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Entertainment & Arts

Harry and Meghan plan to step back from duties. Royal family says it is ‘hurt’

Meghan Markle, Prince Harry
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and Prince Harry.
(Frank Augstein / Associated Press)

Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife, former actress Meghan Markle, say they are stepping back as senior members of the royal family. The move comes after months of intense scrutiny and rumors that they would be reducing their workloads as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

But it appears their announcement Wednesday was premature, prompting Buckingham Palace to release a statement saying discussions about the couple’s future are “at an early stage” and “complicated.”

For the record:
12:14 PM, Jan. 08, 2020 For the record: A previous headline on this post said that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were stepping down from their role as senior members of the royal family; they’re reducing their role.

In a statement posted on their official Instagram account, Harry and Meghan said, “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. 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.”

They also plan to spend more time in North America and throughout the Queen’s Commonwealth after recently taking a sabbatical and spending the holidays in Canada, where Markle worked when she starred in the TV legal drama “Suits.”

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“Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage,” Buckingham Palace said in a separate statement after Harry and Meghan’s announcement. “We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”

The BBC reported that the royal family was not consulted about the move and that senior royals are “hurt” by the duke and duchess’ decision. Though the couple’s announcement also was distributed by Buckingham Palace, the message was a personal statement from Harry and Meghan and not an official one affiliated with Queen Elizabeth II or the royal family, a palace spokesman told The Times on Wednesday.

Harry and Meghan’s statement also said, “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.

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“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,” the statement added.

“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.”

Harry is sixth in line for the British throne, following his father, Prince Charles; elder brother Prince William; and William’s three children. The couple’s announcement comes just weeks after an uncle, Prince Andrew, stepped back from his royal duties following a sex scandal. Andrew said his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, had given him permission to step back from royal duties. It is unclear if Harry also sought permission from the queen for his decision.

The duke, 35, and duchess, 38, have weathered intense scrutiny since they began dating in 2017. It reached a fever pitch in the lead-up to their May 2018 wedding as the American actress’ family drama took over the tabloids. It ramped up again during Meghan’s pregnancy and when they welcomed their son Archie last year.

In October, Harry announced he would be taking legal action to protect his family from “a disturbing pattern of behaviour by British tabloid media.”

On Tuesday, when the couple returned to their royal duties after their holiday break, they visited Canada House in London, the home of Canada’s High Commission, to thank the country for its “warm hospitality” during their stay there.

Harry and Meghan’s decision about their future also was posted on their newly launched website, sussexroyal.com, which they said was “created as a source of factual information regarding the workstreams of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex.” The elaborate site features FAQ-style sections detailing their strategy to achieve financial independence, lays out an amended media-relations policy and explains how they plan to continue to serve the monarchy.

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“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex deeply believe in the role of The Monarchy, and their commitment to Her Majesty The Queen is unwavering,” the site says. “Their roles will continue to reflect their sense of duty and allegiance to The Monarch and her legacy in the world, as they transition into the new working model.

“As they move to become members of the Royal Family with financial independence,” it added, “their commitment to The Monarch is resolute, and they aim to continue to fly the flag for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as called upon.”


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