The Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a statement Wednesday evening, revealing their plans to “step back” as senior members of the British royal family and become financially independent.
The pair said they plan to make the transition over the course of 2020, balancing their time between the UK and the U.S. They added that they would continue to “fully support” Queen Elizabeth II, while honoring their responsibilities to the Commonwealth and their 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,” they said, promising more detail on their plans.
They said the decision was reached after “many months of reflection and internal discussions,” and it raises a number of big questions about their future.
It’s not clear exactly how they will become financially independent, but it could — at least in theory — present Markle with the opportunity to return to acting after she made her name in USA Network drama Suits. It also raises questions over whether Prince Harry will keep his place as sixth in line to the throne.
Not relying on the Queen for money also theoretically reduces the public interest case for press intrusion into their private lives. Prince Harry and Markle have a fractious relationship with the British media, and the pair are suing the Mail on Sunday for printing a private letter sent by Markle, while also taking on The Sun and The Daily Mirror over phone hacking.
Dickie Arbiter, a former Buckingham Palace press officer and now respected royal commentator, told the BBC that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision is unprecedented in modern times.
Here is Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s statement in full:
“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.”
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