Royal couple sought half-in half-out deal, but are ‘out’

Caroline Davies
Photograph: Steve Parsons/AP

After 10 days of turmoil over the future of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the outcome is, perhaps, not the half-in, half-out role the couple appear to have anticipated. Harry and Meghan have gone from “stepping back” as senior royals to stepping down. They are out. And destined, it seems, to spend most of their time in North America.

Buckingham Palace’s statement makes clear that it is felt the couple “can no longer formally represent” the Queen. On their new website, sussexroyal.com, where they set out their intention of carving out new “progressive” roles, along with becoming “financially independent” the couple seemed to have hoped to become hybrid royals.

They felt they could “continue to carry out their duties for Her Majesty the Queen, while having the future financial autonomy to work externally”. They also wanted to retain their patronages and “proudly” carry out “works for the monarchy within the UK or abroad, as called upon”.

However, for the Queen, it seems, this was a step too far. She will not be calling on their services.

Her personal statement is warm, and acknowledging of the “challenges they have experienced as the result of intense scrutiny”. She speaks of her particular pride in “how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family”.

“Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,” she said, as a grandmother, rather than a sovereign.

A separate Buckingham Palace statement makes clear the couple is “required” to step back from royal duties. Any doubts over whether they could be both in and out, is now clarified. The latter has prevailed.

The crunch issue at the Sandringham summit on Monday was, undoubtedly, funding. Just how could the couple go about earning their own income? This issue has taxed working royals in the past – notably the Earl and Countess of Wessex. Both, in the end, gave up their businesses because of potential conflict of interest.

The prospect of the Sussexes cutting commercial deals, while still representing the monarch, was too great a risk

The prospect of the Sussexes cutting commercial deals, while still at times representing the monarch, was too great a risk to the reputation of the House of Windsor and the monarchy.

Though Harry and Meghan still technically retain their HRH styles, they have agreed they will not use them. They have not been stripped of them, unlike Harry’s mother Diana, Princess of Wales following her divorce.

They will continue to use their titles of duke and duchess, and henceforth will be styled Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.

This raises the question of what will happen regarding their new sussexroyal brand, which they have already trademarked for up to 100 items, if they are no longer, effectively, working members of the royal family?

Overall, the agreement struck is to the couple’s advantage financially. By virtue of their royal links they have international celebrity to trade on. They are now free from any constraints over how they earn their money. The only thing binding them is a promise that as they embark on their brave new world, that “everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty”.

They will be financially independent of the taxpayer, though for now they will continue to be privately financially supported by the Prince of Wales. They can keep their patronages, though Harry, a former soldier, will have to give up his honorary military appointments. This includes as captain general of the Royal Marines, a position he inherited from his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh.

On one issue, in particular, it is clear that Buckingham Palace has listened carefully to public criticism since the couple’s bombshell announcement, the timing of which left the Queen and Prince Charles blindsided – or “disappointed” and “hurt” .

The couple are to repay the £2.4m public funds used to refurbish their Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage. Though they moved in just nine months ago, the place is already in the process of being shuttered, with staff deployed elsewhere.