Prince Harry and Meghan quit as senior royals

Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex pictured after a visit to Canada House on January 7. Source: Getty

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have shocked royal-watchers with the announcement that they will quit as senior members of the royal family, choosing instead to live a transatlantic lifestyle and working to become financially independent.

In a statement, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan said they would make the transition this year, carving out “a progressive new role within this institution” by balancing their time between the UK and North America while “continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen”.

“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,” 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 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.”

A short statement released by Buckingham Palace on behalf of the royal family in response said only that discussions with the couple 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,” the statement said.

The BBC reported, however, that other members of the royal family, including Queen Elizabeth and Prince William, weren’t consulted before the duke and duchess’ statement was released and that the royal family was hurt and disappointed.

“I think it indicates a real strength of feeling in the palace tonight – maybe not so much about what has been done but about how it has been done – and the lack of consultation I think will sting,” the BBC’s royal correspondent Jonny Dymond said. “This is clearly a major rift between Harry and Meghan on one part, and the rest of the Royal Family on the other.”

The move fuelled speculation already rife in British newspapers that the couple planned to move to Canada, where they conducted their courtship while the duchess was working on TV show Suits.

The couple holidayed in Canada for six weeks over Christmas Year and the New, where they enjoyed the seclusion of an estate on Vancouver Island with their son Prince Archie, who was born in May. They chose to spend Christmas with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, rather than at the traditional gathering of royals at the Queen’s Sandringham estate.

In October, the couple had spoken publicly about their personal difficulties their roles in the spotlight had brought, with Meghan saying on an ITV documentary that she had had been warned by British friends when she first met Prince Harry that the tabloid newspapers would destroy her life, and that she had found motherhood a struggle due to the intense media interest in their activities.

Meanwhile, Prince Harry reportedly surprised the royal family in the same documentary by addressing speculation of a rift between himself and his brother, Prince William, by saying that they were “on different paths”.

“We are certainly on different paths at the moment but I will always be there for him as I know he will always be there for me,” he said.

Some of the issues being discussed by the royal family in the wake of the duke and duchess’ decision likely include the issue of what type of paid employment the couple may seek. Several members of the royal family are in private roles, including Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and The Telegraph suggested the Duke and Duchess of Sussex may seek paying jobs with a charitable endeavour.

The issue of the couple’s security is also likely to need to be addressed, with British newspapers pointing out that residing in Canada, a part of the British realm, would probably mean the UK taxpayer would have to foot the bill for their protection.

The Daily Mail estimated that the couple’s current security arrangements cost in the region of £600,000 ($1.1 million) a year, and that they would forgo a salary in the range of £2.4 million ($4.6 million) a year by stepping down as senior members of the royal family.

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