In a statement, the queen wrote: “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 my family.”
The queen acknowledged that Harry and Meghan — she omitted their royal titles — “made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives,” but she did not describe their new duties or ventures.
She cautioned there is more work to be done on the “complex matters for the family to decide” and said she expects final decisions to be made in the coming days.
The queen — a sturdy negotiator who has worked with 14 prime ministers during her reign — may be offering a bit of a “cooling off” period to the young royals, not expecting them to reverse themselves, but perhaps to give them a chance to decide in favor of a less dramatic break.
The announcement from the 93-year-old sovereign and leader of the House of Windsor followed an extraordinary meeting at her Sandringham estate attended by her grandsons Harry and William and her son and first heir, Prince Charles. It is believed that Meghan, who is in Canada, participated by phone.
The queen’s attempt to settle matters comes after a remarkable few days.
The palace was caught off guard by the timing of Harry and Meghan’s announcement, via Instagram on Wednesday, that they would be “stepping back” from their roles as senior royals and wanted to split their time between Britain and North America.
The queen’s statement Monday was the first confirmation that Canada was the place they had in mind.
Earlier Monday, William and Harry issued their own joint statement, batting down “offensive and potentially harmful” reports that bullying by William had pushed Harry and Meghan away.
Decisions about Harry and Meghan’s new roles could have implications for the future shape of the British monarchy and for royals down the line of succession.
The palace didn’t offer more detail on what was discussed at Monday’s family summit. Here are some of the issues that need sorting out.
1. A Britain-Canada timeshare
Canada seems to have gotten approval as an acceptable part-time home. It probably helps that Canada is a British Commonwealth nation.
But where, exactly, in Canada? Toronto, where Meghan lived while filming the TV show “Suits”? Vancouver Island, where they spent their Christmas vacation? A place like Yellowknife or Moose Jaw — where they really wouldn’t have to worry about tabloid intrusion?
How will they divide their time? And how will that influence the new roles they take on? Will a part-time base in Canada affect the work they do for royal and U.K.-based charities, which they say they want to continue? Will they be asked to take on broader responsibilities related to the monarchy’s relationship with the commonwealth?
2. Titles and the royal brand
Harry is officially “His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex” and Meghan is “Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex.”
Will they keep some or any of those titles? Was the queen signaling a decision by referring to them first as “Harry and Meghan” and only later as “the Sussexes” in her statement?
When Harry’s parents divorced, Diana relinquished her “HRH” title but kept “Princess of Wales.” Harry and Meghan have said they would like to continue to carry out certain duties for the queen, “as called upon.” But might giving up their responsibilities as full-time working royals mean they have to lose the HRH part of their titles, too?
They would probably put up more of fight to keep the Sussex bit, a courtesy title given by the queen. They use the “SussexRoyal” on their Instagram account and new website. They are also seeking to register the Sussex Royal brand as a global trademark on a wide range of items, the Guardian reported.
Of course, the British monarchy is its own brand. And the queen, who serves as its chief protector, will want to make sure Harry and Meghan are careful about avoiding commercial entanglements and other situations that could undermine the Crown.
3. Income and taxes
The couple say that they want to be “financially independent” and that they “value the ability to earn a professional income.” What will that actually mean? They say they will no longer accept money from the taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant, which has covered 5 percent of their expenses. But what about the millions they receive annually from Harry’s father, through his inherited Duchy of Cornwall estate? That money has covered 95 percent of their expenses. Will Charles continue to support them to such a large degree? Do they want him to?
There may also be discussion about what kinds of jobs would be okay. Harry’s cousin Princess Beatrice works in finance, and Princess Eugenie is an art gallery director. Meghan, a former actress, has reportedly agreed to do voice-over work for Disney in exchange for a donation to the charity Elephants Without Borders. Would she take in a salary for that sort of work in the future? The royal family’s determination to remain apolitical may play a strong role in guiding what work Harry and Meghan can undertake.
Courtiers have probably outlined the potentially complicated tax situation the Sussexes could face. If they live for an extended period of time in both Britain and Canada, they may have to pay tax on their global earnings in both countries.
The queen is not required to pay income taxes, but she voluntarily contributes a sum equivalent to what a U.K. tax on her private income would be. Prince Charles has a similar arrangement.
The royals will also need to determine who foots the bill for Harry and Meghan’s security detail. As senior members of the royal family, they have been entitled to round-the-clock protection, paid for by the state. But junior royals, such as Harry’s cousins, traditionally pay their own way.
Especially if Harry and Meghan spend much of their time overseas, British taxpayers may balk at paying for their security.
The couple is unlikely to want to skimp on personal protection. After her divorce, Harry’s mother was accompanied by a less experienced security team, and that may have contributed to her death. Her driver, a security man from the Hotel Ritz, was speeding and intoxicated when he crashed their car in a Paris tunnel, according to the French investigation.
One of Harry and Meghan’s primary complaints has been about harassment and violations of their privacy. They will want security professionals.
Although they may be some of the most famous people in the world, and although they represent the somewhat abstract notion of “the Crown,” the British royal family is still a family. And its members will no doubt want to resolve questions related to Harry and Meghan’s new role as amicably as possible.
Much has been made about a possible rift between Harry and his brother, William. The brothers sought to quash such speculation with their statement on Monday.
The two princes said, “Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a UK 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.”
Harry and William did not name the article, but the Times of London carried a front-page story Monday, quoting an unnamed source saying that Harry and Meghan thought they were “pushed away by what they saw as a bullying attitude from the Duke of Cambridge.”
Putting an end to further speculation about divisions within the family may be one of the reasons the queen has signaled she wants a quick resolution.