from the tradition of spending Christmas at Sandringham; in effect, some said, Harry and Meghan were snubbing the queen, even though the palace denied it.
On Wednesday, even their biggest fans were shocked and headed to their popular Instagram page to say so.
“I don’t understand this. I mean Prince Harry never had any issues being apart of this family until recently. I mean you got to do what you got to do, but this is sad,” wrote @emmylew0726.
Although the palace never said precisely where they were, except that they would spend Christmas with her mother, Doria Ragland, it turned out they spent as least part of that time in Canada.
On Tuesday, the couple made their first public appearance since returning, visiting Canada House in London to thank Canadians for their “warm hospitality” during their stay.
It was perhaps a signal that the couple would spend at least some of their time in the future in this part of North America, as Canada is a major Commonwealth country where the royal family is popular. Meghan lived in Toronto for seven years while filming her TV series, “Suits.”
At the time of the couple’s announcement about their Christmas plan, the palace said in an announcement that the queen was fine with it.
It is likely that she knew of and signed off on their new plan to step away from their roles. At the moment, the palace has issued no other comment about her or Harry and Meghan.