Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have said that they will step back as “senior royals” and work to become financially independent, creating tumult in the British royal family, which said they were “not consulted” and “hurt” at the sudden announcement.
In a statement on Wednesday, Prince Harry and Meghan also said that they plan to split their time between the UK and North America.
In their unexpected statement, also posted on their Instagram page, the couple said they made the decision “after many months of reflection and internal discussions”.
Ever since their May 2018 wedding at Windsor Castle, Harry, the younger son of Prince Charles and sixth in the line of succession to the British throne, and former US actress Meghan Markle, have been embroiled in controversy regarding their relationship with the rest of the royal family and have been subjected to intense media pressure.
Now the parents of an eight-month-old boy, Archie, the couple announced Wednesday that they will continue to fulfil their royal obligations vis-a-vis Queen Elizabeth, Harry’s grandmother, the British Commonwealth and the foundations in which they are involved, but they will not be spending all their time in the British Isles.
“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,” the pair said in their joint communique.
They went on to say that they intend to “launch … our new charitable entity,” about which they will provide more details in the future.
“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,” the royal pair said, referring to the monarchy.
However, their plans did not please the rest of the royal family, which is said to be “hurt” at the announcement.
According to the BBC, the Duke and the Duchess did not consult any senior royal about making the statement, leaving the Buckingham Palace “blindsided”, as talks about their future had begun but were in very early stages.
The Palace said there were “complicated issues” to work through.
Reactions to the announcement were mixed.
Daily Telegraph journalist Bryony Gordon, who knows and has interviewed the couple, told BBC that the couple’s decision could be linked to their mental health, after becoming a “punching bag” for a “misogynistic and racist” nation.
Royal historian Prof Kate Williams told the BBC that it will be “difficult” for the couple to lead “normal” lives, as media interest in them will increase after their “unprecedented” move, while royal commentator Penny Junor said the couple’s actions were reminiscent of those of Harry’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.
“It has echoes of Diana when she suddenly announced after her separation (from Charles) that she was stepping back from 50 of her charities without consulting anybody,” she told the BBC.
Journalist Piers Morgan made his reaction clear in a Daily Mail top story headlined: “Why the Queen must FIRE Their Royal Hustlers: Deluded Meghan and Harry should be stripped of their titles before this pair of grasping, selfish, scheming Kardashian-wannabes bring down the Monarchy”. He also accused Meghan of splitting Harry from his family.
Harry and Meghan’s step comes just months after Prince Andrew stepped back from his duties after a BBC interview about his ties to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Harry and Meghan communicated their plans shortly after returning from a lengthy trip to Canada, where Meghan lived for seven years while she was filming the TV series “Suits,” their stay there forcing them to distance themselves from their royal commitments for about two months.
A few weeks before Christmas, the couple’s problems dealing with the pressure of being in the bright media spotlight all the time were highlighted in a documentary aired on Britain’s ITV television channel.
In that documentary, Prince Harry said that he refused to be forced into playing the game that “killed my mother,” referring to Princess Diana, who died in August 1997 in Paris in an automobile accident as she was being pursued by paparazzi.
In that same documentary, Meghan was almost moved to tears while talking with the journalist interviewing her, leading the British press to compare that moment with Diana’s famous 1995 interview in which she spoke openly for the first time about her relationship with Crown Prince Charles.
Harry’s remarks in the documentary, however, reportedly made his older brother William “furious,” according to sources within Buckingham Palace, reviving speculation about friction between the brothers.
Prince Harry, however, took pains to try and publicly downplay any tension between them.
Last October, Meghan launched legal proceedings against the Mail on Sunday and its parent company for publishing a private letter and having undertaken an alleged campaign of “fake” news against her.