Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, formally known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, England, announced on Jan. 8 that they will step down from their roles as senior members of the British royal family. The couple’s move to step down is informally known as “Megxit,” the nickname that branched from “Brexit,” or the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. This news shocked the UK as well as many other countries, as the couple plans to divide their time between Britain and North America. The news came as a great surprise to the royal family, and plans have been hastily formed to assist the two in leaving their positions for a new life as normal citizens.
According to European History teacher Knoxie Roche, this is not the first time in Britain’s history that this has occurred in the royal family. Roche said, “King Edward VIII stepped down because he wanted to marry Wallace Simpson.” The reason behind this was that Simpson was both American and a divorcee, so he had to abdicate the throne to his younger brother.
The fast timeline of Harry and Meghan’s plans occurred shortly after Prince Andrew’s controversy involving relations with pedophile Jeffery Epstein, so there was already tension involving the royal family. Since the Prince’s marriage to Markle on May 18, 2018, the couple lived in the two-bedroom Nottingham Cottage on the grounds of Kensington Palace, Harry’s home since 2013.
In November of 2018, Harry and Meghan decided to move out of the Cottage and relocate to Windsor’s Frogmore Cottage, stating that the “snug” cottage “could not accommodate their growing family.” The couple’s residence is still officially considered to be Frogmore, but the couple has since purchased a mansion named Mille Fleurs in British Columbia, Canada.
On Oct. 1, 2019, the couple responded to many newspapers’ claims and drama written about their situation and filed a claim against several tabloids, including Associated Newspapers, a very popular news source in the UK. The misuse of “private information,” infringement of copyright and break of UK’s Data Protection Act are all claims Meghan and Harry made against these newspapers that have made their lives much harder. Markle has shown that her being a mixed-race American involved in the royal family has led to newspapers intervening on their privacy, especially during her pregnancy. Roche said, “Harry did not like being in the press, and Harry has suffered from some mental health issues as well that he didn’t want to put his child [Archie] through as well, so I think that’s why they did [leave their positions].” On an ITV Documentary, Markle talked about her work in the royal family, and said, “I never thought this would be easy. But I thought it would be fair.”
Increased tension within the royal family has developed since the Prince and Meghan have left their duties, especially between the two and Queen Elizabeth II, Harry’s grandmother. Their sudden announcement via their shared Instagram account, Sussex Royal, shocked their close family, and Roche said, “News reports say that the Queen was surprised, shocked and felt a little ambushed because she didn’t know this was something they had been considering for a long time. She wished they would’ve come earlier with more time so that they maybe could’ve avoided some initial shock of what had happened.” Sophomore Kayla Kim said, “The Queen might have felt shocked and sad, but also might have been angry from the couple dropping their duties.” When asked how he would feel if he were a member of the royal family, junior Reid Cameron said, “To drop a lifetime of security and ease for Canada is a perplexing choice.” This shows that there are many views on the family’s situation, but it is up to only Harry and Meghan in the end to decide how to live their lives. Roche said, “From Elizabeth’s position as the Queen, she may be a little more mad, but from a Grandmother’s position, she just wants Harry to be happy.”
Since their decision, the couple has lost privileges that they were only granted as members of royalty. Roche said, “The British monarchy receives a tax from taxpayers, so that money will no longer go to them. They used that money to renovate the Frogmore Cottage, and they had to pay all of that back.” The couple still stands to inherit Prince Charles’ money that was laid aside for Harry by his dad. The couple is not going to have a “tremendous fallout financially like the British tabloids talked about,” according to Roche.
The couple will also not have to follow certain regulations of the royal family now that they are considered normal citizens. They will not be addressed by their titles anymore, and instead of speaking at events because it is part of their duty, they will be paid to speak as any citizen would. The couple still has several events to attend in England but will slowly become uninvolved in official family affairs.
Kim said, “They are advocating many good causes even after leaving royalty, so although I see why people say the decision was an excuse to escape, I can also see why others are content with their decision.” Meghan and Harry have made their life changing decision with several valid reasons to do so, which according to Roche were the “hounding of the press, and the amount of work they had to do under the crown that they chose not to want to do, but instead pursue other options.” This process of exiting their roles in the Kingdom is still occurring and will continue to develop until Prince Harry and Meghan Markle decide they are happy where they are in life.