The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, more colloquially known as Price Harry and Meghan Markle, upended the news cycle by announcing that they would take “a step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family.” It has caused much confusion and more drama than an episode of The Crown. If you’re curious about what’s actually going down, we’re here to break down all the royal gossip.
Ok, so what are Meghan and Harry actually doing?
According to their lengthy Instagram post, Harry and Meghan have decided that they are going to step back from their roles as primary members of the royal family.
“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,” they wrote.
Right now, the Sussexes are funded by the Sovereign Grant, which is basically tax payer money. They also said they would geographically split their time between North America and England.
What are royal duties anyway?
The British monarchy has no real power in actual governing and their roles are largely ceremonial. The Queen opens Parliament, but they function as figureheads for the country. On a day-to-day basis, the royals show up to causes they are the “patrons” of (which means give money to) and basically meet with the community. They also travel to countries that were once under the British Empire, again, as figureheads. From the outside, it just looks like a lot of hand shaking and photo-ops. They probably play polo and cricket every now and then and drink a lot of tea.
Is this really that big a deal?
Yes! It’s a huge deal, for many reasons.
First off, no one leaves or “steps down” from their role in the Royal Family without either the express permission of the Queen or unless they are abdicating the throne.
The last person to abdicate the throne was Edward VIII in 1936. He forfeited the crown to marry American Wallis Simpson, a divorcee. It was Edward’s abdication that put Elizabeth in line for the throne.
Prince Phillip, the Queen’s husband, who is 98 years old (!) only just recently stepped away from royal duties due to ill health. Prince Andrew, the Queen’s son, was asked to step off the stage because he’s become a national embarrassment. Before that, Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, had her formal royal duties stripped because she divorced his father, Prince Charles. Usually, the only way out of royal duties is either because of poor health or divorce. No one just decides they’re not really into it anymore.
Yikes. So why would they want to take a step back?
It sounds pretty dope, on the surface, to not have to really work for a living and just walk around and wave to people all day, but Harry and Meghan have both indicated that royal life can be a huge mental strain. Harry also has spoken out about the pressures of public life and the scrutiny that comes with it. He’s specifically mentioned the toll the spotlight took on his mother, who died in a car crash while being chased by paparazzi. Harry and Meghan have also been unceasing tabloid fodder. The couple has sued publications for their often racist coverage.
The pressure of royal life aside, Meghan and Harry, from the start, have tried to balance their public life with their private life. With the birth of their son, Archie, it’s natural they might want to spend more time as a family out of the public eye.
Is the Queen alright with them dipping out?
Not in the least. Harry and Meghan announced their intentions in a statement that sounded like they had the full support of the Queen, but that might not be the case.
“It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment,” they wrote.
A short time later, Buckingham Palace issued a much more terse statement.
“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.”
It is very rare for the Royal Family to issue two contradictory statements. It certainly sounds like the Queen had no idea that Harry and Meghan were going public with this announcement or that she even knew this was coming. The royal family does not comment unless it absolutely has too. This statement is basically the equivalent of a public smackdown.
Did this happen out of the blue?
Not really. Harry and Meghan have been slowly pushing away from the family ever since they got married. The Queen has allowed them much more freedom than say, Prince William, because Harry isn’t directly in line for the throne. They were given the secluded Frogmore Cottage as their official residence, and were allowed to spend Christmas with Meghan’s mother instead of with the Queen at Sandringham estate. They also just recently returned from an extended break from their royal duties.
Plus! The Queen didn’t include a photo of Harry and Meghan on her desk during her annual Christmas address to the United Kingdom, which is apparently some total next level shade. So, it looks like this may have been brewing for a bit.
If they want to leave, even partially, why not just let them?
The Queen is no dummy. As popular as William and Kate are, Harry and Meghan are arguably more so. William and Kate are like your parents somewhat OK friends while Harry and Meghan are actually kind of cool? Despite all the historical imperialism? The Queen recognizes that Harry and Meghan and their very circumscribed (until now) rebellion, have been vital to the continued popularity of the Royal Family and the monarchy as a whole. She’s not keen on giving up control over what they do. Harry deciding he’s just not that into it rattles an entire institution.
It’s not like Harry’s ever going to be an actual king, right?
Not unless some real Richard III stuff goes down.
Prince Charles is next line for the throne, and then Prince William. The lineage then passes down to Prince George. If Prince George has children, they would be next in line for the throne. If he doesn’t, the crown would pass to George’s sister, Charlotte. So, there are a lot of people in front of him.
So, are they moving to America?
Probably not. Meghan Markle was born in California but has spent a lot of time in Canada where she shot her long running TV show Suits. Chances are good they head up to the great white north.
How are they actually going to make money?
There are no specifics, but they indicated they want to continue with their charitable efforts.
Honestly, this kind of sounds great for them.
It is! Harry and Meghan have shown that they’re willing to break with tradition in bold ways. It could actually ensure the longevity of the royals by making them more progressive and modern. Plus, who can blame them for wanting to hang out with their cute kid and just chill and go hiking. It sounds like a dream.