On January 8, 2020, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Prince Harry and Meghan Markle) announced their decision to step back as senior members of the Royal Family. This unprecedented move shocked the world and put into question how and why they would exit the limelight. It also created controversy, with some applauding the Sussexes for starting fresh and others criticizing their decision as an insult to the Royal Family.
However, upon closer look, their exit should not have been a surprise. Signs of tension between Prince Harry and his brother, Prince William, had been escalating since the fall. They reached a peak when the Sussexes announced that they would spend Christmas in Canada with the Duchess’s family and friends and not with the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace.
In addition, Meghan had a difficult time adjusting to the British press, which is known for its bribery, phone-hacking, and creation of stories for increased popularity. During her pregnancy with Archie, who was born in May of 2019, she was under increased scrutiny by the British press, partly because of her estranged relationship with her father. Her negative experiences with the press coupled with the strained relationship with Prince William made the Sussex’s departure inevitable.
After the January 8 announcement, the couple began discussions with Buckingham Palace regarding their future roles. Initially, the Sussexes hoped to reach a conclusion in which they could continue to represent the Queen part-time. Buckingham Palace told the couple that they had to choose; they could not be in-between, which prompted their full withdrawal from their role as representatives of the Queen and the British Commonwealth as well as senior members of the Royal Family. With the decision, they will also no longer use their royal titles (His/Her Royal Highness).
On January 20, 2020, Prince Harry conveyed “great sadness” in his first public statement since the announcement, explaining that “it wasn’t possible” to remain part of the Royal Family. With this departure, the Sussexes will also become financially independent and have pledged to pay three million dollars in renovation fees for Frogmore Cottage, their home, back to the British government. It is still unclear who will pay for their security.
Although not everybody has approved of their decision, the Queen released a statement expressing that she is “entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family.” The statement also explained that more details on their transition will be worked out over the coming months.