The Sussexit Decision

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Well. It’s been three days since the Palace announced a Sussexit decision. On the day-of I did an informal chat with a few of you on Instagram, but I ended up holding off on a full post since details were still emerging through the evening and into the rest of the weekend. I’m glad that I waited, because I think we have a fuller picture of what’s happening now, but thank you for your patience as the dust settled!

In summary, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will no longer be working members of the Royal Family. They will retain their HRH style, but they will no longer use it. They will keep Frogmore Cottage, their home on the Windsor estate, but they will pay back the public money used in its renovation last year and they will pay some sort of rent going forward. They will reside primarily in “North America.” Finally, they will continue receiving funding from Harry’s father, the Prince of Wales, but it’s unclear whether that money will come from the duchy of Cornwall or not.

All of this will take affect this spring. Initial guidance from the Palace stated that the couple would become known as Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, however it’s subsequently been made clear that was premature. Indeed, that styling is typical of divorced people, so TBD on where the Palace lands. One more interesting note is that it remains unclear whether Harry and Meghan will be able use the “Sussex Royal” branding they’ve invested so much in for their new charitable foundation, and other marketing. Yes, they are still royal, but no, they are not allowed to capitalize on that professionally.

So, who won? Nobody, really, but realistically Harry and Meghan ceded more ground than the Palace, in my opinion. Once again, what they proposed on January 8 was quite simply impossible, a fact that was abundantly clear to those who understand the monarchy’s function and purpose. I am still bewildered as to how Harry, in particular, thought their initial plan was workable, and I am glad that the Palace maintained a hard line on the issues of funding and independence for its own sake.

There was certainly a vocal portion of the crowd over the weekend who felt that Harry and Meghan “won” by keeping their HRHs. I disagree. They lost their jobs, which Harry made clear he didn’t want. The decision is by far more abrupt and final than what their team outlined. I do think the HRHs was significant, though. Had the Queen “stripped” them of this style, I do think it would have garnered echoes of what happened to Harry’s mother in 1996, however unfair the comparison. In this way, the couple keeps the style, but without the negative optics.

Even with this decision, a lot remains up in the air. The Palace declined to comment on security costs. We still don’t know the breadth and mission of the couple’s new foundation. Where will they live? What exactly are they going to do? When will we next see them in the UK? What does any of this look like?

In the short term, Harry and Meghan are in uncharted territory, to put it mildly. Harry carried out final engagements last week and yesterday before flying back to Vancouver to join his wife and son. Already paparazzi shots have been published of Meghan walking with her dogs and Archie, raising the question as to whether the family has in fact undermined their privacy. UK newspapers don’t typically publish paparazzi shots of the Royal Family (with some exceptions), and those that do get out make it online courtesy of European tabloids. If the Sussexes remain in Vancouver, then they are close enough to American West Coast tabloid media that they may well have to deal with an entirely different level of intrusion.

We’ll see. In the meantime, I remain stuck on the fact that their royal career – which began so promisingly – is over. As of right now, whatever work Harry and Meghan conduct, they do as private citizens. This time last year, we were hearing the announcement of Meghan’s first patronages, still in the afterglow of a royal wedding, and excited for a new royal baby. I’m still disappointed in the Sussexes’ decision, and I still don’t think a sufficient answer has been provided as to how this dramatic and final a rupture was necessary after just 20 months of public life as a married couple.

Harry delivered a speech on Sunday evening at a Sentable event that addressed his family’s new status. He said (in part):

“The UK is my home and a place that I love. That will never change.

“I have grown up feeling support from so many of you, and I watched as you welcomed Meghan with open arms as you saw me find the love and happiness that I had hoped for all my life. Finally, the second son of Diana got hitched, hurray!

“I also know you’ve come to know me well enough over all these years to trust that the woman I chose as my wife upholds the same values as I do. And she does, and she’s the same woman I fell in love with.

“We both do everything we can to fly the flag and carry out our roles for this country with pride.

“Once Meghan and I were married, we were excited, we were hopeful, and we were here to serve.

“For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this.

“The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly. It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven’t always got it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.

“What I want to make clear is we’re not walking away, and we certainly aren’t walking away from you. Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible.

“I’ve accepted this, knowing that it doesn’t change who I am or how committed I am.

“But I hope that helps you understand what it had come to, that I would step my family back from all I have ever known, to take a step forward into what I hope can be a more peaceful life.”

The Palace advised that this arrangement will be reviewed in 2021. It’s unclear what oversight the Palace will have over new deals and projects the Sussexes partake in, but one train of thought is that the Lord Chamberlain will have the ability to approve or advise them. Until I see that confirmed, I’m taking this with a grain of salt, but I think it speaks to the still-present question mark of how extreme or rogue the Sussexes intend to be.

I’ve seen some discussion as to whether the review and the HRHs allows the couple to return to public life if they want to. Personally, I don’t think that was the driving force behind the structure of this arrangement, but we’ll see. Once Harry – or Harry and Meghan – are on the record espousing political causes or beliefs, I think it will complicate a later royal career, but that’s perhaps manageable. I’ve also seen the theory that the Royal Family is banking on the couple’s divorce and Harry’s ability to return, but I think the tone of the Queen’s statement makes it clear that they are aware of and do not condone the ugliness of this line of thinking…and indeed, it’s part of what helped create a situation the couple found untenable.

What I think is clear is that the hard party may not be over. Already the Sussexes have sued [threatened to sue] over the publication of the paparazzi shots, so their battle royale with the media is still well underway. As for how all of this impacts things here – well, I intend to keep tabs on the lawsuit(s) and big picture issues that warrant discussion, but as it stands now, I don’t intend to cover the Sussexes’ work with their charitable foundation or various outings and sightings. This site is focused on the British Royal Family and the history of the monarchy – right now, Harry and Meghan are no longer a part of that in a meaningful, public way.

I’m sad to see them go, I’m nervous for how this situation continues to play out, and I hope that all parties – the Sussexes and the Royal Family – are able to find a peaceful path forward with this chapter closed. If I missed anything, drop me a comment or message me on Instagram and I’ll get back to you or update accordingly(!)

Statement from HM The Queen

Following many months of conversations and more recent discussions, I am pleased that together we have found a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family.

Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family.

I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.

I want to thank them for all their dedicated work across this country, the Commonwealth and beyond, and am particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.

It is my whole family’s hope that today’s agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life.

Statement from Buckingham Palace

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are grateful to Her Majesty and the Royal Family for their ongoing support as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.

As agreed in this new arrangement, they understand that they are required to step back from Royal duties, including official military appointments. They will no longer receive public funds for Royal duties.

With The Queen’s blessing, the Sussexes will continue to maintain their private patronages and associations. While they can no longer formally represent The Queen, the Sussexes have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty.

The Sussexes will not use their HRH titles as they are no longer working members of the Royal Family.

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.

Buckingham Palace does not comment on the details of security arrangements. There are well established independent processes to determine the need for publicly-funded security.

This new model will take effect in the Spring of 2020.

6 thoughts on “The Sussexit Decision

  1. Lovely post, Rebecca! As usual, you are spot on. I’m really curious how the paparazzi issue is going to play out in Canada. Surely they didn’t expect that reporters and photographers were going to leave them alone? Lawsuits are already being threatened and they’ve been there a very short amount of time. Purely from a safety standpoint, they might have been safer in England. I don’t think any of this is going to go like they thought it would.

    1. I agree, I think these first paparazzi shots are only a sign of what’s to come and this is going to be one of the bigger challenges they face in their new life.

  2. LEW

    Over the last few days I’ve swung between exasperation with the pair of them to thinking “We don’t really know what has been going on, maybe it was something dreadful that made them leave” to real sadness on hearing Harry’s speech, back to exasperation at the pap shots today.

    I’ve thought something else too. Apparently after the divorce, Diana was offered some really prestigious, lucrative gigs-face of a major Paris perfume house, own US talk show. She declined all of them. I’m sure she had some freebies because they all do, but she was in the pay of no one. I sincerely hope that Meghan and Harry follow this wise course, or at least if Meghan does the money thing Harry can concentrate on charities, but I have grave doubts this will happen and I think this is not over by a very long chalk and is sadly likely to get worse.

    Totally agree with your decision to put this on the back burner Rebecca and thank you for your thoughts today, totally agree with them.

    1. It has definitely been a roller coaster of emotions, for sure! I share your concerns about what deals and projects the Sussexes take on – I definitely hope they don’t go the Fergie route. I would imagine that’s part of why Charles is agreeing to fund them; setting them adrift would almost certainly force them to make money out of necessity sooner rather than later.

  3. Sue

    From an Australian – I see a certain irony in Harry stepping away from the monarchy and to a great degree, his country, through the involvement of an American wife – as did his great-uncle David. The Queen went through that and saw the long-term hurt the family sustained. I am sure to be involved in something similar with her grandson, must cause her great grief. I hope all goes well for all involved, but as a person who has had a family falling out – the hurt on both sides can be hard to get over.

    1. Very much agreed. The personal aspect of all of this is very sad to watch play out. I have great sympathy for the Queen, Charles, and William, and the parallels between this situation and the Abdication Crisis, while not identical, are still profound.

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