Exit Harry and Meghan as royal family cuts ties

Hard Megxit: Two billion people worldwide watched as Prince Harry married Meghan in 2018. © Getty

Will Harry and Meghan live to regret their choice? Negotiations are over: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have taken the drastic decision to drop their HRH titles in a bid for a normal life.

For 10 days, newspaper headlines have been dominated by one story. Harry and Meghan’s dramatic departure from the royal family has been billed as the biggest crisis for “the firm” since the death of Princess Diana.

This weekend, after days of crisis talks, the Queen issued a statement detailing a “constructive and supportive way forward” for the couple. Here are seven key things you need to know:

1. Why the split? The couple announced their shock decision to step back as senior royals on 8 January, without consulting family members. The lack of a private life for themselves or their son is said to be a key reason for the split.

2. (Not) His Royal Highness. Prince Harry and Meghan will no longer formally represent the Queen, or receive public funds for royal duties. They will not use their HRH titles, but Harry remains sixth in line to the throne.

3. Stand down. Although the couple will keep their private patronages and associations, the Duke has been forced to give up his official military appointments. This is a big loss for Harry, who used to be a captain in the British Army.

4. Family fortunes. The pair will repay £2.4m of taxpayers’ money that was spent refurbishing Frogmore Cottage, their UK home. They will start paying rent. They are now free to earn money privately.

5. Canada calling. The family will now divide their time between the UK and North America. Meghan lived in Canada for seven years whilst filming Suits. Canada has less of a celebrity culture than the US or the UK – they may hope to keep a lower profile in there.

6. This is professional, not personal. The Queen’s statement was clear – there is no family feud. Harry, Meghan and Archie remain “much loved members” of her family. The Dukes of Sussex and Cambridge came together last week to deny reports that William bullied his brother.

7. Reset button? This is a huge departure from the status quo. Senior aides representing both sides will review the arrangements in a year’s time. This is a chance to change parts of the deal that are not working.

So, will Harry and Meghan live to regret their choice?

Freedom at a price

Yes, say some. Their initial statement suggested they wanted to remain closely aligned with the royal family, but this new deal seems more like a drastic divorce. Harry is leaving the only way of life he has ever known. The couple may be sorely mistaken if they believe they can avoid the paparazzi in Canada. They cannot escape their unwanted celebrity status, wherever they settle.

No, say others. Harry and Meghan have clearly been unhappy for a long time. Stepping back gives them the opportunity to pursue their own passions and earn their own living, without constant scrutiny. This decision may be radical, but it was also inevitable — Harry will never be King. They are making a blueprint for future generations of royals who are not directly in the line of succession.

You Decide

  1. Would you want to be a royal?
  2. Should royalty have any place in a modern democracy?

Activities

  1. Imagine that every time you left home, photographers followed you. Write them a letter, explaining how this makes you feel.
  2. Different countries have different press regulations. In groups, research the press regulations of a country of your choice, and then present your findings to the class. Debate which country has the best rules for ensuring a responsible media.

Some People Say...

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English poet and playwright

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Prince Harry married US actress Meghan Markle on the 19 May 2018, and they became the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The couple are pursuing legal action against several tabloids for stories written about them. Many think the Duchess, who is mixed race, has been the victim of racism from the press. Prince Harry has had a difficult relationship with the papers since the death of his mother, who was killed in a car crash whilst being pursued by photographers.
What do we not know?
Many aspects of the new arrangement, which begins in the spring, are still unclear. The family will still need security, but we do not know who will pay for it. We do not know how the Duke and Duchess will become “financially independent” if they will continue to use their Sussex Royal brand, nor how much time they will be spending in the UK. Finally, we do not know if it will ever be possible for Meghan and Harry to avoid the media interest and lead a so-called ‘normal’ life.

Word Watch

The firm
A term used to refer to the royal family because it operates a lot like a business.
HRH
His or Her Royal Highness. A title used by some members of a royal family. In the UK, the King or Queen grants the right to use the HRH title.
Patronages
The support given to an organisation by someone. Royal patronages add status to a charity or organisation.
Suits
US legal drama television series.
Status quo
The existing state of affairs.
Paparazzi
Freelance photographers who pursue celebrities or prominent figures to take photos of them to sell to newspapers.

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