Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's announcement: what the language, timing and tone reveals

Harry and Meghan have announced they are stepping back as senior royals [Photo: Getty]
Harry and Meghan have announced they are stepping back as senior royals [Photo: Getty]

The dust is just beginning to settle following Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s bombshell that they will be stepping down as “senior” members of the Royal Family.

The couple made the shock revelation both on their new website and on Instagram, explaining how they would be splitting their time between the UK and North America and intend to become “financially independent”, raising questions as to what - if anything - taxpayers will be contributing to.

While there has been much speculation about what the move will mean for the couple and the impact it will have on the royal family, experts believe some clues can be sought from the language used and timing of the announcement itself.

Popular culture expert, Nick Ede, found the tone of the revelation quite cold and matter of fact.

“I think that not giving much indication of the reasoning and not referencing prince Charles or William in any family way rather coldly speaking about Royal responsibility it makes this all look very calculated,” he explains.

“To say they have been thinking of this for two years basically means from the day they got married this was their intention.”

READ MORE: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepping down as senior royals: What's next?

Anthony Burr, who runs PR consultancy Burr Media agrees that the tone was to the point.

“The statement from the Sussexes is as bold as it gets,” he says.

“They want ‘out’ and the language they have used paints that picture for us in no uncertain terms.”

READ MORE: Meghan Markle's blog designers create new Sussex Royal website

Emma Serlin from London Speech Workshop believes that the message was very clever and well thought out.

“This message is well written, careful and very clear,” she explains. “Firstly there is no apology whatsoever. Every phrase near the start of a sentence is considered and creates a firm message using verbs which are final eg. 'chosen', 'we intend'. It's not 'we are thinking about' or 'we're considering'.”

Serlin believes the couple will have chosen their words and tone carefully to strike a balance between outlining their intentions, while being respectful.

“The language is very non-aggressive and positive and about a 'progressive new role' and nothing about 'we are struggling with negative attention' or anything like that,” she explains.

But could a little bit of disingenuity have crept into the statement? Burr believes so.

“The statement did read: ‘we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties,’” he explains.

“But according to media coverage, Her Majesty The Queen, the Prince of Wales and even his brother, the Duke of Cambridge have been blindsided by the announcement.”

Serlin agreed that there was something of a contradiction between the respectful language used and the lack of information provided to the royal family in advance.

“The tone is incredibly respectful of the Royal Family even though not telling them their plans - as apparently is the case - is not that respectful in reality - as it would not be in any family.”

But she has a theory about why the couple decided to do this.

“I suspect that it was done strategically so that Harry didn't become embroiled in political and emotional negotiations with other members of the Royal Family or their internal bureaucracy to deviate from their chosen path. As might happen within any other family too.”

READ MORE: Meghan Markle’s father “disappointed” by their decision

What does the language and tone of the announcement reveal? [Photo: Getty]
What does the language and tone of the announcement reveal? [Photo: Getty]

For Burr signs of a potential split from Royal protocol have always lingered.

“The couple set up their own Instagram account, used different media advisors and even broke off from William and Kate's charity with their new charitable foundation, which they mention with ‘the launch of our new charitable entity’,” he says.

“Harry has always seen himself as a Royal with a licence to do things his way and his partnership with Meghan has now compounded this further,” he continues.

“With her influence and the closeness of their young nuclear family, they are determined to move away from the ‘institution’ of the Royal Family as they see themselves as more ‘progressive’ – two key words used in the very first sentence.”

Serlin agrees that Meghan’s influence can be seen within the announcement itself.

“I sense that Meghan has been hugely influential in this and the tone of setting the scene where the chance for negotiation has gone is very 'American'.

“She has clearly made her view known that they can build the life they want for themselves - especially now that they have a child and probably want more children, while trying to remain respectful of the deeply embedded respect for the Royal Family.”

The couple also seem to have given consideration to the public’s role in the move.

“The sentence 'it is with your encouragement...make this adjustment' - while I don't understand it from a psychological point of view it is very clever,” explains Serlin.

“It suggests that it's the public support which has led them to feel they can make this decision, an almost 'fait d'accompli' that the public will support them - before that's known to be the case.”

Xanthe Vaughan Williams Director and Co-founder at Fourth Day PR notes that the statement is very much addressed to the general public.

“[It is] more like a note from a band to its fan base, referring to the encouragement they have received,” she says.

“Also, they've chosen language that wouldn't usually apply to a formal statement - I don't think "exciting next step" would make an appearance in any correspondence from the Buckingham Palace press office.

“It is very much in contrast to the Buckingham Palace response, which doesn't disguise its irritation.”

And what about the timing of the announcement?

Is it possible that Harry’s uncle, Prince Andrew’s recent headlines have played a part?

“When Prince Andrew was side-lined following his car crash interview on ‘BBC’s Newsnight’, this may just have presented the opportunity the Sussexes were looking for,” he suggests.

“Harry may have thought: “If Uncle Andrew is allowed to not carry out his full Royal duties then why shouldn’t I be?”

But Burr also suspects Harry and Meghan may have joined many others in hopping on the new year, new start bandwagon.

“January is a time for New Year’s resolutions and we have seen reports of family lawyers being inundated with record spikes in divorce filings this week after strained relationships are exacerbated over Christmas and New Year,” he explains.

“It seems that now is the time the Sussexes have decided that they are ready to begin the long winded ‘transition’ and ‘adjustment’ to prepare for an amicable separation and even a potential future divorce from the Royal Family.”