- The entire existence of the British monarchy could be at risk now that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are resigning from royal duties, according to experts.
- “We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen,” the couple announced on Instagram last week.
- There have been issues within the royal household for months. Prince Andrew retired from public life following backlash from his interview with BBC Newsnight about Jeffrey Epstein back in November.
- Now, Harry and Markle’s experiment further suggests that members of the royal family could survive as “regular” citizens, without financial support from British taxpayers.
- If that turns out to be the case, it begs the question: if given the opportunity, should Britain abolish the monarchy?
- Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told Insider the couple’s decision will have a “considerable cost to the institution Harry was brought up to serve.”
- Meanwhile, royal author Nigel Cawthorne says “the royal family will be severely damaged by this in the long-term.”
- However, royal editor Robert Jobson says their move shouldn’t damage the monarchy because the duke and duchess are not direct heirs to the throne.
- “The monarchy as an institution is all about the monarch and her direct heirs. The Sussexes are popular but their involvement in matters of state are negligible,” he told Insider.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s departure from the royal family could “severely damage” the future of the monarchy, according to royal experts.
“We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen,” the couple announced on Thursday.
“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.” – The Duke and Duchess of Sussex For more information, please visit sussexroyal.com (link in bio) Image © PA
A post shared by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (@sussexroyal) on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:33am PSTJan 8, 2020 at 10:33am PST
According to the BBC, the royal family had no idea that the statement announcing the couple’s departure would be released to their 10 million Instagram followers last week.
Less than two hours after the announcement, the Queen released her own statement, saying that “these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”
As always, Her Majesty refrained from sharing her personal feelings on the matter. However, one palace source told the Daily Mail that the family was “shocked, saddened, and downright furious” about the situation, while another told the same publication that the family was “deeply disappointed.”
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There have been issues within the royal household for months. The Queen even alluded to this in her 2019 Christmas speech.
“The path, of course, is not always smooth, and may at times this year have felt quite bumpy,” she said, “but small steps can make a world of difference.”
Her Majesty could have been referencing Prince Andrew’s controversial BBC Newsnight interview about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, which ultimately led to his retirement from royal life back in November.
At the time, Buckingham Palace denied claims that the Duke of York had been “summoned” to the palace and told to step down, instead telling Insider it was “a personal decision.”
The event already appears to be impacting other members of the family. The duke’s daughter, Princess Beatrice, is set to get married in 2020. Even though there was live ITV coverage of her sister Eugenie’s wedding in 2018, no broadcaster has picked up the rights to capture Beatrice’s royal wedding this year.
Alternatively, the monarch could have been referencing her husband’s health. The 98-year-old Duke of Edinburgh spent four nights in a London hospital over the holidays, finally leaving on Christmas Eve after being treated for a pre-existing condition.
No matter what the meaning behind her words really was, Harry and Markle’s experiment suggests that members of the royal family could survive as “regular” citizens, without financial support from British taxpayers.
If that turns out to be the case, it begs the question: if given the opportunity, should Britain abolish the monarchy?
“It is an even bigger disaster than Prince Andrew’s tin-eared Epstein interview”
“The royal family will be severely damaged by this in the long-term,” Nigel Cawthorne, author of “Call Me Diana: The Princess of Wales on the Princess of Wales” told Insider.
“It is yet another dangerous instance where the palace looks out of touch with the young generation of Brits.
“They gave the Sussexes the cold shoulder, gunning for them with press leaks to make them look bad,” he added.
The couple’s plans to resign were reportedly leaked to British tabloid The Sun before they made the announcement on Thursday. Harper’s Bazaar royal editor Omid Scobie reported that the couple had initially planned to hold off on the announcement, but felt “they had been cornered” after the news broke.
This wasn’t the first time confidential information or commentary was seemingly leaked by palace sources.
Several aides spoke to British tabloids about the couple’s decision to quit, with one anonymous aide telling the Daily Mail: “People had bent over backwards for them. They were given the wedding they wanted, the house they wanted, the office they wanted, the money they wanted, the staff they wanted, the tours they wanted, and had the backing of their family. What more did they want?'”
“It is an even bigger disaster than Prince Andrew’s tin-eared Epstein interview because it involves the new generation,” Cawthorne told Insider.
Additionally, royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told Insider the couple’s decision will have a “considerable cost to the institution Harry was brought up to serve.”
Although Fitzwilliams didn’t elaborate on what this “cost” might be, celebrity brand management expert Eric Schiffer told Insider it’s already damaging both the couple and the royal family’s reputation.
“It’s a laser guided ‘commoner’ missile to the heart of the legacy of the monarchy,” he said, “eroding their soft power positioning and royal relevance in the minds of a modern generation of followers.
“Revolutionizing history means destroying core family values, which splinters the citizen connection. Running from the bloodline responsibilities wont recover a reputation but rather ruin it,” he added.
There could be a referendum on the future of the royal family
In the aftermath of Harry and Markle’s announcement, Labour politician Clive Lewis said the British public should have a say in the royal family’s future.
Speaking at his campaign launch for Labour leadership in London, Lewis said: “A lot of people would like to see the monarchy scaled down,” according to the BBC.
“I think it is extremely unfortunate and a sign of the media we have that they feel they had to do this,” he said, before adding: “Why not have a referendum on the future of the Royal Family?
Let’s talk about what a modern state looks like and what the role of the Royal Family would be.
“I’d rather see us as citizens than subjects in the 21st Century,” he added.
A referendum isn’t out of the question — other countries, including Greece and Bulgaria, abolished their monarchies after the public voted in referendums.
Of course, there’s the question of what an abolished monarchy would do to Britain’s economy. Forbes reports that the British monarchy contributes nearly £1.8 billion ($2.4 billion) to the UK economy annually, including £550 million ($720 million) in tourism.
However, Graham Smith, the CEO of Republic (a pressure group demanding the monarchy’s abolition) insists tourists would still flock to Buckingham Palace, even if the Queen no longer lived there.
“These places have historic significance,” Smith told iNews.“If there were no longer a king or queen, places associated with the past king or queen would still be popular ‘revenue raisers.'”
Smith added that they might even function better as tourist attractions this way, because “you can’t go into them most of the time, so I think they would succeed quite well as museums and galleries.”
However, the likelihood of abolishment is up for debate
While there’s no denying the impact recent events have had on the royal family’s reputation, whether these events could actually lead to abolishment has royal experts torn.
“I don’t think it will,” Robert Jobson, royal editor at the Evening Standard, told Insider.
“The monarchy as an institution is all about the monarch and her direct heirs. The Sussexes are popular but their involvement in matters of state are negligible.”
Meanwhile, royal commentator Kristen Meinzer told Insider: “I don’t think this move by the Sussexes will damage the monarchy as we know it.
“I do, however, think it will usher in the era Prince Charles has been advocating for — albeit a tad sooner than he planned on — in which the monarchy is more streamlined,” she added.
“The fact is, there’s already an heir and multiple spares, now that William has three children,” she said, echoing Jobson’s comments. “The palace doesn’t really need Harry and Meghan working full time for them.”
The palace is well aware of this, according to one person who knows the royal family better than most.
Grant Harrold, former butler to Prince Charles, told Insider that the recent images released of the Queen with the three direct heirs to the throne — including one of them making Christmas puddings together — was actually done to convey a message about the future of the monarchy.
“This is an unprecedented move which no-one saw coming,” Harrold told Insider.
“As we are in uncharted territory with this move, it is difficult to say at this stage what this could mean for the long term future of them and the monarchy.
“What is clear is that over the past few weeks with the images released of The Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince George, the family are promoting the future of the monarchy.”
Meinzer added: “They won’t be the first royals to earn their wages outside the firm. Beatrice and Eugenie already do — though, of course, they also receive lots of financial support from their parents.”
The duke and duchess have not disclosed how they plan to achieve financial independence from the royal family. Currently, they have an estimated net worth of $30 million, deriving from Harry’s inheritance from Princess Diana, his annual allowances from Prince Charles, and Markle’s income from starring in the hit television series “Suits,” as well as endorsement deals and sponsorships, Business Insider previously reported.
Rutger Bruining, CEO of biography writing service StoryTerrace, believes this signifies a new chapter for the royal family.
“It is very difficult for people to understand and support the behaviour of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, to step away from the limelight and no longer carry out their duties as senior members of the royal family,” Bruining told Insider.
“I believe that this simply the next chapter in the royal family’s rich and storied journey, and shows that the monarchy is open to change, adapting as society evolves.”
Bruining highlights something we already know to be true. If the monarchy could survive the abdication of King Edward VIII — who stepped down from the British throne to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson — who is to say it can’t survive this?
“I think their decision simply symbolizes a new step in what it means to be a royal, and I am excited to see how this decision influences the trajectory of the royal family moving forward,” he added.
Ultimately, the fate of the monarchy is difficult to predict. This time last year, even royal experts couldn’t have estimated that three members of the family would have resigned by the beginning of 2020.
Perhaps Bruining summed it up best when he said Harry and Markle are carving the way for a new definition of the word “royal.”
How they implement this definition could determine how the British public view the monarchy moving forward — and whether they want it to exist at all.