Colleen Hammond | Opinions Editor
In a time of great political upheaval and increasingly complicated international relations, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle have fanned the flames of discord in the U.K.
In a groundbreaking announcement on social media last week, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex formally declared that they will be “stepping back” from their positions as senior members of the royal family.
The couple stated that they will be splitting their time between the U.K. and Canada while raising their son and attempting to become “financially independent.”
For those familiar with the Sussexes, this announcement should not come as a complete shock. In previous interviews, both Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry have commented on the unbearable pressure the British media have placed on the royal family, often demeaning the Duchess for her nationality, race, parenting style and relationship with her parents.
In addition to the couple’s sensitivity to media perception of Duchess Meghan, Prince Harry has also expressed his apprehension to paparazzi after his mother, Princess Diana, was tragically killed in a car accident involving an intrusive photographer.
Although the Sussex’s desire for more freedom from the public eye is understandable, their withdrawal from the royal spotlight is a deeply complex issue.
This announcement is unprecedented in the royal family, and seems somewhat unplanned by the Sussexes.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are senior members of the royal family, and subsequently, their entire lifestyle is currently funded by British taxpayers. Their current residence, Frogmore Cottage, was renovated for the couple’s use for more than £2.4 million, all of which came from public funds.
While the Sussexes have made it clear that they wish to remove themselves from the public fund, as confirmed by a statement from Queen Elizabeth on Monday, it is deeply unclear how they will make money.
Royals have struggled for decades to maneuver complex laws surrounding their ability to work and their royal duties and finances, often abdicating their positions in favor of the pursuit of personal freedom and wealth.
The couple are known as global philanthropists. While their work as advocates for mental health and world education are admirable, it raises concerns as to how they will maintain their lavish lifestyle on a philanthropist salary.
While their decision to leave the spotlight is admirable, modern and understandable, it is somewhat selfish to retain their royal titles and, for the time being, their royal wealth while not performing the duties of the royal family.
The Queen’s most recent statement has made it clear that this is a time of transition for the young royals, but it seems odd that they are currently retaining their royal status.
If the Sussexes truly wanted to escape the public eye and pressures of royalty, they should abdicate their positions in line for the throne. This would remove them from publicly funded life and allow them to become civilians.
Of course, this would complicate their relationship with the other members of the royal family. If the Duke and Duchess of Sussex abdicate their positions in the line of succession, they will still be allowed to interact with the royal relatives, but they will forever more be forced to treat the family like royalty. This means they will have to bow and curtsey before all their relatives who still retain their titles.
Also, abdication would place the infant Prince Archie in a peculiar position. Without his parents keeping their royal stature, Archie may also sacrifice his line to the throne. Although it is wildly unlikely that any Sussex family member will ever reign over the U.K., the future position of Prince Archie cannot be ignored. It is still unclear if he will have the opportunity to rejoin the royal family once he is of age.
Despite the precarious nature of this transition and the dozens of unanswered questions it leaves for the monarchy to sort out, it is clear that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are taking a modern approach to their royal responsibilities. By prioritizing their mental health and familial well-being, Meghan and Harry have set a new and refreshing example of the role of the monarchy in the 21st century.