Yesterday, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, decided to upend centuries of British Royal Family tradition in the most millennial way possible: a statement on Instagram.
The couple announced on the platform that they’re stepping back from their obligations as “Senior Royals” to begin a more public phase of their lives. They intend to shun the Queen’s riches and earn their own money. They’ll split time between the UK and North America, showing their baby son Archie that there’s more to life than waving elegantly at press cameras. And they’ll start a new charitable organization, as one might expect a still-Royal to do.
But what does this really mean? Will Prince Harry and Meghan Markle become part-time royals? Freelance royals? Permalance royals?
We’re here to demystify this incredibly British news for you.
What does their announcement say?
Well, a lot, to be honest.
The biggest takeaway, is that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will “work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.” What that truly means is anyone’s guess. But it’s a reasonable assumption that they’ll show up for Royal Family functions and photo-ops, kind of like an in-law who shows up when there’s free food at a barbecue, but in a more formalized, official capacity, owing to Prince Harry's prestigious roots and the fact that Royals don't typically do cookouts.
Now roving royals, splitting their time between the UK and North America and the greater Commonwealth, they’ll likely be spending a large chunk of their time in Canada—while Markle is a native of Los Angeles, she spent a lot of her life in Toronto, when she was an actress on various television shows. She’s currently got a lot of friends there, and living within the Crown’s former colonial empire surely bodes better than Hollywood for the Queen’s heart rate and the all-important royal brand.
And oh, yes, the charity!
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle aim to give back through the establishment of a new charitable organization, though it’s immediately unclear what causes they’ll be tackling. Will it be fighting climate change? Addressing global hunger? Spreading awareness for unfairly maligned royals? Who knows!
Another statement on their personal website aims to declutter some of this, but more significantly, it says that the Duke and Duchess “value the ability to earn a professional income, which in the current structure they are prohibited from doing.”
Oh, man, shots fired. Queen Elizabeth better duck!
Was there an official response?
The Crown has been characteristically tight-lipped about the whole thing, saying that the couple's departure is "at an early stage."
Why is this happening?
Quite a few reasons, actually.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have always seemed to toe the Royal Family line a bit half-heartedly. Besides, the British tabloid press have savagely targeted Markle, hawkishly criticizing and dissecting her every move, often with racist dog-whistles and over-the-top sensationalism. Markle is of mixed-race descent—her dad is white and her mother is black—and this has unfortunately been a point of fascination for the tabloids, which are stuck in a certain British provincialism that we’ve seen reverberate in the form of Brexit.
Even now, London’s tabloid rags are printing outrageous headlines that distort the official word from Buckingham, framing Markle as an interloper who’s triggered an unprecedented #Megxit. (Pardon me as I deal with my gag reflex).
This isn’t surprising, and in many ways it’s the unfortunate climax of a media harassment campaign. Late last year, Markle spoke candidly to the UK’s ITV network about her struggles with the tabloid press, noting that she was warned prior to her marriage that the tabloids would “destroy” her life.
In the same interview, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced a lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday, after it had published one of Markle's private letters. The Duke of Sussex called the coverage “false” and “derogatory.”
So where does this leave us?
It leaves us with some newly minted royal independence, I guess. Everything is sort of up in the air at the moment, but Harry and Meghan are doing what they feel is right for them, even if it upsets the centuries-old monarchical order.