The Fiji Times

GOODBYE ROYAL HIGHNESS

- ■ AP

LONDON — Goodbye, your royal highnesses. Hello, life as — almost — ordinary civilians.

Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle will no longer use the titles “royal highness” or receive public funds for their work under a deal that lets the couple step aside as working royals, Buckingham Palace announced Saturday.

Releasing details of the dramatic split triggered by the couple’s unhappines­s with life under media scrutiny, the palace said Prince Harry and Ms Markle will cease to be working members of the royal family when the new arrangemen­ts take effect in the “spring of 2020.”

The radical break is more complete than the type of arrangemen­t anticipate­d 10 days ago when the royal couple stunned Britain with an abrupt announceme­nt that they wanted to step down. They said they planed to combine some royal duties with private work in a “progressiv­e” plan, but that is no longer on the table.

Prince Harry and Ms Markle will no longer use the titles His Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness but will retain them, leaving the possibilit­y that the couple might change their minds and return sometime in the future.

Prince Harry’s late mother, Diana, was stripped of the Her Royal Highness title when she and Prince Charles divorced.

They will be known as Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Ms Markle, Duchess of Sussex. Prince Harry will remain a prince and sixth in line to the British throne.

The agreement also calls for Ms Markle and Prince Harry to repay 2.4 million pounds ($F6.75m) in taxpayers’ money spent renovating a house for them near Windsor Castle, Frogmore Cottage. The use of public funds to transform the house’s five separate apartments into a spacious single family home for them had raised ire in the British press. They will continue to use Frogmore Cottage as their base in England.

The deal came after days of talks among royals sparked by Ms Markle and Prince Harry’s announceme­nt last week that they wanted to step down as senior royals and live part-time in Canada.

The couple’s departure is a wrench for the royal family, and Queen Elizabeth II did say earlier this week that she wished the couple had wanted to remain fulltime royals, but she had warm words for them in a statement Saturday.

The 93-year-old queen said she was pleased that “together we have found a constructi­ve and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family. Prince Harry, Ms Markle 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,” The Queen said.

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

Despite The Queen’s kind words, the new arrangemen­t will represent an almost complete break from life as working royals, especially for Prince Harry. As a devoted Army veteran and servant to the crown, the prince carried out dozens of royal engagement­s each year,

Royal expert and author Penny Junor said the new setup will benefit both sides of the family.

“There are no blurred lines. They are starting afresh and they are going with the queen’s blessing, I think it is the best of all worlds,” she said.

It is not yet clear whether Prince Harry and Ms Markle will continue to receive financial support from Prince Harry’s father, Prince Charles, who used revenue from the Duchy of Cornwall to help fund his activities and those of his wife and sons.

The duchy, chartered in 1337, produced more than 20 million pounds ($F56.23m) in revenue last year. It is widely regarded as private money, not public funds, so prince Charles may opt to keep details of its disbursal private. Much of the royals’ wealth comes from private holdings.

Though Prince Harry and Ms Markle will no longer represent the queen, the palace said they would “continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty” while carrying out their private charitable work.

The withdrawal of Prince Harry from royal engagement­s will increase the demands on his brother, Prince William, and William’s wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Buckingham Palace did not disclose who will pay for the couple’s security going forward. It currently is taxpayerfu­nded and carried out primarily by a special unit of the Metropolit­an Police, also known as Scotland Yard.

“There are well establishe­d independen­t processes to determine the need for publicly funded security,” it said.

Prince Harry and Ms Markle have grown increasing­ly uncomforta­ble with constant media scrutiny since the birth in May of their son, Archie. They married in 2018 in a ceremony that drew a worldwide TV audience.

Ms Markle joined the royal family after a successful acting career and spoke enthusiast­ically about the chance to travel throughout Britain and learn about her new home, but disillusio­nment set in fairly quickly.

She launched legal action against a newspaper in October for publishing a letter she wrote to her father. Prince Harry has complained bitterly of racist undertones in some media coverage of his wife, who is biracial.

There has also been a breach in the longtime close relationsh­ip between Prince Harry and Prince William, a future king, over issues that have not been made public.

The couple’s desire to separate from the rest of the family had been the subject of media speculatio­n for months. But they angered senior royals by revealing their plans on Instagram and a new website without advance clearance from the queen or palace officials.

Queen Elizabeth summoned Prince Harry, Prince William and Prince Charles, to an unusual crisis meeting at her rural retreat in eastern England in an effort to find common ground.

The result was Saturday’s agreement, which is different from Prince Harry and Ms Markle’s initial proposal that they planned to combine a new, financiall­y independen­t life with a reduced set of royal duties.

It is not known where in Canada the couple plan to locate. They are thought to be considerin­g Vancouver Island, where they spent a long Christmas break, or Toronto, where Ms Markle filmed the TV series “Suits” for many years.

It is not clear what Harry and Ms Markle’s immigratio­n and tax status will be in Canada, or whether Ms Markle will follow through on plans to obtain British nationalit­y.

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 ?? Picture: AP ?? Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, leave Windsor Castle in a convertibl­e car after their wedding in Windsor, England.
Picture: AP Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, leave Windsor Castle in a convertibl­e car after their wedding in Windsor, England.
 ?? Picture: AP/FILE ?? From left, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Queen Elizabeth pose for a group photo at the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards Ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London.
Picture: AP/FILE From left, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Queen Elizabeth pose for a group photo at the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards Ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London.
 ?? Picture: AP, FILE ?? Frogmore Cottage, the home of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, on the Home Park Estate, Windsor, England.
Picture: AP, FILE Frogmore Cottage, the home of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, on the Home Park Estate, Windsor, England.
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