The 360: Does it matter if Meghan and Harry are gone for good?

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent

What’s happening

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have reportedly sacked 15 members of staff from their offices in Buckingham Palace, after deciding to step back as senior members of the royal family.

The size of the cull, which accounts for most if not all of their household staff, would be the clearest sign yet that Harry and Meghan do not plan to spend much time in the UK.

Their initial statement, in which they said they planned to “split their time” between North America and the UK, lacked detail on how this might work, and how they hoped to combine supporting the Queen and living more privately.

It comes amid questions over how they plan to become financially independent - particularly during the current “transition period” in which the couple remain working royals and are constrained by rules of the crown in earning their own money.

Why there’s debate

When it comes to the royal family, there is often controversy - and the decision of Harry and Meghan to step back as senior royals has intensified that to a new level. 

Prince Harry has enjoyed popularity with the British public. He has been in the spotlight his whole life and, following the death of his mother, Princess Diana, there has been a broad national affection towards him.

His decision to move to Canada has caused a considerable degree of upset, and the perception that Harry has turned his back on British taxpayers is a cause of consternation.

On the flip side, many have a significant amount of sympathy with Harry, who has been vocal about the pressure he feels from living in the public eye. There is also a feeling that Harry should be entitled to privacy, given how unlikely it is he will ever be crowned king.

The animosity directed at Meghan - either on social media or in the press - has also provoked sympathy towards their decision to leave the UK.

What’s next

Just like Brexit, Harry and Meghan are in a transition period right now - they haven’t actually formally stepped back from their senior royal roles.

It has been reported that they will come back to the UK on 9 March for Commonwealth Day, a high-profile event in the Queen’s calendar.

They will also almost certainly be around for the wedding of Princess Beatrice, Harry’s cousin, who is set to marry Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in London on 29 May, meaning a big family reunion is on the cards.

But whether or not Harry and Meghan make more regular visits back to the UK will likely depend on the level of press scrutiny and privacy they get from their new Canadian friends.

Perspectives

This is a power shift towards Meghan

Courtiers believe they do not just signal an ending of the Sussexes’ links to Britain, but also a ‘power shift’ towards Meghan. In a little over a month Harry has lost a terrifying amount. He has broken with his family, his friends and his way of life. He will never again wear the military uniform he so treasured. By parting company with his dedicated London secretariat he is now effectively severing his royal connections, too. By allowing a transition period for both sides to adjust and by refusing to strip the couple of their HRH titles – though they will not use them – the Queen was making clear, despite her sadness, that the door was still open. The inescapable conclusion is that, by issuing redundancy notices to their staff, Harry and Meghan have themselves slammed the door shut. - Richard Kay, the Daily Mail.

Harry could be the one left isolated

[The staff cut] suggests that in terms of work it will all be done in the States. Some of them will be offered jobs back in the royal household but some have decided it was time to leave anyway. Given the bad publicity, there is a lot of ill feeling, lots of reports of them being freeloaders. There has been criticism of the problem of monetising the monarchy. The monarchy has stepped up the game with that joint engagement between Charles and William and the push of Catherine’s campaign. With [Harry and Meghan] there is media management, it is about control and soft focus. But where she said she felt isolated in the UK, that could be reversed and Harry could be isolated. - Robert Jobson, on Sky News.

Harry and Meghan in South Africa in 2019. (Getty Images)

Canadians should leave the couple in peace

This man didn’t choose the life he was born into, but he did choose to leave it. To honour the memory of his mother, we as Canadians owe it to Prince Harry and his family to allow them to live their lives in privacy and in peace. He and his brother have grown up without a mom because others chose not to respect their mother’s privacy and peace. Other area residents have passed Markle on jogging trails and out walking her baby. So far, most neighbours seem to be pleasantly following Kirkham’s lead, and resisting the selfie. And that’s the way it should be. - Grant Lawrence, Vancouver Courier.

Harry is an unhappy man

The deep wounds of his mother’s death have never healed. And his sense of his role as the second son, the fact that he loved his military career but then left and didn’t have that sense of purpose — all of that came together to make him a very unhappy man. - Tina Brown, The Diana Chronicles author.

I hope the public will be kind to Harry

What about Harry? Well, I hope the public will be kind. He has walked away from one set of responsibilities, it’s true, but he did so to honour another – being a father and a husband – and that’s worth respect. Plus, of all the people taking a gamble here, the greatest is Harry’s. I have no doubt that he is self-possessed and has a clear idea of what he wants to do (his service to army and charity proves that, so don’t ever call him self-indulgent), but he is leaving a structured, cloistered existence within a very narrow social circle in England for a ruthless North American meritocracy that will be thousands of miles apart in attitudes and culture. - Tim Stanley, The Daily Telegraph.

Meghan was always going to face difficulty fitting in

Prince Harry has always had a tricky relationship with the royal role. (Getty Images)

While people of African ancestry have lived in Britain for centuries — and an 18th century queen, Charlotte, might have had African ancestors — most modern black Britons are descended from immigrants who made their way to the British isles in the last century, particularly after 1948, when Parliament opened the door to people from colonies in the West Indies and Africa to settle in Britain. - Erin Logan, LA Times.

We’re paying for them without them having to do any of their duties

The speed with which Harry and Meghan have sold out to these woefully ill-suited banking ‘partners’ is as staggering as their willingness to use Diana’s death to justify the fees is distasteful. They only announced they were leaving Royal duty a month ago, and they’re still on the publicly funded sovereign grant payroll until May. British royal protection squad officers accompanied them to the JP Morgan forum, at an undisclosed cost to the British taxpayer. So, we’re now paying for them to fleece the royal status Harry inherited and Meghan married into, without them having to do any of the mundane duties that such fleecing normally requires in return. - Piers Morgan, MailOnline.

Harry and Meghan are welcome in Canada - but hospitality must be reasonable

So Harry and Meghan are welcome here. The good people of Vancouver Island are happy to embrace them as neighbours and have even begun to develop a touching protective streak in support of the young couple’s much-desired privacy. Before you know it, they’ll probably have little Archie on ice skates like any good Canadian kid. But hospitality must be reasonable, and when it comes to the issue of who should be paying their day-to-day costs, Canadians have made it crystal clear it shouldn’t be taxpayers. - Aaron Wudrick, The Daily Telegraph.