‘What are Harry and Meghan thinking?’: How the world’s newspapers reported Sussexes stepping back from royal family

Kate Ng

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex prompted headlines across the world with the announcement they would “step back as ‘senior’ members of the royal family” on Wednesday.

An announcement made by the couple on Instagram instantly gave rise to widespread reports of disgruntlement among family members, with the Queen said to be “furious” at not being consulted prior to the decision.

As it quickly became a leading trend on social media, the term “Megxit” was splashed across a series of front pages across the world, with the New York Times describing Meghan’s impact on the royal family as “Yoko Ono-like”.

The newspaper noted there had been royals who left the family before, including the late Princess Diana when she lost her title after divorcing Prince Charles in 1996, and Prince Andrew who has been “all but banished” after his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein became the subject of scrutiny last year.

“There is no precedent for Harry and Meghan’s situation,” it added. “Meghan and Harry’s desire to break free from royal traditions and renounce the usual menu of royal obligations speaks directly to the challenges facing the monarchy as the reign of the queen, now 93, enters its final years.”

USA Today’s headline asked if the couple were really aware of the implications of their decision, asking: “What are Harry and Meghan thinking?”

Sally Bedell Smith, an American biographer for Diana, told USA Today: “You would think that Harry would know that you can’t just go off and make decisions without taking advice.

“For them to have cooked this up all by themselves – I think is a real violation of the way the royal family is supposed to operate.”

The front page of the New York Post poked fun at the idea of Harry and Meghan leading “commoner” lives, superimposing their faces on a couple in bathrobes and holding cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

NYP writer Maureen Callahan wrote straightforwardly: “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are hypocrites – abdicate or stay!”

“Going forward, they should have to pay for their own security, their own travel, their own staff, their own homes and upkeep and childcare.

“To employ a cliché: They are having their cake and eating it too,” she added.

In Canada, where the couple said they plan to "balance their time" between there and the UK, the press appears welcoming. The Toronto Star's headline said: "Harry and Meghan, you're finally free - now come to Canada, where you belong."

In response to the couple’s stated desire to become “financially independent”, Bloomberg offered advice and suggested they take up public speaking.

It said Harry could earn nearly US$500,000 per appearance, almost as much as former US president Barack Obama.

Vanity Fair sided with Harry and Meghan, calling out British media tabloids' “unfair coverage” as a big reason for the couple’s decision.

The poor treatment of Meghan by the press has not gone unnoticed by the British public, with 39 percent suggesting she is treated least favourably.

Elsewhere, the Sydney Morning Herald drew parallels between the Duke and Duchess’ planned exit with the abdication of then-King Edward VIII in 1936.

Edward gave up his royal title after confirming his plan to marry American Wallis Simpson, who was disapproved of because she was a divorcee.

SMH wrote: “To some, Meghan is seen as an ambitious American whose arrival and brand-focused Hollywood style has served to widen the gulf between Harry and his family.

“She has brought an American PR methodology to an antiquated British institution. That the system is rejecting change, like foreign antibodies in a blue bloodstream, is hardly surprising.”

Cartoonist Matt Golding’s contribution to Australian newspaper The Age was a comic of Prince Harry saying: “King Arthur removed a sword from a stone… and now I will attempt to remove a silver spoon from my mouth.”

The New Zealand Herald pinpointed the arrival of the couple's son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, was born as the pivotal moment that "things irretrievably broke for the Sussexes", with the headline: "The moment that ruined Meghan and Harry's royal career".

Across the Channel, French newspaper Le FIgaro quoted royalty specialist Stephane Bern in a headline which read: "English taxpayers no longer want to pay for Meghan and Harry".

He said: "Gone are the days when the English paid for everyone [in the royal family] without wondering why; today, it has to be worth what it costs, that those who are not the core show that they earn a living and are independent."

German newspapers took a more pragmatic approach, with Bild scrutinising how much Meghan and Harry would be giving up by withdrawing from their current roles.

Independent weekly Die Zeit carried the headline "Even the Queen has a shortage of skilled workers", comparing the royals' duties in "waving and greeting" to the "realms of bakers, plumbers and tilers".

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