When Harry and Meghan made their bombshell announcement back in January that they intended to forge a “progressive new role” within the royal family, the divisions between the couple and other royals were laid bare. It became apparent that almost nothing the Sussexes outlined on their site (sussexroyal.com) had been approved in advance, and their extraordinary pronouncement was followed by a different statement from Buckingham Palace. Quickly, however, royals and courtiers rallied and, as negotiations over Harry and Meghan’s future took place, updates were released collectively.
Yet, with their freedom secured and a date now set for their formal departure from life as working royals, the Sussexes have once again sought to expose the clash of wills that has taken place behind the scenes. On Friday it was confirmed that they will not use the word "royal" in any of their future branding, an announcement that was followed by a strikingly frank update on their website that made their irritation at the negotiation process clear. Entitled "Spring 2020 Transition Details," it struck a very different tone to any palace statements.
Their frustration is aired by sentence two, which begins: “We had hoped to be allowed to share these details with you sooner (to mitigate any confusion and subsequent misreporting)...” While it is not spelled out why they were unable to communicate sooner, it is obvious that they did not feel they had control of the timing and were unhappy about that.
The couple’s declaration that they are removing “the supposed ‘public interest’ justification for media intrusion into their lives” spells it out to anyone who was left in any doubt just how fundamental their anger at certain media coverage has been in their decision to step back. They also reiterate that the discussions did not end in the way they had hoped, pointing out, “The preference of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex was to continue to represent and support Her Majesty The Queen albeit in a more limited capacity, while not drawing on the Sovereign Grant.”
The half-in and half-out model they proposed was fraught with problems, but their desire to achieve it appears unwavering.
They follow that by suggesting they have been treated differently to other royals, saying that there is “precedent” for “other titled members of the Royal Family to seek employment outside of the institution,” but their plans have been put under a 12-month review period.
In their statement, Harry and Meghan then take the opportunity to express that the process of laying off their staff has been “saddening.” They acknowledge that this happened following their desire to have “a reduced role as members of the Royal Family,” but also appear to suggest that the choice to close the office was not entirely up to them, using the phrase: “The Duke and Duchess shared this news with their team personally in January once they knew of the decision.”
A final section on the transition is devoted to their future work and use of the term ‘royal’—or in this case, the prohibition against using it. It was always hard to see how "Sussex Royal" would survive when use of Harry and Meghan's HRH prefixes was ruled out early on. However, it was clear that they had hoped to continue with the name, and many may see its removal as a final blow to their initial plan. Others will say it became just another thing they gave up for what was always the ultimate goal: freedom.
In what will be seen a pointed rebuke of reports they were planning to flog merchandise with the name, the couple make it plain that “trademark applications that had been filed as protective measures and that reflected the same standard trademarking requests as done for The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have been removed.” And they did not miss the chance to point out that there is “not any jurisdiction by The Monarchy or Cabinet Office over the use of the world ‘Royal’ overseas,” before saying they do not intend to use the word royal anywhere in the future.
Unsurprisingly, the Sussex’s website has been through some changes, with the latest iteration directing people initially to information on the Spring 2020 Transition while offering other sections on Supporting Community, Serving the Monarchy, Strengthening the Commonwealth, and Media and Funding.
There is also a quote from the couple, which in the latest version of the website seems to flash up briefly on loading then disappear. It is: “The goal is to focus on what connects us, rather than what divides us.”
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