Friday 17 January 2020

Royals 'hurt' as Harry and Meghan 'step down'

'Transition': Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wish to raise son Archie in both the UK and North America. Photo: Reuters
'Transition': Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wish to raise son Archie in both the UK and North America. Photo: Reuters

Victoria Ward

The royal family was said to be "deeply disappointed" last night after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped back as senior members without consulting the queen, Prince Charles or Prince William.

In an extraordinary statement released last night, the couple announced plans to withdraw from their roles and split their time between Britain and North America.

It left the 93-year-old monarch and royal aides blindsided, as they had only "very recently" been made aware of their intentions. Aides stressed the announcement was "personal" and had not been approved by the palace.

In a statement released almost two hours later, Buckingham Palace said the couple's "desire to take a different approach" created "complicated issues" that would take time to resolve.

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The unprecedented announcement was branded "devastating" for Queen Elizabeth, who recently lost the services of Prince Andrew, who withdrew from public duties over his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the late paedophile billionaire.

Royal sources said senior members of the family were "hurt and deeply disappointed" at the news.

It follows a turbulent few months for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who had admitted they were struggling to cope with the pressures of royal life.

They are understood to have made the decision during their six-week sabbatical on Vancouver Island in Canada, where they concluded that their current way of life was untenable. Their plans were outlined in detail on their Sussex Royal website, which revealed they had made the choice to "transition to a new working model".

They said that by choosing financial autonomy, with no funding from the sovereign grant, they were allowing themselves to earn a professional income and "work externally" - something they were previously prohibited from doing.

The couple insisted they would continue their royal duties, supporting the queen, the Commonwealth and their patronages. Their official travel, undertaken on behalf of the queen, will be paid for by the sovereign grant.

It was last night confirmed that they would continue to receive money from the Prince of Wales via the Duchy of Cornwall, which has largely funded their activities.

Their decision allows them to retain their royal titles and many of the trappings of royal life, while using their positions to carve out independent working lives. They will continue to use Frogmore Cottage, on the Windsor estate, as their official residence in the UK and their security will continue to be funded by the British taxpayer.

It is likely they will spend a large proportion of their time in Canada, although extended periods of time spent abroad will raise questions about their future within the royal family.

The couple also announced that they will no longer participate in the traditional "royal rota", which allows mainstream media organisations to share access to official engagements. Instead, their "revised media approach" suggests they will prioritise their own hand-picked outlets and individuals and provide access to those of their choice while issuing pictures and information via their social media channels.

Their "personal message" released by Buckingham Palace at 6.30pm yesterday 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.

"It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment."

It said they would balance their time between the UK and North America. It continued: "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 charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course."

Irish Independent

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