Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (aka the Duke and Duchess of Sussex) have officially broken from the Britain’s royal family and will not be returning to life as working royals, Buckingham Palace said in a statement Friday.
“Following conversations with the duke,” the statement said, “the Queen has written confirming that in stepping away from the work of the royal family it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service.”
When Harry and Meghan “stepped back” as working members of the royal family last year so that they could earn salaries for their work and have more privacy, the Queen granted them a one-year review period. The couple could test-drive their new life — but still have their old jobs back if they wanted.
In Friday’s statement, Buckingham Palace (and thus the Queen) made it clear that the review period was over and while Harry and Meghan are still part of the Mountbatten-Windsor family, they’re officially out of “the firm.”
“While all are saddened by their decision, the duke and duchess remain much loved members of the family.”
The palace also said Friday that as a result of this official separation, the Queen was formally taking away the royal patronages she previously granted the Sussexes and stripping Harry — a 10-year army veteran — of his honorary military appointments.
The statement said the patronages and positions as honorary heads of military corps will “be returned to Her Majesty, before being redistributed among working members of the royal family.”
The patronages are: the Royal Marines, Royal Air Force Honington, Royal Navy Small Ships and Diving, the Rugby Football Union, the Rugby Football League, the Royal National Theatre and the Association of Commonwealth Universities. Harry and Meghan have also been removed from their positions as the president and vice president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.
This was always part of the official plan that was agreed upon last year and stated in the agreement that was announced on Jan. 18, 2020. Harry and Meghan knew going into the review period that if they decided to split from life as working royals for good, they would lose their formal ties with these organizations.
A spokesperson for the Sussexes told BuzzFeed News Friday that they would continue to support their former patronages in a private capacity.
“As evidenced by their work over the past year, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the U.K. and around the world, and have offered their continued support to the organizations they have represented regardless of official role. We can all live a life of service. Service is universal,” the spokesperson said.
Although Harry and Meghan had the choice to resume positions as working members of the royal family up until this point, in the past year, the Sussexes have built their new lives outside the House of Windsor with no indication in their actions that they considered returning to be an option.
They bought a house in Meghan’s home state of California and announced Sunday that they are expecting their second child. They signed multi-million dollar development deals with Netflix and Spotify. In December, they launched Archewell, an umbrella company consisting of the nonprofit Archewell Foundation and two production companies, Archewell Audio and Archewell Productions. (Here’s their explanation of why they chose that name for their organizations.) The Sussexes have yet to create any content for Netflix, but Archewell Audio dropped its first episode on Dec. 29, a holiday special featuring high-profile guests, including Harry and Meghan’s 1 year-old son Archie, who wished listeners a happy new year.
The Sussexes have said that the harsh media spotlight and what they described as biased and unfair coverage — particularly of Meghan — was a big factor in their decision to leave life as working royals. In stepping back, they said last year, they hoped to remove “the supposed ‘public interest’ justification for media intrusion into their lives,”
In the past year, they’ve used their freedom from the restrictions of the palace press offices to defend their privacy and push back against the media.
In April, Harry and Meghan announced that they were cutting off the four biggest UK tabloids, writing in a letter to the newspapers’ editors that there would be “no corroboration and zero engagement,” because they would no longer “offer themselves up as currency for an economy of clickbait and distortion.”
They also pursued legal action against media outlets that broke the rules far more aggressively than they did as working royals. Over the summer, the Sussexes won a lawsuit against a paparazzi agency that took drone photos of Archie playing in the family’s yard, and on Feb. 11 Meghan won a decisive victory over the Mail on Sunday after suing them for publishing a letter she sent to her estranged father in violation of her privacy in 2019.
Since “stepping back” last year, the duke and duchess have also spoken publicly — albeit in a non-partisan way — about “controversial” or “political” topics usually avoided by members of the royal family (to the horror, feigned or otherwise, of the UK media).
Meghan talked about police brutality, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the protests that erupted in the US following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Harry urged Americans to “reject hate speech” and vote in the 2020 election.
And, on Monday, news broke that the couple would soon speak publicly on a much larger scale.
In a press release, American television network CBS announced that they had secured an exclusive 90-minute interview with the Sussexes, conducted by Oprah Winfrey, to be aired in a primetime special Sunday, Mar. 7 at 8 p.m. ET.
This will be the couple’s first big televised interview since “stepping back” from the royal family last year and it’s clear that they plan to talk about the factors that led to that decision.
Monday’s press release emphasized that the program will focus on Meghan. The first part of the program will be a conversation between her and the iconic television host, with Harry only joining in the show’s second half.
“Winfrey will speak with Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, in a wide-ranging interview, covering everything from stepping into life as a royal, marriage, motherhood, philanthropic work to how she is handling life under intense public pressure,” CBS said.
The interview news has raised questions about the timing of the palace’s announcement, which was made more than a month before the Sussexes’ one-year review period ended.
When asked why the announcement had been made early, a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex referred BuzzFeed News to the Buckingham Palace communications team.