The Nuclear Option [UPDATED]

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex just announced on Instagram that they are stepping back from the Royal Family and, beginning this year, will split their time between England and North America. Per their statement, they still intend to support their patronages, but their charitable foundation sounds like it will be separate, and they will be working towards becoming “financially independent.”

Apparently they chose the nuclear option.

*Updated portion at the end of the post.

The full statement reads:

“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 honor our 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 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.”

This was shared by one royal reporter:

I don’t know where to begin, but let’s start with my regret that I spent time writing a speculative post on this move to Canada only to have it rendered useless within two hours. I understand that’s not everyone’s primary concern, but it’s ANNOYING.

The second thing I’m going to say is that this statement is very confusing. Here’s what we do know: they’re definitely moving to Canada, while apparently maintaining Frogmore Cottage. They don’t intend to give up their patronages. Their future work will include drawing a salary. They should no longer be considered senior royals. Their new foundation will be “progressive.”

At first blush, many saw this as the couple resigning royal work, akin to the Dukes of Edinburgh and York, but that’s apparently the wrong conclusion. Further guidance makes clear that the couple will continue to carry out engagements (and presumably tours) on behalf of the Queen and very much continue on as members of the Royal Family. In other words, the only real difference is that they will cut their ties to the Sovereign Grant and spend half of their time in Canada.

I have no idea how any of this is going to work – they can’t espouse progressive politics and then represent the monarch. And they’re going to be eaten alive if they’re drawing a salary but ever rely on “public money” to carry out royal work – for example, who will be paying for their protection? Who will pay for their travel? [Update: Royal reporter Victoria Murphy said on Twitter that the Sussexes’ website (which isn’t currently loading for me thanks to traffic) states the Sovereign Grant will still fund their overseas travel.]

My first real takeaway is that this has clearly been in the works for months, and I think their hiring of the American PR firm over the summer is a good indication of when this idea came fully into view. As such, we now know why yesterday’s engagement to Canada House was announced the way it was.

My second takeaway is that now we better understand the rift between the brothers. And if that suspicion is correct, then I’m Team William all the way. If you’re the DoC then it’s hard not to take this as a betrayal. He’s abruptly lost a huge source of support, and one that will only be magnified when he becomes Prince of Wales and then king. This also throws off-kilter plans to focus the monarchy on Charles and his heirs, because, well, who’s going to handle all of that work? I know the Sussexes will still be working, but that’s obviously complicated now.

My third takeaway – and likely my last for now – is that I’m hugely disappointed in Harry and Meghan, because this statement reads like they want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to limit press access to themselves, and they want to speak out about the causes that they want to, in the way that they want to, while still enjoying facets of royal life if and when they like. That’s not how this works. The institution is about public service, and yes, there are huge, borderline troubling drawbacks to it.

I wish that they had taken a beat, which brings me to a fourth takeaway (I lied before): this couple is impatient. In two years they’ve had an engagement, a wedding, a baby, and countless micro-scandals along the way. Not once have they waited for the dust to settle. Not once have they looked before they leaped. I appreciate their work ethic and their passion. I appreciate their innovation and entrepreneurship. But all of it is rendered useless if it’s not in support of the institution that provides the very platform on which they stand.

Instead, they have apparently decided that it’s impossible to live a full, happy life as members of the Royal Family, beckoning one towards the conclusion that there is something inherently inhumane in that way of life. Harry has never been shy about his issues with his royal role, and it’s abundantly clear that Meghan can’t reconcile herself to it. If only they had taken the time to actually consider this over the last two years – say, before Harry married Meghan and she was introduced as the new royal bride.

And not for nothing, the Royal Family is still Harry’s family.

News and reactions to this are still rolling out. I will update this post as necessary throughout the rest of today and tomorrow.

UPDATE: In case this wasn’t enough drama for you, it’s now emerging that no one else in the Royal Family, including the Queen, was given a head’s up before the Sussexes released their statement. Buckingham Palace released the following statement:

“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.”

In other words, all those questions we have about how this will work? The Palace has them, too, and it may very well not. BBC is reporting that senior members of the Family are “hurt” by Harry and Meghan’s decision to pull back, while the Palace is “disappointed.” To put that in non-RF speak, please feel free to add a few f-bombs and up the emotion to an 11. If I was the Queen I would be seriously considering opening up rooms in the Tower, but I’m not for myriad reasons and that is certainly one of them.

I really can’t wrap my head around how they thought releasing this without approval or input from the Palace was a good idea. If true, the level of disrespect and selfishness is unbelievable. And if all of this is fake news (and I hope that it is), I will update accordingly, but in the meantime…thank God for Charles and the Cambridges.

12 thoughts on “The Nuclear Option [UPDATED]

  1. Hey Rebecca – I think your analysis is spot on. Ever since the engagement between Harry and Meghan was announced, everything has seemed rushed, impatient. I think you also are right that they aren’t understanding that they can’t have it both ways. I’m just glad that one of Charles’ sons got it right.

      1. And now the information that no one in the Royal Family was consulted before the announcement? Isn’t that like trying to burn ALL the bridges on the way out? Harry certainly knows better. Total lack of respect for his family.

  2. laurean6410

    I must have ESP as I saw this coming over Christmas. I agree with you and also with Piers Morgan’s comment on Megan’s ability to discard, “ditch” as he put it. Put me down as Team William. Harry has made a huge blunder.

      1. laurean6410

        Rebecca, it will be beyond interesting to see how this plays out.
        Earning your own living isn’t as easy as one might think, especially if you have not been schooled in navigating the real world. Being financially independent can be stressful, Harry!
        I must say, you have been extremely fair in your reporting on the actions of the Susseses.

  3. Anonymous

    I read and enjoyed your post about the (then-rumored) move to Canada after today’s statement was released. I always look to your blog for context and clarity and that post was actually very interesting to read in the context of what was to come later in the day.

  4. Is anyone else completely dumbstruck at the series of events here? Their announcement, Palace announcement (knowing nothing), and now website that basically lays everything out on the table and couldn’t possibly have been approved? How could H & M have thought this was going to go over well? Harry absolutely knows better. Seems so tragic that they decided to add more stress to the Queen’s already-heaping load.

    1. I definitely am. I didn’t really get into the website too much yesterday, but I’m going to pull together a follow-up post on some odds and ends for later today and tomorrow that absolutely will.

  5. Agnieszka Smieja

    They should give up their royal titles as well. I know it sounds petty but I am so disappointed with Harry…

    1. I agree that if they want to move forward with several aspects of their proposal (which is basically how I view that website at this point), then it would be better to resign altogether.

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