Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced on January 18 that they will surrender their “royal highness” titles and repay the funds spent on renovating their home near Windsor Castle.
The announcement comes 10 days after the couple decided to step back from their roles as senior members of the royal family and work to become financially independent.
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are grateful to Her Majesty and the Royal Family for their ongoing support as they embark on the next chapter of their lives,” reads the press statement from Buckingham Palace.
The couple’s decision comes after their six-week break of “family time” in November, when they took time off from royal duties. A royal source told CNN in October that they were considering splitting time between the UK and the US. According to BBC’s royal correspondent, Jonny Dymond, no member of the Royal Family was consulted before the couple issued their first statement.
On January 13, the royal family convened for a family summit to discuss the Sussexes’s future plans. The queen ultimately expressed her support for Harry and Meghan. On January 18, following the announcement of the loss of their “royal highness” titles, the queen said in a statement, “I am pleased that together we have found a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family. Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family.”
Harry and Meghan confirmed they will be spending time in both countries, adding that the geographic balance will help them raise their son Archie “with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing [their] family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity.”
The announcement shouldn’t be surprising, given the intense scrutiny Meghan’s personal and public life has faced since she started dating Harry in 2016. Meghan has constantly been a subject of the British tabloids, and in October, the couple sued the owners of the Sun and Daily Mirror — two of the biggest UK publishers — over alleged phone hacking.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex aren’t the first high-profile royals to retreat from their roles. In November, Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second son, announced he would “step back from public duties for the foreseeable future,” after a disastrous BBC interview that addressed his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls before his death in August. Andrew’s leave, however, seemed to be an attempt at mitigating the backlash he received.
Harry and Meghan’s loss of titles was expected, according to the Washington Post. Princess Diana and Sarah, the Duchess of York and former wife of Prince Andrew, lost their HRH titles when they divorced their royal husbands. It seems that Buckingham Palace has accepted the couple’s independent decision, with the queen issuing a formal statement of support: “I recognize 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.”
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