The Duke and Duchess of Sussex sent shockwaves across the globe with the announcement that they’d be stepping down as senior members of the royal family on Jan. 8 on their Instagram account, @SussexRoyal.
While Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s historic decision seemed sudden to some (including, according to reports, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince William), the intense scrutiny on the royal couple in the media and recent interviews have sent up red flags among the popular royals. Harry and Meghan have publicly been battling negative press and media scrutiny — much of it against the duchess — since she joined the royal family in 2018. The couple has filed a number of lawsuits against media companies and made public statements about how the coverage is impacting their mental health.
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The royal couple is now more than ever the topic du jour, as media outlets and the public speculate their next steps. (Meghan’s return to acting? A move to L.A.?)
Megxit comes on the heels of the controversy surrounding Prince Andrew. The Duke of York was relieved of his his royal duties in November, after a disastrous BBC interview, in which he denied any wrongdoing, after being accused of sexual misconduct and his longtime ties with known pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein.
Nonetheless, the royal couple’s plans to become financially independent and reside between the U.K. and North America have a number of complexities and factors that need to be considered before the Sussex’s announce their next move.
Here, WWD breaks down the specifics of Megxit, from early signs of a rift in the royal family to the implications of their split. Read on for a complete breakdown of why the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are stepping away from the royal family.
November 2018: Harry and Meghan Move Out of Kensington Palace
After rumors of family drama were swirling in the press, in November 2018 Harry and Meghan announced that they would be moving out of their cottage at Kensington Palace, located next to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton. The plan was to relocate to Windsor’s Frogmore Cottage, a wedding gift from the Queen.
On the Sussex Royal web site, the couple explained that Kensington Palace “could not accommodate their growing family.” The statement also revealed that the Kensington Palace residence needed mandatory renovations that would prohibit the couple from moving in until the end of 2020.
June 2019: The “Fab Four” Split Their Charities
In June 2019, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — often referred to in the U.K. press as the “Fab Four” — announced they would be breaking from their joint charity, the Royal Foundation, with Prince William and Middleton. Prince Harry and Prince William had set up the charity together in 2009, which focuses on mental health awareness, wildlife conservation and the youth.
Harry and Meghan revealed that their new charity will be called Sussex Royal The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, for which they filed a trademark for on June 21.
Oct. 1, 2019: Suing the Tabloids
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex clapped back at the tabloids with a number of lawsuits, first on Oct. 1, 2019, when the duchess filed a claim against Associated Newspapers, which owns the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday. The newspapers were sued over misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the U.K.’s Data Protection Act relating to the unlawful publication of a private letter Duchess Meghan wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.
Later that week, Prince Harry filed his own lawsuit against tabloid newspapers the Sun and the Daily Mirror for allegedly hacking his phone and intercepting voicemail messages.
Oct. 20, 2019: Meghan Interview Goes Global: “I never thought this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair.”
A clip of the couple’s ITV documentary, “Harry & Meghan: An African Journey,” went viral after its U.K. release on Oct. 20, 2019, where Meghan admits that she has been struggling dealing with the increasing negative press directed at her.
Duchess Meghan also opens up in the documentary about dealing with negative press during her pregnancy:pic.twitter.com/lVCSfw05SZ
— Omid Scobie (@scobie) October 18, 2019
“Any woman, especially when they’re pregnant, you’re really vulnerable, so that made it really challenging,” Meghan said in a clip during the couple’s royal tour of Africa. “And then when you have a newborn, you know? And especially as a woman, it’s really, it’s a lot. You add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed.”
November 2019: A Holiday Break and Christmas Away From the Royal Family
In early November 2019, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they’d be taking a six-week break for the holidays. This included for Christmas, where the couple broke royal tradition by not joining the rest of the royal family for Christmas Day services at Sandringham. The couple instead spent the holidays in Canada with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland.
Dec. 25, 2019: Queen Elizabeth II’s Christmas Speech
Every year Queen Elizabeth II films her Christmas speech where she is seen sitting next to a table full of family photos. For her 2019 speech, spectators were quick to notice that the table of photos — which included pictures of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their three children, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, and King George VI — did not include the Duke and Duchess of Sussex or their newborn son, Archie. The couple were featured in a family photo in the Queen’s 2018 address.
Jan. 8, 2020: The Official Break
Prince Harry and Meghan officially announced they were stepping down as “senior” members of the British royal family in an Instagram post on Jan. 8, 2020, on their joint account. The post revealed the couple is working to become financially independent, but that they will still be in full support of the queen.
The post also revealed that the couple and baby Archie will be splitting their time between the U.K. and North America. They noted that the move 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.”
What the Royal Family Knew
According to Harper’s Bazaar royal correspondent Omid Scobie, the couple was in discussion with the royal family for months over their decision to step back from their roles. But Harry and Meghan decided to reveal the news on Jan. 8 because their plans had been leaked to a tabloid.
Due to the impending tabloid leak, Prince Harry reportedly sent Prince Charles and Prince William a copy of the couple’s statement just 10 minutes before releasing it to the public, making the royals — and the Queen — feel “cornered,” according to Scobie.
Buckingham Palace followed up Prince Harry and Meghan’s statement with one of its own, stating: “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.”
A statement from Buckingham Palace regarding The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. https://t.co/1qtTEHiIq6
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) January 8, 2020
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex returned to the U.K. to make their first royal appearance of the year at Canada House, but it’s been reported that Meghan has returned back to Canada — where the couple spent their holidays — while Prince Harry remains in the U.K.
According to the Guardian, the Queen is holding a meeting at Sandringham on Jan. 13, 2020, to discuss the future of the Sussex’s role in the family. The meeting will include Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry. Contrary to prior reports, Duchess Meghan did not dial-in to the meeting, according to royal correspondent Emily Andrews.
The royal couple elaborated on their plans for financial independence on their web site, where they explained that they will no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant, which is the “annual funding mechanism of the monarchy that covers the work of the royal family in support of Her Majesty The Queen.” The site states that their funding via the Sovereign Grant only accounted for 53 percent of their costs.
Under the couple’s previous financing agreement, they were prohibited from earning any income. Now that they are no longer accepting funds through the Sovereign Grant, they can hold job titles and earn an income.
Their New Homes
On the Sussex Royal web site, Prince Harry and Meghan confirmed that Frogmore Cottage will still be their official residence — per the queen’s permission — in the U.K.
It was later revealed in a statement by the queen on Jan. 13, 2020, that the couple will split their time between the U.K. and Canada, where they spent their six-week holiday vacation and where Meghan previously lived while she starred in the USA Network show, “Suits.”
Their New Jobs
Stepping down from the royal family now allows Prince Harry and Meghan to take on an array of high-profile jobs, be it speaking engagements, book deals or clothing collaborations.
Prince Harry, for one, is already teaming with Oprah Winfrey to create an Apple TV+ series that focuses on mental health. The series is slated to premiere this year.
Meghan, on the other hand, has reportedly signed a deal with Disney for a new role. According to The Sunday Times, she has signed on to do a voiceover for an upcoming project that benefits wildlife conservation charity, Elephants Without Borders.
The couple had filed trademark requests with the World Intellectual Property Organization back in June 2019 for “Sussex Royal” and “Sussex Royal The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex,” for a plethora of goods, services and promotional materials.
The trademarks, which were published on WIPO’s database this past December, were filed for products such as books, magazines, greeting cards, clothing, charitable campaign materials, educational materials, scholarships and social care services, among other things.
Jan. 10, 2020: Oprah’s Involvement
While Page Six reported that Oprah Winfrey advised the royal couple ahead of their split, the media mogul denied her involvement in the couple’s decision, stating to People: “Meghan and Harry do not need my help figuring out what’s best for them.”
Winfrey has long been a close friend of the couple, having attended their royal wedding in 2018.
Jan. 13, 2020: Prince William and Prince Harry Release a Statement
Following multiple news articles on tensions between the royal brothers, Prince William and Prince Harry released a joint statement to the press on Jan. 13, 2020, stating: “despite clear denials, a false story ran in a U.K. newspaper today speculating about the relationship between the Duke of Sussex and 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.”
A joint statement from the spokespeople of Prince William and Prince Harry: pic.twitter.com/H8hqYCHirK
— Omid Scobie (@scobie) January 13, 2020
Jan. 13, 2020: The Queen’s Statement
After her meeting with Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry on Jan. 13, 2020, Queen Elizabeth II released a statement on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision, stating in part: “My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working members of the royal family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of the family.”
A statement from Her Majesty The Queen. https://t.co/IVSyfeojqk
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) January 13, 2020
The statement also reveals that the family has “agreed that there will be a period of transition” where the couple and baby Archie will split their time between living in Canada and the U.K.
Check back on this post as it will be updated as more news develops.
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