The couple dramatically announced Wednesday evening that they would be “stepping back” from royal duties and splitting their time between the United Kingdom and North America — which most suspect means Canada.
They said they want to become “financially independent,” stating they “value the ability to earn a professional income.” But no one is sure how they’re cutting the cord or how else they plan to generate income. Sneaker endorsements? Hair and makeup? Hollywood?
On their shiny new website, Sussexroyal.com, they explain they will no longer accept money from the taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant, which has covered 5 percent of their expenses.
They are silent on whether they will continue to get support from Harry’s father, Prince Charles. Last year, Charles paid the Sussexes around $6.5 million from funds he receives via his Duchy of Cornwall estate, covering what they said were 95 percent of their costs.
Either way, they shouldn’t have to worry too much about paying the bills. According to British press reports, Harry’s net worth is estimated to be around $39 million, most of it inherited from his mother, Princess Diana, and his great-grandmother, the Queen Mother. Meghan’s net worth is estimated to be around $5 million, much of it coming from her acting role on the TV series “Suits.”
Photos of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, out and about
Still, the Sussexes seem to be chafing against the arrangements for so-called senior royals, who regularly carry out duties on behalf of the queen and are not allowed to take an outside salary. They don’t endorse products. They don’t get paid to speak.
But if they are no longer full-time working royals, Harry and Meghan may be able to have both royal titles and paid jobs — like Harry’s cousins, Princess Beatrice, who works in finance, and Princess Eugenie, an art gallery director.
Could Harry and Meghan hop on the speaking circuit? Could Harry rejoin the army? Could Meghan relaunch her acting career, perhaps joining the cast of “The Crown”? Or could she revive her shuttered lifestyle blog, the Tig?
“They can do anything,” said Dickie Arbiter, a former press secretary to the queen.
There are no hard and fast rules beyond that they’d be expected to use good judgment and remember that the family is supposed to be apolitical.
In their effort to get away from royal restrictions, Harry and Meghan are also seeking more control over media coverage.
They said they would no longer take part in Buckingham Palace’s royal rota, which gives accredited reporters and photographers access to official events on a pooled and rotating basis. Instead, Harry and Meghan want to engage with “young, up-and-coming journalists,” alongside “credible media” and “specialist media.” They also want to speak directly through their social media accounts.
“The current system predates the dramatic transformation of news reporting in the digital age,” Harry and Meghan’s website says.
Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine, said she didn’t understand the couple’s rejection of the royal rota, which she compared to the White House press pool.
“It’s just straight reporting and straight facts,” Seward said. “It’s been done this way for years and serves the interests of all sides.”
It’s no secret that Harry and Meghan have been at war with the British press. They’ve sued news outlets, twice. And Harry has accused the media of subjecting Meghan to the same persecution they inflicted on his mother, Diana, whose chauffeured car crashed in a Paris tunnel while being chased by photographers on motorcycles.
But Seward noted that the official press pool “is not where the misinformation that Harry and Meghan complain about comes from.” The problem stories, she said, are more often the result of tabloid reporters paying or cajoling information from relatives or friends of the royal couple.
Of the royal couple, Seward said: “They just want to control everything, but I am not sure how they can.”
Roy Greenslade, a media commentator, anticipated that “ceaseless and relentless” media interest will only increase as Meghan and Harry transition into their new roles.
Greenslade said Diana endured more attacks by the British tabloids after her divorce from Charles, in part because she didn’t have the same access to protection officers.
“If you’re the world’s most famous family,” Greenslade said, “you’re going to get interest, you’re going to get media involvement.”
The couple’s decision to fly the royal coop has been met with applause and dismay in Britain.
The BBC’s royal correspondent Jonny Dymond reported that “no other member of the Royal Family was consulted before Harry and Meghan issued their personal statement [and] the Palace is understood to be ‘disappointed.’ ”
But even if the announcement was a surprise, it had long been clear that Harry and Meghan wanted to do things their own way.
At their wedding, Meghan walked herself down the aisle and livened up the proceedings with a gospel choir.
The couple moved out of Kensington Palace in London, where they initially lived with Harry’s brother, William, and moved to the newly renovated Frogmore Cottage on the grounds of Windsor Castle.
They also left the Royal Foundation — a charity set up by Harry and William in 2009 — to launch its own charitable vehicle.
In the fall, when Harry was asked about a reported rift between him and William, he told ITV that the two were “on different paths at the moment.”
In the same documentary, Meghan hinted that she wanted more than the status quo.
“It’s not enough to just survive something; that’s not the point of life,” she said. “You’ve got to thrive, you’ve got to feel happy.”