Harry faces heartbreak over loss of patronages and military roles

Laura Elston, PA Court Reporter
·5-min read

The loss of the Duke of Sussex’s military roles and royal patronages will be a devastating blow to Harry.

Former soldier Harry spent a decade in the military, risked his life on the frontline in Afghanistan, and took great pride in his association with the Armed Forces.

He will no longer be Captain General of the Royal Marines, Honorary Air Force Commandant of the Royal Air Force Base Honington, nor Honorary Commodore-in-Chief of the Royal Naval Commands’ Small Ships and Diving.

Prince Harry
Harry speaks on the radio from the turret of his Spartan armoured vehicle in the desert in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan (John Stillwell/PA)

Such was Harry’s dedication to his honorary military positions that he sued the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline for libel and won over false claims he had snubbed the Royal Marines after stepping down as a senior royal.

Harry took over as Captain General of the Royal Marines from his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, who is currently unwell in hospital, in December 2017.

Philip spent 64 years in the role. Harry held the position for three – and for one of those years it was on hold after he quit royal duties.

But the duke remained committed to maintaining his links with the forces and has private patronages connected to the services.

“It’s probably not surprising that having served on the front line, having done tours of duty, having been in the military for 10 years, having created Invictus, supported Walking with the Wounded and all others, that the military community, the military family, is probably one of the most important things to the duke and will always be so,” a source said previously.

A source said on Friday that Harry and Meghan had “absolutely, no question” wanted to retain the positions they have lost.

“They do respect the decision but they always made clear they were committed to doing those roles,” the source said.

The announcement from Buckingham Palace marks a difficult end to a fraught experience for the royal family.

Harry and Meghan sparked a major royal crisis when they dropped the bombshell that they wanted to quit as senior royals on January 8 2020.

They released a shock statement, without warning the monarch, saying they intended to step down and become financially independent, but still fully support the Queen – a dual role which in the end was unworkable.

The Sussexes were fresh from a six-week break in Canada when, the day after their first royal engagement of the decade at the Canadian High Commission in London, they declared they had chosen to “carve out a progressive new role” within the monarchy.

It followed a problematic year amid a rift between Harry and his brother, the Duke of Cambridge.

The duke had also lambasted the press during an official royal tour to South Africa as Meghan launched legal action, with the couple giving a television interview telling of their struggles.

Harry and Meghan’s plan for a combined role of earning their own money and doing royal duties would have led to accusations they were profiting from the monarchy.

Buckingham Palace reacted quickly, warning publicly that the decision was complicated.

The Queen convened a summit at Sandringham with the Prince of Wales, William and Harry, plus key royal advisers, to find a way to solve the crisis.

In the end, the couple were faced with a hard Megxit – and on March 31, less than two years after Meghan became a member of the royal family, they stepped down as working royals completely and stopped using their HRH styles.

Royal Year
Harry and Meghan on their final public official duty as senior royals (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

One of the summit’s outcomes was that there should be a 12-month review of the plans, following the transition period.

It was thought the intention was to leave a way back just in case Harry and Meghan wanted to return to the royal fold.

A royal source insisted at the time that the duke and duchess would be keeping all of their patronages, apart from Harry’s military honorary appointments, which were put on hold, and his role as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador which he would relinquish.

“Patronages affected are the duke’s three military patronages and his Commonwealth Youth Ambassador title. All of their other patronages and associations remain,” the royal source said at the time.

But now Megxit has been finalised with the confirmation that the Sussexes will never return as working royals, and that the Queen has stripped them of their royal patronages, and Harry of his honorary military titles.

Harry with his grandmother the Queen at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2015
Harry with his grandmother the Queen at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2015 (Julian Simmonds/The Daily Telegraph/PA)

Meghan has lost her roles as patron of The Royal National Theatre and the Association of Commonwealth Universities, which were give to her by the Queen, and Harry his patronages of the Rugby Football Union and the Rugby Football League.

In 2019, it was seen as a sign of the Queen’s support for the duchess when the monarch passed on the two long-held patronages, relinquishing her formal connection with the National Theatre after 45 years, and with the Association of Commonwealth Universities following more than three decades.

The couple are also no longer president and vice-president of The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.

The Sussexes, who are expecting their second child after the heartbreak of a miscarriage last year, have settled into their new life in California away from the monarchy.

Securing lucrative multimillion-pound deals with both Netflix and Spotify, they have established their Archewell foundation.

But the saga surrounding Harry and Meghan is far from over.

The royal family will now be braced for the couple’s first televised interview since Megxit as they sit down for an “intimate” conversation with Oprah Winfrey, in a show due to be aired on March 7.

Harry and Meghan will also hit the headlines when they make their first return visit to the UK and if they ever appear on a public platform with the Windsors again.

The duke will be expected to join William at Kensington Palace for the unveiling of the statue honouring their late mother Diana, Princess of Wales, which is due to take place on July 1 this year.