Well, well, well. It’s actually happening—Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are officially doing what they can to minimize their royal responsibilities to the British monarchy.
After rumors that they might be leaving their recently renovated abode—called Frogmore Cottage—and eyeing property in Canada (where Markle spent many years filming the American television series Suits), the Sussexes announced (via Instagram, which seems to be their preferred method of communication with outsiders) that they “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.” Basically, they’re quitting. Or half-quitting.
This should not come as a surprise. The couple already held a secret Thanksgiving celebration in the U.S. last year and skipped Queen Elizabeth’s annual royal Christmas celebration at Buckingham Palace. They have seemingly been on the lookout for an escape route, and finally, after months of internal discussions, they have one. According to their announcement, as of this year they will start “to carve out a progressive new role within this institution” and will spend time in both the United Kingdom and North America.
But what does it mean for the Sussexes to step back like this? What about baby Archie? And what exactly is a “senior” member of the Royal Family anyway?
Well, this could all be part of Prince Charles’ greater plan to slim down the monarchy to its core members—the ones who actually have a statistically higher chance of following in the Queen’s footsteps. Last year was such a bad year for the Royal Family, press-wise, what with Markle being attacked in the press so much that the Sussexes ended up suing a tabloid because of it, and with Prince Andrew stepping away from his duties as a royal and being kicked out of Buckingham Palace after his disastrous BBC interview about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles are keen on keeping the major royal responsibilities to the few key players in the family who will likely inherit whatever future messes are made in the Royal Family’s name. (There was even an official photo of the royal family that was recently released, showcasing the Queen alongside Prince Charles, Prince William, and little Prince George—each being the next in line to the throne).
As for Master Archie, the Sussexes hope that living in the U.K. and the U.S. will enable him to be raised “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.” So, he can visit great-grandma Queen when he’s on one side of the Atlantic, and grandma Ragland when he’s on the other.
This forthcoming chapter of their lives also apparently includes a new charitable entity from the Sussexes, which tracks, considering they broke off from the Royal Foundation (a charity initiative headed by Prince William and Kate Middleton last year).
More details about the future of the Sussex’s is available on their official website, which explains that they will continue to post on social media as the Duke and Duchess, but will no longer be part of the Royal Rota system. That system is essentially a way for British media outlets to gain exclusive access to official engagements involving the Royal Family. “The current structure makes it challenging for The Duke and Duchess of Sussex to personally share moments in their lives directly with members of the public (via social media for example), without first going through the filter of the Royal Rota,” the website reads. “They look forward to continuing their use of social media and believe that their updated media approach will enable them to share more, with you, directly.”
With regards to their goal of gaining financial independence, they have more details on that listed on the website too. “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex take great pride in their work and are committed to continuing their charitable endeavours as well as establishing new ones,” the statement reads. “In addition, they value the ability to earn a professional income, which in the current structure they are prohibited from doing.”
Shortly after the Sussexes released their own statement, Buckingham Palace made an announcement of their own. The truncated response to the royal semi-exit reads, “Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are 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.”
The minutiae of the Royal Family’s lives are often covered ad nauseam, but this move is actually big enough to make history.