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20 Jan 2020 7:50
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  •   Home > News > International

    Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to be part-time royals. Here's what you need to know

    If you're confused about the decision by Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex to step back from their senior Royal duties, stick with us. We answer seven of your burning questions.


    Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, are planning to "step back" from their roles as senior members of the Royal family.

    If you're not sure exactly what's going on, or why this is happening, this is the perfect place to start.

    Let's get you up to speed and answer seven quick questions about the announcement.

    1. What exactly is changing?

    In a statement released on the Sussex Royal Instagram account, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they're intending to:

    • Step back from their senior duties in the Royal family
    • Work towards becoming financially independent
    • Divide their time between the United Kingdom and North America

    They said they planned to continue to honour their "duty to the Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages".

    2. Is Harry still a prince?

    Yes. He has not abdicated from his role and is still sixth in line to the throne.

    The same can be said of the Duchess of Sussex, whowill also keep her title and role.

    But it's unclear exactly what will change now that Harry is moving to be a part-time prince and Meghan a part-time duchess and transition towards becoming financially independent.

    Editor at large at the Australian Women's Weekly Juliet Rieden told the ABC's AM program it was likely they would still do things for the Queen when asked, but they were also "going off on their own".

    "They've got a lot of projects they're very passionate about, I'm sure we'll continue to see them support those projects," she said.

    "And they will be able to grow them in a way they can't do within the strictures of Royal family life."

    Get up to speed: The ABC's Louise Milligan takes a look at the corporate machine that's led to a Royal renaissance.

    3. Should we have seen this coming?

    According to Europe correspondent Bridget Brennan, this was a "bombshell" and, "no-one was really expecting an announcement of this size".

    The couple said they made the decision, "after many months of reflection and internal discussions".

    But according to royal biographer and commentator Christopher Warwick, what has been clear in recent months is that Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex have been unhappy in their roles.

    Harry has issued a number of emotional statements in the past year condemning the behaviour of the tabloid press and launching legal proceedings in response to what he called "bullying" by some sections of the media.

    Meghan also opened up publicly in an ITV documentary about the intense media scrutiny she had faced since joining the Royal family, saying the pressure she felt during her pregnancy and as a new mother had been "really challenging".

    After the interview of their tour of Africa went to air, the BBC reported Prince William was "worried" about Harry.

    "The official suggested a mood of concern, for the safety of the couple," BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond wroteat the time.

    "Alarm bells are ringing … the tone now is of deep concern for Harry and Meghan — as if they are alone, and vulnerable."

    This had followed speculation of a rift between the couple and Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

    In the same ITV documentary, Prince Harry acknowledged the distance between himself and his brother, saying they were on "different paths".

    More recently, Prince Harry and Meghan took a six-week break from royal duties to spend some time in Canada with their son, Archie, over the Christmas break.

    The couple only arrived back in the UK this week and were due to return to their royal duties when they made the announcement.

    Go deeper: We take a look at the rift between the two brothers.

    4. Do Harry and Meghan have their own money and will they get jobs?

    Yes, Prince Harry and Meghan have their own private wealth, including his inheritance from Princess Diana's estate and Meghan's earnings.

    In a Q&A on their own website, the couple said they valued the ability to earn a professional income, which they were currently prohibited from doing.

    They also said they didn't benefit financially from their charitable work.

    "Their Royal Highnesses feel this new approach will enable them to continue to carry out their duties for Her Majesty the Queen, while having the future financial autonomy to work externally," their site said.

    The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have also sought to clarify their financial future, noting on the site the Sovereign Grant — which funds the monarchy — covers just 5 per cent of the costs for the Duke and Duchess and is used for their official office expenses.

    The couple said they wanted to cut this financial tie and were at pains to point out, "public funding has never been used, nor would it ever be used for private expenditure".

    But Dymond suggested: "There is a problem for members of the Royal family — relatively senior ones, even if they say they're no longer senior — getting jobs".

    "They are seen to monetise their brand and you run into a whole host of questions about conflict of interest," he told the BBC, adding we are now in "wait and see mode" as to whether this new model of being a royal can work.

    5. How will they divide their time between two countries?

    It is unclear how they plan to live in boththe UK and North America.

    It has been suggested Harry and Meghan will look to spend some time in Canada, given that is where Meghan lived and worked for many years. They also recently travelled there for Christmas.

    But living part of the year overseas might raise some eyebrows, given how much the couple spent on renovating Frogmore Cottage.

    You might remember how the Duke and Duchess moved out of Kensington Palace in 2018 to set up their family home, spending 2.4 million pounds ($4 million) of taxpayer money on an upgrade in Windsor.

    On their website, the couple said Frogmore Cottage would continue to be their official residence.

    6. What does the Queen think?

    Reports indicate there is a sense of "disappointment" within the palace, which likely extends to Queen Elizabeth II.

    In a statement, a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: "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 BBC and CNN reported no other royal — including the Queen or Prince William — was consulted before the statement.

    Senior royals are reportedly also understood to be "hurt" by the announcement.

    Understand the full picture: The ABC's Europe bureau chief Samantha Hawley says for almost 70 years, the Queen has held them together, but now Prince Harry is pulling away.

    7. Has this happened before?

    According to royal experts, Prince Harry and Meghan's move is pretty extraordinary.

    "The last royal to voluntarily step down was Edward VIIIin 1936 so he could marry Wallis Simpson — this was regarded as infamous by the Royal family," royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told Reuters.

    "Obviously, this isn't an exact parallel as Harry is sixth in line to the throne, but the way this has been handled and the fact that a statement was put out — apparently without either the Queen or other senior members of the Royal family knowing about it — is simply almost beyond belief."

    However, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex pointed out their decision to earn an income did have precedent.

    On their website, they say there is a structure in place for other members of the Royal family who support the monarch and also have full-time jobs outside their Royal commitments.

    © 2020 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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