What is happening within the royal family?!
That's what some pop culture fans were asking themselves after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced they were taking a step back from royal duties.
"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," the statement from the couple began. "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 honor our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages," the statement from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex continued. "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."
In another surprising movie, Buckingham Palace reacted to the news with their own statement.
"Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage," the statement read. "We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through."
Ultimately, there are many questions royal watchers have after this news was dropped. Fortunately, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex answered some of the questions online. Here's what their site stated in part below.
Why are The Duke and Duchess of Sussex choosing this new working model?
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex take great pride in their work and are committed to continuing their charitable endeavors as well as establishing new ones. In addition, they value the ability to earn a professional income, which in the current structure they are prohibited from doing. For this reason they have made the choice to become members of the Royal Family with financial independence. Their Royal Highnesses feel this new approach will enable them to continue to carry out their duties for Her Majesty The Queen, while having the future financial autonomy to work externally. While the contribution from The Sovereign Grant covers just five percent of costs for The Duke and Duchess and is specifically used for their official office expense, Their Royal Highnesses prefer to release this financial tie. More details on the specifics of the Sovereign Grant are outlined below.
Do The Duke and Duchess of Sussex earn income?
No, under the current structure and financing arrangements, they are prohibited from earning any income in any form.
Do The Duke and Duchess of Sussex benefit financially from their charitable and cause-driven work?
No, see above.
By becoming financially independent, will The Duke and Duchess of Sussex be cutting ties with the monarchy?
As working members of the Royal Family, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain dedicated to maximizing Her Majesty's legacy both in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth. They will continue to proudly do so by supporting their patronages and carrying out works for The Monarchy within the UK or abroad, as called upon.
Have The Duke and Duchess of Sussex benefited from public funding and tax benefits as members of the Royal Family?
Five percent of the funding for their official office was provided through the Sovereign Grant starting in 2019 (more details on Sovereign Grant below). Public funding has neverbeen used, nor would it ever be used for private expenditure by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who also do not receive any tax privileges.
How has the Office of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex been funded up to now?
Since the establishment of The Office of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, 95 percent of the funding received for their Office expenditure is derived from income allocated by HRH The Prince of Wales, generated through the Duchy of Cornwall. This provision has been in place since Prince William and Prince Harry first established their offices in support of The Queen, and is the responsibility of The Prince of Wales. This information continues to be available on The Duchy of Cornwall website.
Where does the other five percent come from?
As described above, the remaining five percent of funding for the Office of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, covering costs associated with employing members of their official office, is received through the Sovereign Grant. During the course of 2020, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have made the choice to step back as senior members of the Royal Family and no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant, thereby making them members of the Royal Family with financial independence. This phased approach will take time to transition in consultation with other senior members of the Royal Family, but Their Royal Highnesses are hopeful that this change is in the best interest for all and look forward to carrying out their duties to the monarch as well as their charitable work with financial autonomy.
How much does The British Royal Family cost each UK taxpayer?
The contribution from UK taxpayers towards the full overhead of the British Monarchy is equivalent to approximately £1 per head per year.
Given their transition into members of the Royal Family with financial independence, will The Duke and Duchess of Sussex maintain their residence at Frogmore Cottage?
Frogmore Cottage will continue to be the property of Her Majesty the Queen. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will continue to use Frogmore Cottage – with the permission of Her Majesty The Queen – as their official residence as they continue to support the Monarchy, and so that their family will always have a place to call home in the United Kingdom.
Does their future financial autonomy extend to covering the costs of travel?
All travel arrangements undertaken by The Duke and Duchess in their private time have always been and will continue to be paid for privately and not by UK taxpayers. With their transition to becoming members of the Royal Family with financial independence this will continue to be the case. Wherever possible and unless advised otherwise on security grounds, their logistical arrangements are undertaken via commercial air carriers, local trains and fuel-efficient vehicles, be it for official or personal travel.
How will The Duke and Duchess of Sussex handle media relations in the future?
In the spring of 2020, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be adopting a revised media approach to ensure diverse and open access to their work. This adjustment will be a phased approach as they settle into the new normality of their updated roles. This updated approach aims to:
Engage with grassroots media organizations and young, up-and-coming journalists;
Invite specialist media to specific events/engagements to give greater access to their cause-driven activities, widening the spectrum of news coverage;
Provide access to credible media outlets focused on objective news reporting to cover key moments and events;
Continue to share information directly to the wider public via their official communications channels;
No longer participate in the Royal Rota system.
Why have The Duke and Duchess of Sussex elected to change their media policy now?
The Duke and Duchess have chosen to revise their media policy to reflect both their forthcoming change as members of the Royal Family with financial independence, and their wish to reshape and broaden access to their work.
What is The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's stance on media in general?
The Duke and Duchess believe in a free, strong and open media industry, which upholds accuracy and fosters inclusivity, diversity and tolerance. Both The Duke and Duchess have collaborated with media organizations including: Time Magazine, National Geographic, The Daily Telegraph, British Vogue, and various others. Their Royal Highnesses recognize that their roles as members of the Royal Family are subject to interest, and they welcome accurate and honest media reporting as well as being held to account if appropriate. Equally, like every member of society, they also value privacy as individuals and as a family.
Will they continue to have a social media platform?
Yes, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will continue to have a social media platform. They look forward to continuing their use of social media and believe that their updated media approach will enable them to share more, with you, directly.
Historically, the understanding with the Royal Rota expects that if Their Royal Highnesses were to release a photo that has never been seen, they would be expected to give the image to The Rota (of which four of the seven are UK tabloids) simultaneously or in advance of their own release. This formula enables these select publications to profit by publishing these images on their websites/front pages. Any breach in this understanding creates long term repercussions.
The current structure makes it challenging for The Duke and Duchess of Sussex to personally share moments in their lives directly with members of the public (via social media for example), without first going through the filter of the Royal Rota. For more information on the rota system, please see top of this section.
Is this change of policy being adopted by other members of the Royal Family?
The changes outlined above apply to The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their son, Archie. They do not speak on behalf of the other members of The Royal Family in regards to their media relations policies.