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Camilla Tominey: 'England would never have let the couple have their cake and eat it'

Breaking up is hard to do, especially from the firm, writes Camilla Tominey


Harry and Meghan. AP Photo/Frank Augstein

Harry and Meghan. AP Photo/Frank Augstein


Harry and Meghan. AP Photo/Frank Augstein

Make no mistake - last night's statement represents the hardest possible Megxit for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

While insisting Harry, Meghan and Archie "will always be much loved members of my family", the 93-year-old monarch could not be clearer on their on-going role in the Firm.

It's over.

The dual statement - both from Queen Elizabeth as a grandmother and Buckingham Palace as an institution - appeared purposely designed to combine both the personal and the professional. Since the monarchy isn't just a family but a business, what other option was there when two of its major shareholders had declared their intent to start a rival firm in North America?

Scenes from Buckingham Palace and interviews with members of the public after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced that they will give up their royal duties. The Sussexes announced that they will no longer be formally representing the Queen, after plans emerged for them to spend parts of their year in North America.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex had handed in their notice - and this was Queen Elizabeth giving them their P45.

In paying tribute to the couple and showing support for their wish for a more independent life, Elizabeth was speaking from the heart. It is no secret behind Palace gates that she has been left devastated by their bombshell statement on January 8 - and by her own admission last Monday; she would have preferred her grandson and his wife to have remained full-time working members of the royal family.

Yet as only someone who has spent nearly 68 years on the throne knows, a monarchy cannot function on sentiment alone. Having always insisted that the royals can only appear on the Buckingham Palace balcony for as long as there are wellwishers in the Mall, Queen Elizabeth's head clearly told her that her subjects were never going to stomach letting Harry and Meghan have their cake and eat it. The mother of the UK read the mood.

Indeed, after referencing the "intense scrutiny" they have faced over the last two years and their desire to start building a "happy" and most notably "peaceful" new life, there was really no way she could have let them carry on being half in-half out royals.

With Meghan already cheerfully carrying out her own engagements in Vancouver and some Frogmore Cottage staff now assigned to other duties, the idea of the couple spending a transitional period between Canada and the UK was not just starting to look optimistic, but absurd. Yet in offering to pay back the pounds stg£2.4m spent on refurbishing their home in Windsor, the couple are at least committing to keeping a base in Blighty.

That is not to say that the statement did not contain some surprises.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wishes the Duke and Duchess of Sussex "the very best for the future" after they said they would cease to be working members of the royal family. Mr Johnson was speaking in Berlin, where he is due to attend the international conference on the Libya crisis.

To strip Harry - a ex-British army captain who has done two tours of Afghanistan - of his military appointments as well as royal duties may strike some as overly punitive. Becoming a soldier was undoubtedly the making of the 35-year-old and the Invictus Games remains his finest hour. But with some in the Royal Marines, of which Harry is captain general, said to be "disgusted" by his behaviour and threatening to refuse to raise a toast should he attempt to "commercialise" his royal role, the quest for financial independence appears at odds with such weighty royal responsibilities.

Hence why they will no longer receive public funds - although whether Prince Charles will continue to slip them Duchy of Cornwall cash remains to be seen, amid reports the heir to the throne has been dipping into his private reserves to keep his sons and their families afloat.

After all the headlines are written, one cannot help but be left with the feeling that there are no winners here. The British royal family has not only lost one of their most popular figures, but also a prince whose marriage to a mixed-race American divorcee had heralded the dawn of a progressive new era for the House of Windsor.

Now that dream is over.

Yes, the Sussexes have got their freedom but at what cost?