What 'stepping back' from Royal family means for Harry, Meghan, Archie and the wider family

Frogmore Cottage - Getty Images
Frogmore Cottage - Getty Images

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have announced they are stepping back as senior members of the royal family.

But the shock move raises many questions about their future, not least of all whether Harry and Meghan's attempt to redefine their royal lives with their son Archie is sustainable.

What did Harry and Meghan's statement say?

The couple said in a "personal message" they intend to step back as senior members of the royal family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to support the Queen.

Read it in full here: 

Where will they live?

They said they now plan to balance their time between the UK and North America.

It is not yet known if they have anywhere lined up as a permanent residence across the Atlantic, but the couple have just spent six weeks in Canada so are expected to base themselves there for part of the year.

What about their home Frogmore Cottage in Windsor?

They will continue to base themselves at Frogmore Cottage when in the UK.

Taxpayers paid £2.4 million to renovate Harry and Meghan's official residence, which the couple moved into just nine months ago.

Frogmore Cottage
Frogmore Cottage

They will retain their security and Metropolitan Police close protection officers, paid for by the UK taxpayer.

Non-senior royals generally don't have full-time royal protection officers.

Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie previously faced criticism over the use of taxpayers' funding for police protection, but the Duke of York now pays for their security himself.

The undisclosed cost of guarding the royal family as a whole is estimated to be more than £100million a year.

The couple had been living in Nottingham Cottage on the Kensington Palace estate - next door to the Cambridges’ 20-room Apartment 1A.

But following the news they were expecting their first child in the spring of 2019 it was suggested they needed more space, which paved the way for the Frogmore Cottage move.

Royal insiders later revealed to the Telegraph that the Sussexes had hoped to establish their own independent ‘court’ at Windsor - only to be thwarted by the Queen and Prince Charles who jointly agreed that their household should remain under the auspices of Buckingham Palace.

As a well-placed source put it at the time: "Harry has always complained about being sidelined by William but now I think they see this split as an opportunity to really spread their wings. There is a sense that sometimes the Sussexes think the world is against them."

How will they become financially independent?

Their new official website - sussexroyal.com - said the couple will no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant from the taxpayer for their official office expenses - which it said accounted for 5% of their office costs.

They will keep the income from the Duchy of Cornwall, Prince Charles’s private estate.

What they will be giving up is a slice of the Queen’s Sovereign Grant - the bit of money given to them by the Queen that is effectively a wage for doing their official duties and pays for at least some of their private office and the upkeep of their home.

How much it is worth is not clear. On their website, they said the grant was equivalent to five per cent of the couple’s total annual income.

"Their Royal Highnesses prefer to release this financial tie," the website states.

By foregoing the Queen’s grant, the couple will be able going forward to make money for themselves.

"They value the ability to earn a professional income, which in the current structure they are prohibited from doing," the website explains.

"For this reason they have made the choice to become members of the Royal Family with financial independence." 

There is no doubt that the Duchess, a former television actress, and the Duke, an ex-soldier, are marketable commodities.

But exactly how they will use their fame and new-found independence to make money without cheapening their own brand - and the Royal family’s - will be intriguing to see unfold.

It is unlikely the Duchess will return to acting although Wednesday it was suggested here was an opportunity for her to play herself in a future series of The Crown.

Fans of the hit show might be disappointed, though, as the hit show's producer said the series might never reach the present day.

Will they be getting paid jobs?

It looks like it in some form.

Their website said the couple "value the ability to earn a professional income, which in the current structure they are prohibited from doing.

"For this reason they have made the choice to become members of the Royal Family with financial independence."

What about the cost to the Canadians?

If Harry and Meghan base themselves in Canada - a realm of which the Queen is monarch, it raises the question of whether the Canadians will have to contribute to their security costs as well, or even pay for an official residence.

Will they lose their HRH titles?

Their statement makes no mention of them losing their HRH titles nor of Harry being removed from the line of succession.

The Duke and Duchess said they have chosen to "carve out a progressive new role within this institution".

Does combining private work with royal duties work?

Having a dual role has proved controversial in the past.

In 2002, the Earl and Countess of Wessex stepped down from their businesses to become full time royals after they were accused of cashing in on their royal status.

Harry's cousin Zara Tindall earns her own income, but does not carry out royal duties nor live in an official residence.

What about the Queen and the Prince of Wales?

It is understood that the Queen and the Prince of Wales were not aware of the content of Harry and Meghan's personal statement before it was issued.

The announcement was made just seven weeks after the Queen's second son Andrew stepped back from royal duties after his disastrous Newsnight interview about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Buckingham Palace has warned that Harry and Meghan's decision to step back will be "complicated" and talks are still at an early stage.

Read the full statement here: 

Why did Harry and Meghan take the decision?

The couple spoke of their struggles dealing with royal life and the intense tabloid interest in a television documentary about their Africa tour.

Meghan said: "It's not enough to just survive something, that's not the point of life. You have got to thrive."

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