In shock late-night statement Harry and Meghan announce that they will ‘step back as senior members of the royal family’

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. (Photo: Getty Images)
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. (Photo: Getty Images)

Cape Town - A late-night announcement shocked many on Wednesday when it was revealed that one of the most well-known royal couples in the world would be stepping back from their official roles in the spotlight. 

"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," the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced in a statement on their official Instagram account on Wednesday night.

Prince Harry and Meghan in the statement said: "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."

Over the festive season Harry and Meghan broke with tradition when they did not celebrate Christmas with the royal family, opting for a private six-week holiday in Canada instead. 

Channel24 on Tuesday reported that the couple made their first official appearance of 2020 in the UK when they visited the Canadian High Commissioner, Janice Charette in London to thank her and the people of Canada for the warm hospitality during their stay.

LIVING BETWEEN THE UK AND NORTH AMERICA

The couple plan to "balance their time between the United Kingdom and North America" whilst continuing to honour their duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and their patronages.

Harry and Meghan said: "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."

Royal experts in 2019 speculated that the couple was considering moving to South Africa after a successful tour of Africa in September and October last year.  

KINGS LYNN, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 25: (L-R) Prince Wi

(ALWAYS BROTHERS: Prince William, Kate, Meghan, and Prince Harry. Photo: Getty Images)

THE QUEEN RESPONDS

Following Harry and Meghan's announcement, Buckingham Palace released a statement.

"Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage," Buckingham Palace said before admitting not even the royal family is sure where things will go from here.

"We understand their desire to take a different approach," the palace added, "but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through." 

A RIFT IN THE FAMILY

Rumours of a rift between Prince Harry and his brother Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, have been swirling for months with both royals all but confirming it in public. 

During his tour of Africa in 2019, Harry told ITV's Tom Bradby: "Inevitably stuff happens. But we're brothers, we'll always be brothers."

He then admitted: "We're certainly on different paths at the moment, I'll always be there for him and as I know, he'll always be there for me. We don't see each other as much as we used to because we're so busy, but I love him dearly."

Harry ended off by saying: "The majority of stuff is created out of nothing. As brothers, we have good days, and we have bad days."

The snippet formed part of a documentary about Harry, Meghan and Archie's tour of Africa which aired last year. 

Prince Harry, Duchess Meghan, Archie

(WHEN ARCHIE MET THE ARCH: Prince Harry, Duchess Meghan and Archie visit Archbishop Desmond Tutu while in South Africa. Photo: Getty Images)

FOLLOWING THEIR OWN PATH

Harry, who is sixth in line to the British throne, and Meghan are following their own path.

After the birth of their son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, who is seventh in line to the throne, the couple announced that the latest addition to the royal family would not take on a royal title - unlike his royal cousins. 

The couple also decided to keep Archie's birth private, saying in a statement at the time: "Their Royal Highnesses have taken a personal decision to keep the plans around the arrival of their baby private. The duke and duchess look forward to sharing the exciting news with everyone once they've had an opportunity to celebrate privately as a new family."

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

(FAMILY FIRST: Meghan and Harry walking down the street in Cape Town during a visit to South Africa. Photo: Bashiera Parker/Channel24)

A WAR ON THE TABLOIDS

Harry has also come out swinging against tabloid publications for publishing false reports about Meghan. 

The prince launched legal action against British tabloid The Mail on Sunday for alleged invasion of privacy over a letter from the duchess to her father. It came with a stinging statement from Harry about general tabloid coverage.

Harry is also suing two newspaper groups over alleged voice mail interception, or phone hacking.

Asked if Meghan was facing the same media pressures as his mother Princess Diana, Harry replied: "I have a family to protect. I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum."

SEE THE ANNOUNCEMENT POST HERE