Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, say they are stepping back from their roles as senior members of the British royal family and plan to work towards becoming “financially independent,” the couple announced on Wednesday.
“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year” they wrote on Instagram, explaining that they hope 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,” they said.
Harry and Meghan did not consult any other members of the royal family about their decision, CNN has learned.
There is said to be a mood of deep disappointment in the palace following the announcement; senior members of the family are hurt as a result of the news.
Couple keen for private life
In a statement issued just hours after the couple’s Instagram post, Buckingham Palace said the situation was “complicated.”
“Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage,” the unsigned Royal Communications statement said. “We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”
The Duke and Duchess did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
The announcement could indicate that the couple will now have the private life they’ve always argued for.
They are opting out of the system but they’ll be able to opt in to the elements that they like: the family elements and those where they’re seen to be supporting the Queen, who they’re both very close to.
Shock Instagram announcement
In their social media post, the couple revealed they plan to split their time between the UK and North America.
“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 new charitable entity,” they wrote.
“We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.”
The Duke and Duchess have long had a fraught relationship with sections of the British media. In October last year, the couple announced that Meghan was suing the Mail on Sunday newspaper, alleging it had illegally published a private letter to her father – a claim the newspaper denies.
At the same time, Harry launched an emotional attack on the UK tabloid press for what he called a “ruthless campaign” against his wife.
He likened their treatment of her to that faced by his mother. Princess Diana died in 1997 when her car crashed as it was being pursued by members of the paparazzi.
The couple will feel that they can win these court cases on the basis that they do have a right to a private life.
Members of the royal family are often criticized for not allowing enough public access, given that they are publicly funded, and now the Duke and Duchess are effectively saying, “Okay, you win, we’re out.”
The Sussexes’ decision to step back from leading roles within the royal family means they will “no longer participate in the Royal Rota system,” which gives UK broadcasters and newspapers access to royal engagements, according to the official SussexRoyal website.
Christmas holidays in Canada
Harry, 35, the younger son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and Meghan, a former actor best known for her role in legal drama Suits, 38, met in 2016.
They were married in a lavish, star-studded ceremony at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor in May 2018.
The couple welcomed their first child, son Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor, in May 2019.
The Sussexes and baby Archie spent the recent Christmas holidays in Canada with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland.
On Tuesday, they paid a visit to Canada House, in London, to thank officials for the hospitality shown to them while they were there.
This story has been updated.