Prince Harry and Meghan to step back as senior royals

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan plan to divide their time between Britain and North America.
Prince Harry and his wife Meghan plan to divide their time between Britain and North America.

LONDON • Britain's royal family was hurt and disappointed by the shock announcement by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan that they will step back from their senior roles and spend more time in North America, a royal source said yesterday.

The couple's announcement on social media on Wednesday evening took Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles by surprise. They were not consulted on the statement.

The couple said in their Instagram account: "After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year to carve out a progressive new role within this institution."

They said they planned to divide their time between Britain and North America. They also hope to become financially independent and set up a new charity, while continuing with some royal duties.

While the language in the statement was mild and upbeat, the change is momentous. Although he is sixth in the line of succession, Prince Harry has exerted an outsize hold on the public imagination ever since his days as the mischievous younger son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana.

It was not clear how the couple will become what royal biographers said was akin to being a "half royal" - and who will pay for their transatlantic lifestyles.

Buckingham Palace said discussions with the couple were 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," it said.

Prince Harry, 35, and Ms Meghan, 38, married in May 2018 and the American, a former actress, gave birth to their first child last year. But their relationship with the media turned sour as they struggled to deal with the intense scrutiny. They began legal action against some tabloids last October over historic phone-hacking and invasion of privacy.

Prince Harry described the media treatment of his wife as "bullying" and likened it to that of his mother before her death in 1997.

REUTERS, NYTIMES

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2020, with the headline 'Prince Harry and Meghan to step back as senior royals'. Print Edition | Subscribe