Prince Harry and Meghan to ‘step back’ from royal family

Duke and Duchess of Sussex say they intend to ‘work to become financially independent’

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are to step back from senior roles in the royal family and work towards financial self-sufficiency after a period marked by open warfare with the media over claimed intrusion and bullying.

It is understood that no other royal was consulted before the decision was announced on Wednesday evening, and Buckingham Palace was disappointed by the news.

Prince Harry and Meghan plan to split their time between the UK and North America, the continent of her birth, as they raise their son, Archie.

“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 couple said an official statement released on Wednesday.

“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.”

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said discussions with the couple on their decision to step back from the royal family were “at an early stage”, adding: “We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”

The fact the couple did not consult the Queen or Prince Charles that they were to release their bombshell statement has caused disquiet at the heart of the monarchy. Discussions between the monarch and Charles about the couple’s future role had only just begun, it is understood.

In a separate statement on their website, the duke and duchess questioned the credibility of established royal correspondents, and indicated their desire to work instead with “young, up-and-coming journalists” and specialist publications in future.

They also set out their intention no longer to engage in the longstanding royal rota system, under which reporters from a small group of established media outlets get access to the royal family and agree to distribute factual reports among their rivals.

The couple have appeared increasingly unhappy in recent months with their public roles and the level of scrutiny they have faced.

In October, Meghan began legal proceedings against the Mail on Sunday after the paper published a handwritten letter she had sent to her estranged father. The action was launched alongside a scathing statement from Prince Harry denouncing the media’s “bullying” of his wife; behaviour he likened to the treatment of his mother, Princess Diana.

He said he could no longer be a “silent witness” to Meghan’s “private suffering”, adding that his “deepest fear is history repeating itself”.

He wrote: “There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behaviour, because it destroys people and destroys lives. Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences people. We all know this isn’t acceptable, at any level. We won’t and can’t believe in a world where there is no accountability for this.

“I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”

Before the couple married, Harry had attacked the British press for introducing “racial overtones” into the reporting of their relationship. He accused the Sun of printing “a smear on the front page”, an allegation the paper denied.

Concerns were expressed about their wellbeing when they gave an emotional interview during a tour of southern Africa last year. Meghan was visibly upset when asked if she was OK in reference to her struggle with tabloid scrutiny.

The interview also led to speculation of a rift between Harry and his brother, William, Duke of Cambridge, as the former said he loved his brother dearly but that they were “on different paths” and had “good days” and “bad days” in their relationship.

During her Christmas Day address, the Queen spoke of the “bumpy” path her family and the nation had experienced in 2019.

Possible signs the couple were looking to distance themselves from the institution of the monarchy had emerged over the course of their relationship. They decided Archie should be referred to as Master, rather than using the courtesy title Earl Dumbarton or to style him Lord Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.

They split from Kensington Palace, setting up their own official household at Buckingham Palace with a separate head of communications and their own @sussexroyal Instagram account. They then left the Cambridges’ Royal Foundation to start a separate Sussex Royal charity.

The royal family has been slimmed down over the course of the last few years, with greater focus being placed on those most senior in the line of succession.

During the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations in 2012, only a core group of family members were invited to accompany the monarch and her husband on her royal barge. They included Charles and his wife, Camilla, as well as his sons and William’s wife, Kate.

Other relatives – including Charles’s brother the Duke of York and his daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie – were placed on a separate vessel. Last year, Prince Andrew stepped back from public duties, having been forced to deny a series of allegations about his sexual conduct, with Charles playing a leading role in his eventual removal.

The Duke of Edinburgh decided to retire from public duties in 2017.

Harry has inherited millions of pounds from his relatives’ estates, including from his mother, and, prior to taking a public role, Meghan was a highly successful actor. The Queen also gave them a home to live in.

Harry and Meghan indicated they would seek paid work in future and would fulfil some royal duties if asked to do so, suggesting such work would continue to be funded in the usual way.

theguardian.com / balkantimes.press

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