Topline: Harry and Meghan are to drop their HRH titles and repay $3.1 million in taxpayer-funded refurbishments to their U.K. home, ending days of speculation about what shape their new role will take after announcing they would “step back” as senior members of the British royal family.
The Queen issued a statement on Saturday: “Following many many months of conversations and more recent discussions, I am pleased that together we have found a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family.”
For the first time, Queen Elizabeth II publicly acknowledged the “intense scrutiny” that the Sussexes had been under, which the couple have spoken about several times, and which some commentators have criticized for having racist undertones.
“I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life,” she said.
What has changed?
The couple will no longer formally represent the Queen. Buckingham Palace issued a separate statement that read: "As agreed in this new arrangement, they understand that they are required to step back from royal duties, including official military appointments. They will no longer receive public funds for royal duties.”
It added: “The Sussexes will not use their HRH titles as they are no longer working members of the Royal Family.” HRH refers to ‘His/Her Royal Highness’ and is used by some royals.
They will also continue to maintain their “private patronages and associations,” i.e. the charities they publicly endorse. Additionally, they will continue to uphold the Queen’s values, despite not formally representing her.
Saturday’s announcement follows a so-called ‘Sandringham Summit’ on Monday, in which Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and sons Princes William and Harry gathered at her Norfolk estate to discuss the terms of Harry and Meghan’s future.
The couple will split their time between Canada, where Meghan is currently staying with son Archie, and the U.K. The family spent six weeks there over Christmas.
The changes will take effect from this spring.
What we don’t know: Who will foot their security bill in Canada. While it is clear that the couple want to make their own way financially, starting with paying back refurbishment costs for Frogmore Cottage, their U.K. base, logistical matters such as security are yet to be decided and made public. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the decision about this was down to the couple as he spoke to Global News earlier this week.
Buckingham Palace said it “does not comment on the details of security arrangements. There are well established independent processes to determine the need for publicly-funded security.” The couple’s security bill is thought to be around $1.3 million USD (£1 million) a year.
Meanwhile, arrangements concerning their tax and immigration status still need to be worked out, the BBC reported.
What to watch for: How the Sussexes will proceed in and shape their new roles. An update to the couple’s new Sussex Royal website reads: “In line with the statement by Her Majesty The Queen, information on the roles and work of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be updated on this website in due course.”
Crucial quote: The Queen’s statement continued: “Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family. I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.
“I want to thank them for all their dedicated work across this country, the Commonwealth and beyond, and am particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.
“It is my whole family's hope that today's agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life."
Key background: Today’s announcement puts to rest days of speculation and anticipation about Harry and Meghan’s future. The Sussexes’ bombshell announcement on January 8 that they were to “step back” as senior royals appeared to come as a surprise to other members of Britain’s most famous family. But discussions about their desire to carve out a new life—and a new working model—had been going on behind the scenes for months. Hints about the couple’s unhappiness were made during an interview last year, in which Harry said he would “not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum”, while concerns were sparked about Meghan’s wellbeing under the pressure of royal life, a new marriage and motherhood. More widely, the Sussexes decision has sparked a heated debate about the nature of the scrutiny levelled at Meghan, with many commentators saying that racism is at the root of why the couple want to leave the U.K. At the start of their public relationship in 2016, Harry issued a statement addressing the “racial undertones” in coverage about Meghan.