It’s official: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have notified the Queen that they will not be returning to working royal status. That’s right; they’ve resigned from “The Firm.”
It’s been just over a year since the couple stepped back from their roles as “senior royals” and departed their residence in England, declaring their intention to become “financially independent” from the royal family (and, by extension, the British taxpayers) last January. Their emancipation was made formal last March as they wrapped the last of their royal obligations, having reached an understanding with the Queen to collectively review the new arrangement after 12 months. At the time, a spokesperson for the couple stated they’d be splitting their time between the UK and North America and “would be in the UK ‘regularly’,” reported the BBC on February 19, 2020, a year ago today.
Eventually settling in the United States—by all appearances permanently—the Sussexes have since inked lucrative deals with Netflix and Spotify and signed with the Harry Walker Agency, enabling them to not only reimburse the British public for renovations on their former residence, Frogmore Cottage, but to purchase a multimillion-dollar compound in Montecito, Calif. Throughout, they’ve retained their royal titles, but the move came with the necessary renunciation of the moniker “Sussex Royal” and a rebranding as they launched their Archewell Foundation.
As the BBC now reports, that rebranding will be official, as Buckingham Palace has announced that the Sussexes’ days of working for the royal family are over.
“Following conversations with the duke, the Queen has written confirming that in stepping away from the work of the royal family it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service,” a statement from the palace read (h/t The Guardian). “The honorary military appointments and royal patronages held by the duke and duchess will therefore be returned to Her Majesty, before being redistributed among working members of the royal family.”
“While all are saddened by their decision, the duke and duchess remain much-loved members of the family,” the statement concluded.
As the statement indicates, the abdication of royal responsibilities does not strip Harry and Meghan of their royal titles—Harry, is, after all, still the Queen’s grandson. However, it does mean the numerous patronages granted to the couple will also be relinquished, as reported by The Guardian:
The patronages to be surrendered will be the Royal Marines, RAF Honington, Royal Navy Small Ships and Diving, the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, the Rugby Football Union, the Rugby Football League, the Royal National Theatre and the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
Harry will retain some private patronages, including his Invictus Games.
Meghan loses both patronages that were handed on to her by the Queen – the National Theatre and the Association of Commonwealth Universities. She has also had to give up her role as vice-president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.
The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, known for its work supporting youth across the 54 countries formerly under British rule, issued a statement thanking the couple for their service, writing: “They have enabled us to make fast progress and have helped us to take the organization to readiness for its next phase.We are glad that they remain in our circle of supporters.”
The National Theatre specifically thanked Meghan for her patronage, writing: “The duchess championed our work with communities and young people across the UK, and our mission to make theatre accessible to all,” and indicating that the appointment of a new patron is already in progress.
Of course, there were already indications that the Sussexes would not be returning to royal service—most notably, a January report that Meghan had abandoned plans to establish citizenship in the United Kingdom. Additionally, the public was recently reminded of the brutal treatment she endured from the British media (and some of its citizenry), as just last week, she scored a significant victory in her ongoing legal battle against the publisher of several British tabloids.
In a bright spot, on Valentine’s Day, the Sussexes announced they are expecting their second child; a development that will no doubt be discussed, along with this latest status change, in their upcoming “intimate conversation” with Oprah Winfrey, premiering on CBS on March 7.
Of course, an abdication of royal duties does not equate to an abdication of public service, as evidenced by numerous sightings of the Duke and Duchess helping out at food banks and other organizations during the pandemic, and a partnership established with World Central Kitchen in December (h/t Economic Times).
“As evidenced by their work over the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the UK and around the world, and have offered their continued support to the organizations they have represented regardless of official role,” said a spokesperson for the couple (h/t the Guardian). “We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”