Cover Prince Harry and his wife Meghan hold their baby son Archie at the Tutu Legacy Foundation in Cape Town on September 25, 2019. (Image: Henk Kruger/Pool/ AFP)

What we know so far about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's surprising decision to step back from their royal roles

It’s no secret that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle aren’t accustomed to the royal way of life. Since their marriage in 2018, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have drawn a lot of flak from the public for their desire to be private despite their roles as “senior” royal members. The couple even made headlines with their documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey where they spoke about their challenges as royals, and Harry’s desire to move to Africa.

What everyone wasn’t prepared for, however, is Harry and Meghan’s plan to resign from their roles. In an announcement that shocked the public on Wednesday, the royal couple announced via their official Instagram account and website that they “intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent.”

This revelation comes after they missed the royal family’s annual Christmas celebrations last year, opting to go on a six-week vacation in Canada with their son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, born in May last year.

What the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have said

According to their statement, Harry and Meghan said this transition was a result of “many months of reflection and internal discussions”. After stepping back as “senior members of the Royal Family”, the couple aims “to carve out a progressive new role” within the institution by working to “become financially independent.” Harry and Meghan will, however, continue to “fully support Her Majesty The Queen” through their roles as the president and vice-president of The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, as well as their existing patronages and supported causes.

The couple added that they would be dividing their time between the United Kingdom and North America. Their son Archie appeared to be one of their considerations for the big step, with Harry and Meghan expressing their desire to raise him “with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing (their) family with the space to focus on the next chapter”.

What Buckingham Palace has said

In a brief statement issued shortly after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s announcement, the Buckingham Palace responded, “Discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”

This short and indefinite response has led many to speculate that Harry and Meghan’s decision to step back had come as a surprise to the royal family as well.

What is going to change?

While Buckingham Palace has not made further comments, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have already outlined their updated roles on their official website.


As financially independent royals, Harry and Meghan will no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant, which supports the royal family in their official duties and in the up-keeping of the official residences and workspaces.

According to their website, the Sovereign Grant has, up until now, accounted for five per cent of the funding for the Office of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with the remaining 95 per cent derived from the income allocated by Harry’s father Prince Charles, generated through the Duchy of Cornwall. In their new roles, Harry and Meghan will only be funded by the Sovereign Grant for official duties in support of The Queen, but will continue to be entitled to funds from the Duchy of Cornwall as Prince Charles sees fit.


A key change will be the way the couple will engage with the media, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have announced that they will no longer participate in the Royal Rota, an established system which gives a pool of “UK print and broadcast media exclusive inside access to the official engagements of members of the Royal Family.”

These media outlets include The Sun and the Daily Mirror, which Harry sued for alleged phone hacking, and The Daily Mail—sister paper to The Mail, which Meghan sued for publishing her handwritten letter to her father last year.

Instead, the couple will be engaging with “grassroots media organisations and young, up-and-coming journalists”, “invite specialist media to specific events/engagements”, and “provide access to credible media outlets focused on objective news reporting to cover key moments and events”. Harry and Meghan will also continue to share information directly through the official Instagram and website.