LONDON, Jan 19 (AFP) : Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan will give up their royal titles and public funding as part of a settlement with the Queen to start a new life away from the British monarchy.
The historic announcement from Buckingham Palace on Saturday follows more than a week of intense private talks aimed at managing the fallout of the globetrotting couple’s shock resignation from front-line royal duties.
It means Queen Elizabeth II’s grandson Harry and his American TV actress wife Meghan will stop using the titles “royal highness” — the same fate that befell his late mother Princess Diana after her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996.
“Following 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,” the 93-year-old monarch said in a statement.
“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.”
– ‘Hardest Megxit possible’ –
Her comments referred to battles with the media that prompted Harry and Meghan to sue several newspapers in October over intrusions into their private lives.The Queen said she was “particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family” and wished the couple “a happy and peaceful new life”.
A separate statement attributed to Buckingham Palace said “the Sussexes will not use their HRH titles as they are no longer working members of the Royal Family”.HRH stands for His or Her Royal Highness.
“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,” the statement said.
The settlement added that the two will also repay £2.4 million ($3.1 million) of taxpayer’s money spent on renovating their Frogmore Cottage home near Windsor Castle.
Much of the British media interpreted the ruling as the Queen’s punishment for Harry and Meghan’s wayward ways.
The Queen “brought down the iron fist”, Sky News’ royal commentator Alastair Bruce said.
“Make no mistake, Saturday night’s statement represents the hardest Megxit possible,” The Daily Telegraph newspaper said,
‘Progressive new role’ –
The Palace would not comment on who ends up paying for Harry and Meghan’s security detail in Canada, where the couple are expected to spend much of their time — an issue of intense public debate.
It also failed to mention whether the couple would be allowed to benefit financially from future royalties and franchise fees.
“They are now Mr and Mrs Ordinary,” public relations consultant Mark Borkowski told the UK’s PA news agency.
“It’s still going to be difficult, but not having the royal mark they can be more free in terms of what they choose to fund them.”
The couple are dedicated to environmental causes and are looking to develop their charitable foundation as part of a “progressive new role”.
The queen’s announcement is her second on the royal crisis since Harry and Meghan’s effective resignation on March 8.
“We have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution,” the couple said at the time.
Meghan then jetted back to Canada and is now their with their son Archie.
Their announcement caught the royal family by surprise and created a media sensation in both Britain and the wider world.
Their treatment by London’s hard-hitting tabloid press and their personal future — as well as questions about longstanding royal traditions — have turned into daily front-page news.
Media reports said Harry would probably join Meghan and Archie on the west coast of Canada this coming week.
– ‘Abdication’ –
The Queen’s final ruling on her grandson’s future drew immediate comparisons to King Edward VIII’s abdication in 1936.
Edward married the American socialite Wallis Simpson the following year and spent much his remaining life abroad.
“Harry is not King (he is sixth in line) but tonight this feels like his and Meghan’s own abdication,” ITV television’s royal editor Chris Ship wrote on Twitter.
“This isn’t 1936. But it’s still pretty big.”
The BBC’s royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell said Meghan must decide whether she intends to return and spend time in Britain in order to gain her UK citizenship.
“I think they are feeling their way into this as much as anyone else.”
The couple’s future tax status also remains unclear.
“Harry and Meghan are still members of the Royal Family, but they are effectively no longer royal,” said Jonny Dymond, another BBC royal correspondent.
The couple will now formally be known as “Harry, The Duke of Sussex” and “Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex”.The Palace statement said the new arrangement “will take effect in the Spring of 2020”.