Meghan Markle and Prince Harry made headlines on January 8, when they announced they would be stepping back as "senior members” of the royal family. They released a joint statement that explained their reasoning, which led to an emergency summit meeting between Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince Harry at Sandringham to sort out all of the complicated details.
According to a joint statement the couple posted on Instagram, their decision to create some space as members of the royal family came after lots of careful consideration. They said they still plan to "fully support Her Majesty the Queen" while also separating themselves financially from the institution. The situation is complex, so here's a breakdown of how it all played out, leading to the January 18 statement from the queen and Buckingham Palace, that officially announced that the Sussexes would no longer serve as working members of the royal family, along with additional details about their finances and their future.
The statement that the couple posted on Instagram reads, “After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting 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. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. 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. 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.”
It's unclear why, exactly, they're taking a step back. While the announcement came as a surprise, there has been plenty of speculation that something like this might be happening. Markle and Prince Harry have each dealt with serious tabloid and media scrutiny. It got so bad, in fact, that they made the decision to pursue legal action against several U.K. publications last year.
They opened up about some of the struggles they've faced in the documentary Harry and Meghan: An Africa Journey. “I don’t think anybody could understand that, but in all fairness, I had no idea—which probably sounds difficult to understand here—but when I first met my now husband, my friends were really happy because I was so happy, but my British friend said to me, ‘I’m sure he’s great, but you shouldn’t do it, because the British tabloids will destroy your life.’ And I very naively…we’re American, we don’t have that there, ‘What are you talking about? That doesn’t make any sense. I’m not in tabloids!’ I didn't get it. So yeah, it’s been complicated," she said in the film.
She added later, "I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a ‘stiff upper lip.’ I really tried, but I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging—and the biggest thing I know is that I never thought this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair, and that’s the part that’s really hard to reconcile. I don’t know, just take each day as it comes.”
The financial separation:
One of the biggest questions is what "stepping back" will mean in terms of how Markle and Prince Harry will support themselves. It seems the Sussexes anticipated a lot of these questions and debuted a lengthy FAQ section on their website, complete with graphics and careful analyses of royal funding, although it doesn't explicitly state how they plan to make money moving forward.
Under their current arrangement, they are prohibited from earning any income and have received funding through the Sovereign Grant, which they describe on their website as "the annual funding mechanism of the monarchy that covers the work of the Royal Family in support of HM The Queen including expenses to maintain official residences and workspaces."
But that's about to change for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. They outlined some of their plans and explained that "they will become members of the Royal Family with financial independence, which is something they look forward to." The arrangement isn't totally without precedent; as the site explains, the structure "applies to other current members of the Royal Family who support the monarch and also have full-time jobs external to their commitment to the monarchy."
The palace's response:
This is where it gets interesting. Buckingham Palace issued a statement just hours after Markle and Prince Harry's announcement, and it indicates they may not have fully been a part of the news and how it was rolled out to the public. "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," it reads.
Royals reporter Omid Scobie wrote in a tweet on Thursday that the family is working to figure out new arrangements both among themselves and the Sussexes. "I understand that the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William have directed their teams to work 'at pace' with governments and Team Sussex to find workable solutions to Harry and Meghan’s plans over the days (not weeks) ahead," he wrote.
Royals correspondent Rebecca English from the Daily Mail had similar intel, reporting on Twitter that "the queen has convened a meeting of all four royal households and ‘tasked’ them with coming up with a ‘workable’ future role for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex within ‘days not weeks.’" She added that "the discussions will take place 'at pace' and will involve both the government and the home secretary" and seemed to confirm rumors that the Sussexes are considering Canada as a new home. "It is understood that foreign governments—presumably Canada—will be involved too."
And on January 11, palace sources told People that the queen will convene a family summit with Prince Harry, Prince William, and Prince Charles on Monday, January 13, at her country home at Sandringham. (Markle might attend by calling in from Canada.) The goal of the meeting is to keep talking through the details of a new arrangement and finding an "unprecedented" solution that strikes a balance between what the Sussexes want and what the royal family expects.
“Following a series of meetings and consultations across the last few days, there is a range of possibilities for the family to review which take into account the thinking the Sussexes outlined earlier in the week,” the palace source said.
“As we have said previously, making a change to the working life and role of the monarchy for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex requires complex and thoughtful discussions. Next steps will be agreed at the meeting,” the source added. “The request for this to be resolved ‘at pace’ is still Her Majesty’s wish. The aim remains days not weeks. There is genuine agreement and understanding that any decision will take time to be implemented.”
The queen's goal is to come to a resolution “as quickly as possible.”
On January 13, the queen released her own statement about the situation:
The response around the world.
Madame Tussauds museum in London announced on January 9 that it had removed the wax statues of Markle and Prince Harry from the royal family set. The two works were previously exhibited alongside Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Kate Middleton, and Prince William.
"From today, Meghan and Harry's figures will no longer appear in our royal family set. As two of our most popular and well-loved figures, they will of course remain an important feature at Madame Tussauds London as we watch to see what the next chapter holds for the them," Steve Davies, general manager at Madame Tussauds London, said in obtained by CNN.
Who knew in advance?
Following Markle and Prince Harry's announcement, Oprah Winfrey denied she had anything to do with their decision—contrary to reports that claimed Winfrey influenced the royals to build their own "brand." Despite attending their wedding and having a close friendship with the pair, she said she did not advise them to step away from the royal family.
"Meghan and Harry do not need my help figuring out what's best for them," Winfrey told People. "I care about them both and support whatever decisions they make for their family."
An insider told the newspaper the couple admire the way the Obamas have built a successful and sustainable life after Barack's presidency, all while retaining their popularity. But conflicting reports emerged from People, whose sources say rumors the Obamas have been in touch with the Sussexes are "totally false."
How this has affected William and Harry's relationship:
While we're not privy to the private conversations of the brothers, it would be safe to assume that the Sussexes' decision has caused a strain. But they are still united against false stories and in their support of mental health issues. On January 13 (the same day they are meeting with the queen and Prince Charles to find a solution), they released a joint statement about a false story that ran in the Times of London. The paper wrote, "An insider has told the Times that the pair both feel 'tethered' by their responsibilities. The source added that the couple regarded themselves as having been pushed away by what they saw as a bullying attitude from the Duke of Cambridge. These claims have been strongly contested by sources close to the Cambridges, as well as some close to Prince Harry."
Harry and William released a joint statement rebutting the story. "Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a U.K. newspaper today speculating about the relationship between The Duke of Sussex & The Duke of Cambridge. For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful."
The summit meeting:
On January 13, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince Harry all gathered at Sandringham (the queen's country estate in Norfolk) to discuss solutions for the Sussexes. While it was originally believed Markle called in from Canada, a palace source has now revealed she and Harry "decided that it wasn’t necessary for the duchess to join.” After the meeting the queen released the statement (noted above) in which she put a heavy emphasis on family. Final decisions surrounding the couple's future are expected to be finalized in the coming days.
“This is not how they wanted to handle this, but Meghan and Harry’s hand was forced,” the friend continued. “There is so much bad blood in that family—it’s toxic."
They explained that when Markle got negative press, the couple "didn’t feel they got enough comfort or solace" from the palace.
Where will they live?
Per the queen's statement after the summit meeting (and Markle and Harry's own), they are going to split their time between North America and the U.K. The current assumption is that they will be in Canada, but no one has ruled out a home in the United States, as well. The couple has recently been spending time in Vancouver, and that's where the duchess has been of late while Harry remains in England.
As for their Frogmore Cottage home in Windsor, reports have emerged that the household staff employed there have been "let go," according to Hello!. However, they have reportedly been placed in new roles around the estate at Windsor Castle and "available to work if the couple do end up keeping the residence."
The final decision.
On January 18, Buckingham Palace released a statement from Queen Elizabeth regarding Markle and Harry's future, which was released across the royal family's social media channels and on the queen's official website.
"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 Queen said. “Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family. 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. I want to thank them for all their dedicated work across this country, the Commonwealth and beyond, and am particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family. It is my whole family’s hope that today’s agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life.”
Another statement from the Palace went into greater detail about the arrangements. As Markle and Harry step back from their royal duties, Harry will also relinquish all of his official military appointments and they will no longer receive any public funds. (However, Prince Charles will still provide "private financial support." They have received the queen's permission to maintain their private patronages like the Invictus Games and Smartworks, for whom Markle created a capsule fashion collection last year. "While they can no longer formally represent The Queen, the Sussexes have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty," the statement reads.
While they will still officially hold their HRH (His/Her Royal Highness) titles, the Sussexes will no longer use them. But Harry is still a prince and they will continue to be referred to as Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. They will also pay back (at their own request) the Sovereign Grant costs for the renovations of Frogmore Cottage, their home in Windsor. It will continue to be their base when in the U.K. and they will pay rent on the property. As for their royal protection officers, the statement says, "Buckingham Palace does not comment on the details of security arrangements. There are well established independent processes to determine the need for publicly-funded security."
All of these major changes will take effect in spring 2020 and the royal family will review the situation in a year.
That's the big question everyone is asking. We will all simply have to wait and see what Markle and Harry's next big moves are, though it is thought they will announce their new charity in the spring. According to royal reporter Omid Scobie, whether or not they can use the name "Sussex Royal" has yet to be decided, or at least announced publicly.
It's expected Harry will return to Canada to rejoin Markle and baby Archie soon. And if the duchess's actions while in Vancouver are any indication, her work with women's issues will continue. (She was recently spotted visiting the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, which provides a safe space for women while creating social programs, advocacy, and support.)
The couple will also make updates to their website, in line with the queen's January 18 statement.
Originally Appeared on Glamour