Bashiera Parker is Channel24's royal correspondent. Here, she breaks down what's next for Prince Harry and Meghan, after the couple announced they've decided to "step back as senior members of the royal family" after a tumultuous year in the spotlight.
Cape Town – It all started when Harry met Meghan.
The prince, sixth in line to the British throne, was introduced to then actress, Meghan Markle, in 2016. The couple dated for about a year before making their first official public appearance in September 2017 and announcing their engagement two months later. Photographs of Prince Harry looking adoringly at Meghan was seen – and shared – all over the world, and marked a new chapter for everyone's new favourite royal couple.
Harry and Meghan went on to tie the knot in 2018 before welcoming their son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor on 6 May 2019.
But behind the scenes things weren't picture-perfect – a fairytale wedding does not a fairytale life make. In October 2019, after months of scrutiny by the British tabloid press, Prince Harry released a heartbreaking statement saying the couple had taken the decision to sue multiple publications. The Duke of Sussex spoke about the "ruthless campaign" against the duchess and said, "My deepest fear is history repeating itself. I lost my mother, and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."
Now, just three months later, the royals have released another statement, this time officially distancing themselves as "senior members" of the royal family.
"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," they said on Wednesday.
So what does this mean for Harry and Meghan?
Well, things will get a lot worse before they get better – the tabloid press hit the jackpot with "Megxit", there's a swell in the water and they are riding that wave – I'm confident that the royal couple will only extend their reach, though, and with this new sense of freedom, they'll be able to do so much more to influence change.
Bare with me as I break down everything I know about this next phase and how Harry and Meghan, with or without the monarchy, are going to change the world.
(BYE BUCKINGHAM: A day before the announcement was made, Meghan and Harry made their first public appearance of 2020. Photo: Getty Images)
WILL THE DUKE AND DUCHESS RECEIVE FINANCIAL SUPPORT FROM THE MONARCHY?
In their statement, Harry and Meghan said they're working to become "financially independent". On their official website they explained the statement in more detail, saying they will no longer receive a sovereign Grant from the monarchy.
While the sovereign grant makes up just 5% of costs for The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with financial independence also comes the possibility of actually returning to work and earning an income.
WILL MEGHAN RETURN TO ACTING?
Although we can't give a straight answer to this one – only Meghan truly knows what her plans are for the future – the adoption of the new working model in 2020 means the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will have more "future financial autonomy to work externally".
They added: "Under the current structure and financing arrangements, they are prohibited from earning any income in any form." With this new structure, both Harry and Meghan could "earn a professional income" – the very mention of it alludes to the fact that they probably will.
So will the former Suits star return to acting? Well, Grace Kelly was famously in talks with Alfred Hitchcock to make her triumphant return to the big screen after leaving Hollywood to become the Princess of Monaco. She later went on to narrate the documentary The Children of Theatre Street as well as ABC's film The Poppy Is Also a Flower. She even worked with her husband, Prince Rainier III, on an independent film in 1979.
WILL THEY CONTINUE TO REPRESENT THE QUEEN?
Whether or not Harry and Meghan will work take on more 'conventional' jobs to earn an income is unclear, they will continue to represent the queen and made that very clear.
"Will The Duke and Duchess of Sussex be cutting ties with the monarchy?" they ask on their site with the response, "As working members of the Royal Family," – remember they're only stepping down as "senior members" but are still members of the royal family nevertheless – "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain dedicated to maximising Her Majesty's legacy both in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth.
"They will continue to proudly do so by supporting their patronages and carrying out works for The Monarchy within the UK or abroad, as called upon."
WILL THEY CONTINUE THE WORK THEY DO?
Their Royal Highnesses outline the focus of their charitable work which has not changed. Harry and Meghan will, therefore, further their work in finding new ways of protecting the environment, empower women and girls, while focusing on societal issues such as mental health and the HIV crisis.
WILL THEY GIVE UP THEIR TITLES?
Not just yet.
Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, haven't mentioned anything about their titles. But again, they did allude to keeping it.
Answering the question, "Do any other members of the Royal Family hold a title and earn an income?" they said, "Yes, there is precedent for this structure and applies to other current members of the Royal Family who support the monarch and also have full time jobs external to their commitment to the monarchy."
The very mention of this alludes to the fact that they will keep their title, but that's a decision that may be up to the queen. After Harry and Meghan's decision, Buckingham Palace released a statement that revealed even the queen may not yet know the way forward though for the duke and duchess.
"Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage," the statement read on Thursday. "We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through."
(Duchess Meghan and the queen attend a ceremony to open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge on 14 June 2018 in Widnes, England. Photo: Getty Images)
Being Channel24's royal correspondent meant following the Duke and Duchess closely on their tour of Africa where I experienced first hand the kind of work Harry and Meghan do and the influence they have. Although everything is pretty much up in the air right now, I'm steadfast in thinking that they will extend their work and continue to change the world.
As ambitious as that sounds, while in Johannesburg I witnessed the duchess talking passionately about the lesson she learned from a woman in Bo-Kaap in doing just that - and it all came down to accepting difference, something the press and many others could never do when Meghan became part of the royal family.
"One of the women told us that the way we change the world is to honour the dignity of difference. In this, we can find strength when we can bridge divides and meet as human beings; with different experiences, we can all find connection, and in that connection, we become more aware of one another, of our place in the world. We find hope, and self-worth, we can find optimism and courage – ultimately, we can find joy," she proclaimed.
With an outlook like that, and being two independent entities already championing the causes they do now long before they met in 2016, I genuinely believe that this will only propel Harry and Meghan's efforts. Together, and with this newfound freedom, they now have an unconstrained platform to do what they always planned to.
So as Harry and Meghan begin this new and promising chapter, it was only fitting they marked it with the same photograph they shared when it all started: Harry looking adoringly at his future with Meghan.
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“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.” - The Duke and Duchess of Sussex For more information, please visit sussexroyal.com (link in bio) Image © PA
(Photo: Getty Images)