Prince Harry on Wednesday became the latest member of the British royal family to announce his effective resignation from public duties, saying he and his wife, Meghan Markle, planned to spend more time in North America and become “financially independent”.
The announcement from the Duke of Sussex, younger son of the Prince of Wales, the heir to the throne, follows months of reports about the couple’s unhappiness with life in the public eye. The duke in October sued two newspapers for alleged phone hacking, days after the duchess initiated proceedings against the Mail on Sunday for breach of privacy.
The couple’s decision — unprecedented for such senior royals — comes at a time of significant upheaval for the monarchy. Prince Andrew, the Queen’s second son, in November announced he was giving up all public duties after revelations over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted US sex offender.
Prince Harry and his wife said that “after many months of reflection” they had chosen to “make a transition” so as 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,” the couple wrote.
The duchess has faced significant media intrusion and criticism since she married Prince Harry in May 2018. Signs of their unhappiness over their public role have grown since the birth of their son, Archie, in May last year.
The duchess, a former actress, has set a number of precedents for the royal family. She was born in the US, has an African-American mother and is a divorcee. One of the first signs of divergence between the couple and the wider family came last June when they announced the establishment of their own charitable foundation, separate from that of the wider royal family.
They planned to balance their time between the UK and North America, the couple wrote in their statement.
“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,” they wrote
There has been speculation that the couple will base themselves in Canada, a Commonwealth country of which the Queen is head of state.
The couple said they would continue to honour their duty to the Queen, the Commonwealth and their patronages — a sign that they will not resign from posts with UK charities and organisations, as the Duke of York has done.
The statement also stressed that they would continue to collaborate with the Queen, the Prince of Wales and Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, with whom the couple had been reported to have a strained relationship.
The couple’s announcement provoked a guarded response from the royal family.
In a statement, Buckingham Palace said discussions with the couple were “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 palace said.