Prince Harry and Meghan 'stepping back' as senior royals; Buckingham Palace says it's 'complicated'
TORONTO -- Prince Harry and his wife Meghan have announced they plan to step back from their roles as senior members of the Royal Family while working to become “financially independent,” a situation Buckingham Palace calls “complicated.”
In a statement posted to their joint SussexRoyal Instagram account on Wednesday, the couple said they have chosen to make a “transition” this year in order to carve out a “progressive new role” within the institution.
“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,” the post read.
The royals said the plan to split their time between the U.K. and North America would prove beneficial for their eight-month-old son Archie. It’s unclear where exactly in North America they plan to move.
“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.”
Buckingham Palace responded to the news in an unusually 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," the statement read.
Royal commentator Victoria Arbiter told CTV News Channel “it’s absolutely astonishing” that the couple appeared not to consult the rest of the Royal Family. She also added “it remains to be seen” what Meghan and Prince Harry “effectively resigning” will look like.
Arbiter wondered what would be the couple’s role’s during the Queen’s birthday celebrations, Remembrance Day memorials, or Prince Harry’s roles within the military.
She also noted the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have even put out a new website, which included nine pages of their upcoming plans “whether it’s financial, related to their patronages, (and) related to how they’re going to live.”
Arbiter explained the couple wouldn’t be “totally financially independent” from the Royal Family. This is because despite them forgoing the five per cent sovereign grant used to run their offices, they would still be receiving some funding from Prince Charles.
She also said the lengthy documents posted on the couple’s website suggest that Wednesday’s move “was planned for quite some time.”
RUMOURS OF CAMBRIDGE-SUSSEX FEUD
Despite persistent rumours of a rift between Prince Harry and his brother Prince William, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they would continue to collaborate with the Royal Family.
“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,” the couple said.
For the better part of a year, British media have reported on speculation of a brewing feud between the Cambridges and Sussexes. Prince Harry, himself, addressed the rumours in an interview with ITV’s Tom Bradby when he accompanied the royal and his wife on a trip to Africa last fall.
The prince said he and his older brother were on “different paths” and that as siblings “inevitably stuff happens.”
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, also made headlines when she admitted to Bradby that she struggled with becoming a new mother in the spotlight.
Prince Harry and Meghan also raised eyebrows when they distanced themselves from the rest of the Royal Family over the holidays. Instead of attending the Queen’s annual Christmas festivities at Sandringham House, as they had done the past two years, the couple chose to spend the holidays in Canada.
'THEY COULD GO TO CANADA'
The royals celebrated Christmas in private in Victoria, B.C. where they enjoyed “sharing the warmth of the Canadian people and the beauty of the landscape with their young son,” a statement from the couple in December read.
On Tuesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex returned to their royal duties with a visit to Canada House in London where they thanked Canada’s High Commissioner to the U.K. Janice Charette and her staff for their recent stay in the country.
Prince Harry and Meghan’s apparent adoration for Canada, where she lived for seven years before she joined the Royal Family, has led some royal watchers to wonder if they’re planning a permanent move to the Commonwealth country.
On Tuesday, Bradby told Good Morning Britain that it’s “no big secret” the couple has been contemplating their future roles within the Royal Family. He said he doesn’t think there’s a “done deal” yet and the family needs more time to discuss the plans together.
“There is a million possibilities. They could go to Canada,” he suggested.
Arbiter pointed out that Prince Harry and Meghan’s move is being compared to King Edward VIII who was forced to abdicate his role in 1936. But she said it’s quite different because unlike that king, the couple “are choosing to step down.”