Everything we know about Harry and Meghan’s decision to ‘step back’ as senior royals

Will Harry and Meghan still be part of the royal family? What will happen to Frogmore Cottage? What does 'financial independence' actually mean? So. Many. Questions.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have announced they are stepping back as 'senior' members of the Royal Family and 'intend to work to become financially independent', while continuing to support the Queen.

It’s been a busy few weeks for the royal family – following the surprising news from Harry and Meghan. Last week, the royals met at Sandringham to discuss the future plans of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and now both Buckingham Palace and the Queen have released statements commenting on the move.

Of course, there’s much speculation about what the future holds for the couple and their son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, but here is what we know so far about the decision.

What did Harry and Meghan’s statement say?

The couple released the statement on their Instagram page, @sussexroyal, explaining that Meghan and Harry are working towards becoming “financially independent”, while still “continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages”.

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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

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Where will Harry and Meghan live? And what will happen to Frogmore Cottage?

As part of their announcement, Harry and Meghan revealed they would be splitting their time between the UK and North America.

The Duke and Duchess stated on their Sussex Royal website that they will continue to use Frogmore Cottage as their official residence so that “their family will always have a place to call home in the United Kingdom”.

Harry and Meghan have also said that they will repay the £2.4 million in taxpayers’ money that they used to renovate their home – located at Windsor Castle.

A statement released from Buckingham Palace on Saturday 18 January revealed that the couple would pay back the funds spent on Frogmore Cottage. This statement, released by the Queen on Saturday, said, ‘The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have shared their wish to repay Sovereign Grant expenditure for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, which will remain their UK family home.’

How will Meghan and Harry’s royal roles change?

The pair will continue to support their patronages and charities while carrying out their duties on behalf of the monarchy when they are called upon, according to their launched website.

The website reads, ‘Today, Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have chosen their patronages to support charitable organisations that represent causes important to them and that honour the legacy of Her Majesty The Queen.’

Revealing the charities the couple wish to support in the future, the website states, ‘The range of communities supported by The Duke of Sussex include groups promoting environmental and societal well-being. While supporting Prince Harry’s work in these areas, The Duchess of Sussex has continued to focus particular energy on women’s empowerment and gender equality, as she has for many years.’

Will both Harry and Meghan lose their royal titles?

Although it was initially thought that the couple would hold onto their royal titles, it has now be revealed that Prince Harry and Meghan will no longer use their HRH titles and will not receive public funds for royal duties, as they are no longer represeting the Queen. While the couple will not use their titles, they will still retain them, meaning they will keep their place in the royal heirachy when it comes to who they will need to bow and cursty to.

HRH – which is an abbreviation of His/Her Royal Highness – is used as part of the title of some members of the royal family.

The palace says this move will come into effect in spring 2020.

Will Harry still wear his military uniform?

It’s also been revealed that Harry will no longer be able to wear his military uniform, following his decision to step back from Armed Forced appointments. This comes as part of his move to step away from Royal duties.

This resignation means that he will no longer wear uniform at public events, such Trooping the Colour and Remembrance Sunday at the cenotaph. Prince Harry will still be able to showcase his medals including an Operational Service medal for Afghanistan, but protocol prevents him wearing uniform.

Lord West of Spithead, the former First Sea Lord, said, “The next time he [the Duke of Sussex] is at a military event he should be in civilian clothes because he is no longer involved with any  military units. It is very unfortunate. It is very sad to be losing him from the military.”

How have the rest of the Royal Family reacted to Harry and Meghan’s bombshell news?

It is believed that no other royal, including the Her Majesty The Queen, were consulted before the decision was made public by the Harry and Meghan on their official social media account.

Though, a spokeswoman from Buckingham Palace told the BBC the Royal Family was “disappointed”.

After Harry and Meghan’s unexpected announcement, Buckingham Palace responded a few hours later with a statement which read, ‘Discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.’

The Queen has since released a statement of her own, following talks at Sandringham with senior members of the royal family.

In this statement – released on Saturday 18 January – Her Majesty revealed she is “supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family” and said the royal family “respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life.”

She also revealed there will be “a period of transition” for Harry and Meghan and that “more work to be done” to figure out new arrangements.

In the closing lines, the Queen also praised the Duchess of Sussex, stating that she was “particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.”

Why did Harry and Meghan decide to step back from the royal family?

The couple’s unexpected announcement came just after their return from a six-week family holiday in Canada over the festive period, where they took a break from royal duties. The decision came after the public got a snapshot into the couple’s mind-set in an ITV documentary filmed during a tour of South Africa in October. Answering whether she was coping at life as new mum Meghan said, “I have said for a long time to H – that is what I call him – it’s not enough to just survive something, that’s not the point of life. You have got to thrive.”

It seems the couple were also struggling to cope with pressures from the tabloid media. Towards the end of last year, Prince Harry said both he and Meghan were to take legal action against the Mail on Sunday claiming it unlawfully published one of Meghan’s private letters.

Harry said, “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person.”

What would happen to Harry and Meghan if the couple were to split up?

Despite stepping back from royal duties, Prince Harry is still a member of the royal family and would remain that way regardless of personal circumstances.

Meghan would no longer be part of the royal family if the couple were to end their marriage, but may be able to keep her title as ‘Duchess of Sussex’, if taking Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew’s divorce as precedent.

Following her divorce from the Duke of York, Sarah was able to keep her Duchess of York title, but was asked to no longer use ‘Her Royal Highness’, as she was no longer married to HRH Prince Andrew. If Sarah were to remarry, she would no longer be able to use the title ‘Duchess of York’.

Will Harry and Meghan continue to interact with the media?

Harry and Meghan’s interaction with the British press will change and we will no doubt see less of them.

As part of their new “working model”, Harry and Meghan have stated that they will no longer participate in the “royal rota”. The rota system was set up to give the media access to official royal engagements.

Does this mean the royal line of succession has changed?

No. Harry is sixth in the line of succession to the British throne and Harry and Meghan’s son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor is seventh in the line of succession to the British throne.

Credit: Getty

Does this mean Harry and Meghan are both still royalty?

Yes. Both Harry and Meghan are both still considered royalty, they are however stepping back from their positions as senior royals.

Are Meghan and Harry the first to leave the Royal Family?

While is may come as a shock to the general public, Harry and Meghan are in fact not the first royals to take a step back. Their decision echoes that of Prince Edward, who abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcée.

And, in November we saw Prince Andrew step away from his royal duties after he was tied with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

What does it mean for Harry and Meghan’s security?

Even after taking a step back as senior royals, Harry and Meghan will still be classified by the Home Office as “internationally protected people”, according to a statement published on their Sussex Royal website.

“The provision of armed security by The Metropolitan Police is mandated by the Home Office, a ministerial department of Her Majesty’s Government, responsible for security and law & order.

“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are classified as internationally protected people which mandates this level of security.”

What does it mean for Harry and Meghan to be ‘financially independent’?

In their statement, Harry and Meghan revealed they were giving up public funding to become “financially independent”.

Under the previous agreement, Harry and Meghan prohibited from earning any of their own personal income. This has led many to wonder how the pair will support themselves in the future.

How much money do Harry and Meghan already have?

It is understood that Harry inherited millions after the passing of his mother Princess Diana. Harry is estimated to have around £30 million in personal wealth, while also receiving a yearly allowance from his father Prince Charles. Last year, Prince Charles is said to have paid £4.9 million from his income to his two sons, William and Harry.

And, before she tied the knot with Harry, Meghan was a millionaire herself, with a fortune of an estimated £3.8 million after various acting jobs, including her role in drama Suits.

Credit: Getty

How will Harry and Meghan earn their money?

Though the new Sussex Royal website remains somewhat vague about where the pair will receive their future income from, it does however hint that the couple’s “new working model” will in fact allow them to hold actual jobs and earn a professional income.

The website reads, “In addition, they value the ability to earn a professional income, which in the current structure they are prohibited from doing.”

Is Harry likely to give up his royal life completely?

While the couple have announced plans to ‘step back’, they’re still keen to remain part of the family and partake in royal duties when in the UK. But there have been times historically when it was thought that Harry would remove himself from royal life – for good. In the recent documentary, Meghan Markle: American Princess, royal biographer Penny Juror explained, “Harry was a reluctant Royal.

“I think there was a real danger at one time that Harry might turn his back on his Royal life and Royal responsibilities and go and live somewhere quietly.”