TORONTO -- The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are “stepping back” from the Royal Family, but how far back?

Harry and Meghan’s announcement Wednesday that they would “transition to a new working model” in 2020 has riled up fans and haters and appeared to even puzzle the Palace, which released a rare pithy statement declaring the situation “complicated.”

“Everyone is reeling with many more questions than we have answers at this point,” royal commentator Victoria Arbiter told CTV News Channel.

Here’s what we know of the Sussex plan so far.


After a 2019 defined by tabloid drama and the couple’s desire for privacy, many royal watchers were expecting a change in 2020, said Arbiter. But the statement, which included a newly launched website, still surprised many. Some had considered the possibility of a secondment in a Commonwealth realm such as Canada, said Arbiter, or a posting abroad for a few months.

“I don’t think anyone saw a statement coming that suggested such a finality as this one,” said Arbiter.

One of the key phrases in the Wednesday statement was that the couple “intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family.” They stressed that they would still support the Monarchy, but to what extent remains unclear.

Will they still attend official royal ceremonies, including the Queen’s birthday parade Trooping the Colour? Prince Harry has traditionally taken on the duty of visiting the Field of Remembrance in November and other ceremonial roles within the military, but it’s unclear how many royal duties he will undertake.

“These are all questions that technically should have been dealt with and answered by the Palace before any kind of bold statement like this,” said Arbiter.


The Sussexes made clear that they intended to maintain ties to their various patronages and charitable causes as they launch their new “charitable entity.”

For Harry, this means a continued focus on environmental and societal “well-being,” as outlined on their new site. This includes initiatives such as protecting Africa’s ecosystems, and supporting mental wellness. He will continue to support patronages, including the Invictus Games and the Royal Marines.

For Meghan, work with women and girls will continue to be her focus, including patronages with the Association of Commonwealth Universities and Smart Works, a charity for job-seeking women.

The new announcement suggests they may no longer undertake engagements and commitments just because of royal tradition, CTV royal commentator Richard Berthelsen said on CTV News Channel.

“They’re going to simply do what they feel is important,” he said. “It will really differentiate themselves from most members of the Royal Family, but they’ll still very much be in the public eye.”


After a six-week break in which they spent an extended time in Victoria, B.C., there is much speculation that Harry and Meghan may choose to live in Canada. In their Wednesday statement, they said they would strike a “geographic balance” between the U.K. and North America. Since Meghan has “very fond attachments” to both Canada, where she lived for seven years filming “Suits,” and the U.S., there’s a possibility for time spent in both countries, said Berthelsen.

“I think they have more possibility (for) privacy in Canada than in the United States,” he said. “If they go to the United States very much, or if they base themselves there, they’re going to descend strictly into celebrity culture and that’s something that I think they should want to avoid.”

In the U.K., they wil continue to maintain Frogmore Cottage as a residence, which was gifted to them by the Queen. It was recently renovated with taxpayers contributing some 2.4 million pounds (US$3.1 million).


Harry and Meghan said they intend to work toward paid employment, which is unheard of within the family (a few junior members make their own money).

But what will they do? Berthelsen wonders whether Prince Harry may take on work involving aircraft since he has experience with helicopters, and perhaps Meghan would do more guest editing of magazines, as she did with Vogue last year. Others have speculated they could make hefty sums from the “public speaker circuit,” said Arbiter. They’ve also trademarked the Sussex Royal name, which suggests they could stand to make money off branded goods.

They announced that they would forgo the “Sovereign Grant,” which helps pay for official residences and offices of members of the Royal Family. However, they said they would maintain some funding from Charles, the Prince of Wales. “That suggests they won’t be totally financially independent,” said Arbiter.


The Sussex royals could become a more polished brand than ever. The new announcement was likely spurred by the couple’s continued conflicts with the tabloid press, said Berthelsen, who said they will likely not engage with journalists who don’t “have a certain degree of ethics in their approach.”

“They’re going to say ‘We’re no longer on the public dime and we can choose who we engage with in addition to our own social media channels,’” said Berthelsen. “That is really one of the biggest aspects behind this.”


The couple has suggested they won’t be discarding their Duke and Duchess titles, which has already proven controversial. They may be accused of “cashing in on their HRH status” and “commercializing the Royal Family for commercial gain,” Arbiter said.

Despite some headlines suggesting they have “quit” the Royal Family, the couple continue to stress that they will support the Monarchy and become less senior members. As the Palace statement suggested, the situation is “complicated” and some details need to be ironed out.


Prince Harry was unlikely to ever become King. He is currently sixth in line to the throne, behind Charles, brother William and his three children, George, Charlotte and Louis.