Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Are Stepping Away from the Royal Family

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex sent shockwaves across the globe with the announcement that they’d be stepping down as senior members of the royal family on Jan. 8 on their Instagram account, @SussexRoyal.

While Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s historic decision seemed sudden to some (including, according to reports, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince William), the intense scrutiny on the royal couple in the media and recent interviews have sent up red flags among the popular royals. Harry and Meghan have publicly been battling negative press and media scrutiny — much of it against the duchess — since she joined the royal family in 2018. The couple has filed a number of lawsuits against media companies and made public statements about how the coverage is impacting their mental health.

The royal couple is now more than ever the topic du jour, as media outlets and the public speculate their next steps. (Meghan’s return to acting? A move to L.A.?)

The couple’s decision comes on the heels of the controversy surrounding Prince Andrew. The Duke of York was relieved of his his royal duties in November, after a disastrous BBC interview, in which he denied any wrongdoing, after being accused of sexual misconduct and his longtime ties with known pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein.

Read More: How Harry and Meghan Spent Their First Year After Stepping Down from the Royal Family

Nonetheless, the royal couple’s plans to become financially independent and reside between the U.K. and North America have a number of complexities and factors that need to be considered before the Sussex’s announce their next move.

Here, WWD breaks down the specifics of the couple’s decision to step down from the royal family, from early signs of a rift in the royal family to the implications of their split. Read on for a complete breakdown of why the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are stepping away from the royal family.

November 2018: Harry and Meghan Move Out of Kensington Palace

After rumors of family drama were swirling in the press, in November 2018 Harry and Meghan announced that they would be moving out of their cottage at Kensington Palace, located next to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton. The plan was to relocate to Windsor’s Frogmore Cottage, a wedding gift from the Queen.

On the Sussex Royal web site, the couple explained that Kensington Palace “could not accommodate their growing family.” The statement also revealed that the Kensington Palace residence needed mandatory renovations that would prohibit the couple from moving in until the end of 2020.

June 2019: The “Fab Four” Split Their Charities

Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Are Stepping Away from the Royal Family

Prince William, Prince Harry, the Duchess of Sussex and the Duchess of Cambridge at the National Service to mark the Centenary of the Armistice in November 2018.  Shutterstock

In June 2019, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — often referred to in the U.K. press as the “Fab Four” — announced they would be breaking from their joint charity, the Royal Foundation, with Prince William and Middleton. Prince Harry and Prince William had set up the charity together in 2009, which focuses on mental health awareness, wildlife conservation and the youth.

Harry and Meghan revealed that their new charity will be called Sussex Royal The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, for which they filed a trademark for on June 21.

Oct. 1, 2019: Suing the Tabloids

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex clapped back at the tabloids with a number of lawsuits, first on Oct. 1, 2019, when the duchess filed a claim against Associated Newspapers, which owns the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday. The newspapers were sued over misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the U.K.’s Data Protection Act relating to the unlawful publication of a private letter Duchess Meghan wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.

Later that week, Prince Harry filed his own lawsuit against tabloid newspapers the Sun and the Daily Mirror for allegedly hacking his phone and intercepting voicemail messages. 

Oct. 20, 2019: Meghan Interview Goes Global: “I never thought this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair.”

A clip of the couple’s ITV documentary, “Harry & Meghan: An African Journey,” went viral after its U.K. release on Oct. 20, 2019, where Meghan admits that she has been struggling dealing with the increasing negative press directed at her.

“Any woman, especially when they’re pregnant, you’re really vulnerable, so that made it really challenging,” Meghan said in a clip during the couple’s royal tour of Africa. “And then when you have a newborn, you know? And especially as a woman, it’s really, it’s a lot. You add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed.”

November 2019: A Holiday Break and Christmas Away From the Royal Family

In early November 2019, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they’d be taking a six-week break for the holidays. This included for Christmas, where the couple broke royal tradition by not joining the rest of the royal family for Christmas Day services at Sandringham. The couple instead spent the holidays in Canada with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland.

Dec. 25, 2019: Queen Elizabeth II’s Christmas Speech

Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Are Stepping Away from the Royal Family

Queen Elizabeth II sitting for her Christmas Speech 2019.  Shutterstock

Every year Queen Elizabeth II films her Christmas speech where she is seen sitting next to a table full of family photos. For her 2019 speech, spectators were quick to notice that the table of photos — which included pictures of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their three children, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, and King George VI — did not include the Duke and Duchess of Sussex or their newborn son, Archie. The couple were featured in a family photo in the Queen’s 2018 address.

Jan. 8, 2020: The Official Break

Prince Harry and Meghan officially announced they were stepping down as “senior” members of the British royal family in an Instagram post on Jan. 8, 2020, on their joint account. The post revealed the couple is working to become financially independent, but that they will still be in full support of the queen.

The post also revealed that the couple and baby Archie will be splitting their time between the U.K. and North America. They noted that the move 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.”

What the Royal Family Knew

According to Harper’s Bazaar royal correspondent Omid Scobie, the couple was in discussion with the royal family for months over their decision to step back from their roles. But Harry and Meghan decided to reveal the news on Jan. 8 because their plans had been leaked to a tabloid.

Due to the impending tabloid leak, Prince Harry reportedly sent Prince Charles and Prince William a copy of the couple’s statement just 10 minutes before releasing it to the public, making the royals — and the Queen — feel “cornered,” according to Scobie.

Buckingham Palace followed up Prince Harry and Meghan’s statement with one of its own, stating: “discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”

The Aftermath

Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Are Stepping Away from the Royal Family

The Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry visit Canada House on Jan. 8, 2020.  Tim Rooke/Shutterstock

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex returned to the U.K. to make their first royal appearance of the year at Canada House, but it’s been reported that Meghan has returned back to Canada — where the couple spent their holidays — while Prince Harry remains in the U.K.

According to the Guardian, the Queen is holding a meeting at Sandringham on Jan. 13, 2020, to discuss the future of the Sussex’s role in the family. The meeting will include Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry. Contrary to prior reports, Duchess Meghan did not dial-in to the meeting, according to royal correspondent Emily Andrews.

Financial Independence

The royal couple elaborated on their plans for financial independence on their web site, where they explained that they will no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant, which is the “annual funding mechanism of the monarchy that covers the work of the royal family in support of Her Majesty The Queen.” The site states that their funding via the Sovereign Grant only accounted for five percent of their costs.

Under the couple’s previous financing agreement, they were prohibited from earning any income. Now that they are no longer accepting funds through the Sovereign Grant, they can hold job titles and earn an income.

Their New Homes

On the Sussex Royal web site, Prince Harry and Meghan confirmed that Frogmore Cottage will still be their official residence — per the queen’s permission — in the U.K.

It was later revealed in a statement by the queen on Jan. 13, 2020, that the couple will split their time between the U.K. and Canada, where they spent their six-week holiday vacation and where Meghan previously lived while she starred in the USA Network show, “Suits.”

Their New Jobs

Stepping down from the royal family now allows Prince Harry and Meghan to take on an array of high-profile jobs, be it speaking engagements, book deals or clothing collaborations.

Prince Harry, for one, is already teaming with Oprah Winfrey to create an Apple TV+ series that focuses on mental health. The series is slated to premiere this year.

Meghan, on the other hand, has reportedly signed a deal with Disney for a new role. According to The Sunday Times, she has signed on to do a voiceover for an upcoming project that benefits wildlife conservation charity, Elephants Without Borders.

Royal Trademarks

The couple had filed trademark requests with the World Intellectual Property Organization back in June 2019 for “Sussex Royal” and “Sussex Royal The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex,” for a plethora of goods, services and promotional materials.

The trademarks, which were published on WIPO’s database this past December, were filed for products such as books, magazines, greeting cards, clothing, charitable campaign materials, educational materials, scholarships and social care services, among other things. 

Jan. 10,  2020: Oprah’s Involvement

Oprah Winfrey The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Pre-Ceremony, Windsor, Berkshire, UK - 19 May 2018

Oprah Winfrey in Stella McCartney at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan MarkleREX/Shutterstock

While Page Six reported that Oprah Winfrey advised the royal couple ahead of their split, the media mogul denied her involvement in the couple’s decision, stating to People: “Meghan and Harry do not need my help figuring out what’s best for them.”

Winfrey has long been a close friend of the couple, having attended their royal wedding in 2018.

Jan. 13, 2020: Prince William and Prince Harry Release a Statement

Following multiple news articles on tensions between the royal brothers, Prince William and Prince Harry released a joint statement to the press on Jan. 13, 2020, stating: “despite clear denials, a false story ran in a U.K. newspaper today speculating about the relationship between the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Cambridge. For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful.”

Jan. 13, 2020: The Queen’s Statement

After her meeting with Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry on Jan. 13, 2020, Queen Elizabeth II released a statement on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision, stating in part: “My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working members of the royal family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of the family.”

The statement also reveals that the family has “agreed that there will be a period of transition” where the couple and baby Archie will split their time between living in Canada and the U.K.

Jan. 18, 2020: Giving Up Their Royal Titles

Less than a week after the queen’s statement, Buckingham Palace revealed in a new statement that the couple would be losing their HRH royal titles and are required to step back from royal duties — including Prince Harry’s military associations — as part of their decision to no longer be working members of the royal family.

The statement also revealed that Prince Harry and Markle will repay funds from the Sovereign Grant used to renovate their U.K. residence of Frogmore Cottage, which equals 2.4 million pounds.

Jan. 19, 2020: Prince Harry: “It brings me great sadness that it has come to this.”

Prince Harry made his first public statement on his and Markle’s break from the royal family at a fundraiser for his charity, Sentebale, on Jan. 19, 2020 in an emotional speech stating: “It brings me great sadness that it has come to this.”

“The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly,” he said. “It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven’t always gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.”

He also reiterated his and Markle’s commitment to the queen and thanked the public for its support of his family, stating: “When I lost my mom 23 years ago, you took my under your wing. You’ve looked out for me for so long, but the media is a powerful force, and my hope is one day our collective support for each other can be more powerful because this is so much bigger than just us.”

A Possible Move to Los Angeles

Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan may be coming to the U.S. for summer 2020. 

According to a report by E! News, the royal couple is looking at homes in Los Angeles — which is Markle’s native city — to live in for a few months this summer. “They have started to look at homes online and are in the process of interviewing security teams,” a source stated. “They are getting their ducks in a row and seeing if it’s logistically possible.”

The move is one that’s been speculated by the media and the public since news broke on their decision to split from the royal family. It would be a natural move for the couple and eight-month-old Archie, as Markle’s mother Doria Ragland resides in the California city.

The ‘Sussex Royal’ Name 

Although the royal couple had filed numerous trademarks under their “Sussex Royal” moniker, reports indicate that Prince Harry and Markle may not be able to use the word “royal” in their new roles away from the royal family.

Reports state that Queen Elizabeth II and other senior palace officials are reviewing the couple’s use of “royal,” with a source stating to Harper’s Bazaar: “As the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are stepping back as senior members of the royal family and will work towards financial independence, use of the word ‘royal’ in this context, needed to be reviewed and discussions are ongoing.”

Their Last Day

According to People, Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s break from the royal family will be official starting March 31. The royal family and the couple have also agreed upon a 12-month review of their agreement to “ensure the arrangement works for all parties.”

As of April 1, the couple’s office at Buckingham Palace will shutter and they will be represented in the U.K through their charitable foundation.

Withdrawing Their Trademarks

The royal couple ultimately withdrew their trademark applications for “Sussex Royal” after reports indicated they could not use the term “royal” in their branding.

“While the Duke and Duchess are focused on plans to establish a new nonprofit organization, given the specific U.K. government rules surrounding use of the world ‘Royal,’ it has been therefore agreed that their nonprofit organization, when it is announced in the spring, will not be named Sussex Royal Foundation,” said a spokeswoman for the couple.

Their Final Appearances

Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of Sussex arrive at the annual Endeavour Fund Awards in London,. The awards celebrate the achievements of service personnel who were injured in service and have gone on to use sport as part of their recovery and rehabilitationRoyals, London, United Kingdom - 05 Mar 2020

Meghan and Harry step out for the first time since their announcement to step down from their royal roles at the Endeavour Fund Awards.  Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/Shutterstock

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex participated in their final engagements before their official break from the royal family at the end of March. The couple attended the Endeavour Fund Awards on March 5, the Mountbatten Music Festival at the Royal Albert Hall on March 7 and the Commonwealth Day Service with the queen and the rest of the royal family at Westminster Abbey on March 9.

Prince Harry also made a solo appearance on March 6 at the Silverstone Experience museum, joining race driver Lewis Hamilton. Markle made a solo appearance on March 8 to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Their New Charitable Foundation

Prince Harry and Markle revealed their new charitable foundation, called Archewell, on April 6 in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

The foundation will offer services such as support groups, multimedia education and a wellbeing web site. The couple filed a number of trademark requests under Archewell to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on March 3 for goods and services such as apparel, films, magazines, podcasts and a web site providing information on nutrition, health and mental health, among other things.

The couple is not yet revealing a launch date for the foundation in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Check back on this post as it will be updated as more news develops.

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