Prince Harry, wife to step back as senior royals

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are to step back as ‘senior’ royals.

Harry and his wife, Meghan, stunned the British monarchy and the world on Wednesday by quitting as front-line members reportedly without first consulting Queen Elizabeth II, according to the Guardian UK.

In a statement on Wednesday, Harry and Meghan said they made the decision “after many months of reflection and internal discussions.”

They said they intend “to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family, and work to become financially independent”.

The couple said they would spend time in North America and rip up long-established relations with the press while “continuing to honour our duty to the Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages”.

“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,” the couple said.

The surprise news follows a turbulent year for the couple, who have openly said they have struggled in the spotlight and grown apart from Harry’s brother, William. They have also reacted badly to negative news coverage.

“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 said in a statement released by Buckingham Palace.

“We have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution,” they added.

Meghan also admitted that it had been a “struggle” becoming a mother while living under an intense media spotlight.

“We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America.”

The announcement appeared to catch the royal family by surprise.

According to the BBC, Buckingham Palace put out a second statement an hour and 40 minutes later, saying discussions with Harry and Meghan were “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,” it added.

It was understood that the mood in Buckingham Palace was one of disappointment and even, according the BBC, “hurt”.

Struggling in the spotlight

Harry and Meghan are among the most senior, core members of the royal family, and, along with William and his wife Kate, seen as the monarchy’s future.

The pair spent six weeks over Christmas in Canada after speaking of the pressure of being in the spotlight following their fairytale wedding at Windsor Castle in May 2018 and son Archie’s birth 12 months later.

They skipped the royal family’s traditional Christmas at Sandringham, the sovereign’s private estate in eastern England, spending the festive season instead with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland.

Local press said all was not well with the Sussexes in October when Harry, sixth in line to the throne, admitted that he and William were “on different paths” and had good and bad days in their relationship.

“We don’t see each other as much as we used to,” he told ITV television’s Tom Bradby, whom the princes have grown to trust with interviews over the years, according to the Guardian UK.

Asked by Mr Bradby if she was “not really OK” and life had “really been a struggle” becoming a mother while living under intense media scrutiny, Meghan appeared emotional and replied simply: “Yes.”

Mr Bradby said Wednesday that he sensed he was witnessing “a long, sad farewell to this royal life”.

“This is a new war of the Windsors –and it’s not over yet.”

Media battle

The royal couple have appeared increasingly unhappy in recent months with their public roles and the level of scrutiny they have faced in the media, according to the Guardian UK.

The BBC recalled in October last year how Harry issued a stinging statement about general tabloid coverage and launched the first of a handful of lawsuits against newspaper publishers for “bullying” his wife; behaviour he likened to the treatment of his mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car accident in 1997.

He said he could no longer be a “silent witness” to Meghan’s “private suffering,” adding that his “deepest fear is history repeating itself.”

The action was in the wheels of the moment when Meghan took some legal proceedings against the Mail after the paper published a handwritten letter she had sent to her estranged father.

On a new website, the couple said they would no longer take part in the royal rota.

The rota system is an established arrangement between the palace and the press whereby news organisations take it in turns to cover events and then share the pictures, text and video with everyone in the pool, avoiding the mass media scrambles of the past.

In a separate statement on their website, the duke and duchess questioned the credibility of established royal correspondents, and indicated their desire to work instead with “young, up-and-coming journalists” and specialist publications in future.

‘A wrong move’

Following the announcement of the Royals’ step back, many have condemned the decision as a wrong way of being alone.

Queen Elizabeth’s former press secretary Dickie Arbiter told Sky News television that the couple’s approach was “a succession of doing things their own way–which is the wrong way.

“Sometimes there’s good press; sometimes there’s bad press. You take the rough with the smooth.

UK media have joined in the tongue-backlashing as newspaper headlines seen on Thursday including The Sun’s “Megxit,” said the couple had sparked civil war at the palace.

“They didn’t even tell the Queen,” said the Daily Mirror, while the Star said: “The Royal formerly known as Prince.”

‘Always ends in tears’

Former BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt told Channel 4 television that royals thinking they can earn money in a side career “has always ended in tears”.

According to the Guardian UK, Harry has inherited millions of pounds from his relatives’ estates, including from his mother, and, prior to taking a public role, Meghan was a highly successful actor. The Queen also gave them a home to live in.

Harry and Meghan indicated they would seek paid work in future and would fulfil some royal duties if asked to do so, suggesting such work would continue to be funded in the usual way.


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