The one thing that has stood the test of time in the United Kingdom through its history of revolutions, changes and modernisation, is the British Royal Family. And so, it came as a shock to many when, in an unprecedented move, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan announced on Tuesday that they are “stepping back” as senior members of the Royal Family.
"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," said the couple in a statement released by Buckingham Palace. "We have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution… We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America."
Their announcement is said to have caught Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince William by surprise, with none of them having been consulted before this massive decision.
It wasn’t long before #Megxit began trending on Twitter, as Buckingham Palace came out with a second statement saying, "We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through."
The BBC reported the mood in the palace as “disappointed” and “hurt” as questions arose about how the Sussexes would function in their new role with issues such as how would they pay for their expenses, would this mean they would get regular jobs (which active members of the Royal Family are not allowed to), where will they live and who will pay, how much access will the media now have to them and of course, how this will alter their relationship with the rest of the royals.
A troubled year for the British Royal Family
- January 2019: The Duke of Edinburgh was involved in a car crash when the Land Rover he was driving flipped onto its side. Prince Philip was unhurt though the female passenger in the other car was injured. Media furore after the 97-year-old Duke was spotted driving again the next day, following which it was announced that he would surrender his driving license.
- March 2019: A CNN report disclosed that Buckingham Palace had increased its social media operation, which was now directed at countering the online abuse targeting Meghan.
- Controversy over the millions of pounds spent on the renovation of the Sussexes’ home, Frogmore Cottage; complaints from British media about lack of access to Harry and Meghan, especially after their son Archie’s christening was a closed door event; accusations of hypocrisy against the couple for using private jets to fly off on holidays while campaigning on environmental issues.
- Fight with the British papers - Meghan initiated legal action against the Mail on Sunday, claiming that it unlawfully published one of her private letters, while Prince Harry launched separate legal proceedings against the Daily Mirror and the Sun, over alleged phone-hacking.
- An ITV documentary saw the Duchess admit to struggling with the media treatment of her, especially while being a new mother. Prince Harry also admitted a rift with brother Prince William in the same documentary, saying that they were on “different paths”.
- November 2019: Queen Elizabeth’s son Prince Andrew, Duke of York steps down from royal duties after the controversy and backlash following his BBC interview about his association with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who died by apparent suicide in August.
- Queen Elizabeth rubber stamped Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s request to suspend Parliament during the Brexit debacle, which was subsequently ruled illegal by the Supreme Court, leading to questions over whether the monarch had broken the law. Johnson was forced to apologise to the Queen for the embarrassment.