The Queen’s subjects would never have let them have their cake and eat it
Make no mistake – last night’s statement represents the hardest possible Megxit for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. While insisting Harry, Meghan and Archie “will always be much loved members of my family”, the 93-yearold monarch could not be clearer on their on-going role in the Firm.
The dual statement – both from the Queen as a grandmother and Buckingham Palace as an institution – appeared purposely designed to combine both the personal and the professional. Since the monarchy isn’t just a family but a business, what other option was there when two of its major shareholders had declared their intent to start a rival firm in North America?
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex had handed in their notice – and this was the Queen giving them their P45.
In paying tribute to the couple and showing support for their wish for a more independent life, the Queen was speaking from the heart. It is no secret behind Palace gates that she has been left devastated by their bombshell statement on Jan 8 – and by her own admission last Monday; she would have preferred her grandson and his wife to have remained full-time working members of the Royal Family.
Yet as only someone who has spent nearly 68 years on the throne knows, a monarchy cannot function on sentiment alone. Having always insisted that the royals can only appear on the Buckingham Palace balcony for as long as there are wellwishers in the Mall, the Queen’s head clearly told her that her subjects were never going to stomach letting Harry and Meghan have their cake and eat it. The mother of the nation had rightly read the mood.
Indeed, after referencing the “intense scrutiny” they have faced over the last two years and their desire to start building a “happy” and most notably “peaceful” new life, there was really no way she could have let them carry on being half in-half out royals.
With Meghan already cheerfully carrying out her own engagements in Vancouver and some Frogmore Cottage staff now assigned to other duties, the idea of the couple spending a transitional period between Canada and the UK was not just starting to look optimistic, but absurd. Yet in offering to pay back the £2.4million spent on refurbishing their home in Windsor, the couple are at least committing to keeping a base in Blighty. That is not to say that the statement did not contain some surprises. To strip Harry – a former Army Captain who has undertaken two tours of Afghanistan – of his military appointments as well as royal duties may strike some as overly punitive. Becoming a soldier was undoubtedly the making of the 35-year-old royal and the Invictus Games remains his finest achievement. But with some in the Royal Marines, of which Harry is Captain General, said to be “disgusted” by his behaviour and threatening to refuse to raise a toast should he attempt to “commercialise” his royal role, the quest for financial independence appears at odds with such weighty royal responsibilities.
Hence why they will no longer receive public funds – although whether the Prince of Wales will continue to slip them Duchy of Cornwall cash remains to be seen, amid reports the heir to the throne has been dipping into his private reserves to keep his sons and their families afloat.
The Sussexes had hoped to continue “fully supporting” the Queen while mobilising Sussex Royal as a global brand, but the instruction for them to neither continue officially representing the Queen nor using their HRH titles suggests they may need to come up with a new moniker. As the statement states in the starkest possible terms: “They are no longer working members of the Royal family.”
The underlying message was clear: Keep the Sussex by all means, but don’t count on the royal part.
As far as security goes, only time will tell if they are able to retain any publicly-funded staff. But it seems unlikely.
One cannot help but be left with the feeling that there are no winners here.
The Queen and the Royal Family have not only lost one of their most popular figures but a prince whose marriage to a mixed-race American divorcee had heralded the dawn of a new progressive era for the House of Windsor. Now that dream is over.
Yes, the Sussexes have got their freedom but at what cost?
‘One cannot help but be left with the feeling there are no winners here. They got their freedom ... but at what cost?’