London: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will relinquish their HRH titles and pay back public money spent on renovating their home near Windsor Castle, in an agreement that lets them build a life away from intense scrutiny as members of Britain’s royal family.
“Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,” Queen Elizabeth II said Saturday in a statement from Buckingham Palace. “I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.”
The couple agreed to drop his-and-her “royal highness” from their Duke and Duchess of Sussex names because they are no longer working members of the family. They plan to repay taxpayers for renovations made to Frogmore Cottage, which will remain their family home, and give up public financial support.
They moved into the house nine months ago, according to the UK Press Association, and the cost of the refurbishment is widely estimated at 2.4 million pounds ($3.1 million).
“It is my whole family’s hope that today’s agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life,” the 93-year-old monarch said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday said he believed that the whole of Britain would want to wish the very best to Prince Harry and Meghan after they decided to step back from being working members of the monarchy.
“I think the whole country will want to join in wishing them the very best for the future,” Johnson told Sky News in Berlin where he is attending a summit on Libya.
“As I said before ... I was sure that the royal family, which has been around a very long time, will find a way forward.”
Monarchy in turmoil
The announcement on January 8 that the couple wished to step back from their royal duties and split their time between the UK and North America threw Britain’s monarchy into turmoil and sharpened the national debate about its role in modern-day Britain. The earlier revelations of Prince Andrew’s friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein had already created a PR disaster for Buckingham Palace.
Even though Harry has only a remote prospect of becoming king — he’s sixth in line, behind his father, brother, and nephews and niece — there was outrage that, with his actress wife, he wanted to become financially independent and “carve out” a “progressive new role.” The couple married at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Archie was born a year later.
The queen last week discussed the wishes of Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, with Harry’s father, Charles, and his brother, William.
The monarch in the most recent statement said she was “pleased” that the talks had led to a “supportive way forward for my grandson and his family.” She said she was “particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.”
In a statement released by the palace, the couple said they were grateful to the queen and the family for the ongoing support as they take the next step away from the limelight.
Sympathy from politicians
On Sunday, politicians expressed sympathy. “I understand that not everyone wants to live their lives in the media bubble and with that level of intense scrutiny,” Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly said on Sky TV’s “Sophy Ridge on Sunday” show. “That’s completely understandable, and I’m glad they’ve clearly come to an arrangement that the queen is happy with and they’re happy with.’’
He declined to comment on security arrangements for the couple, or the cost of them, amid reports that the bill could continue to be funded from public money.
International Development Secretary Alok Sharma told BBC TV’s “Andrew Marr Show” that the new arrangements for the couple should be respected.
“The royal family collectively makes a huge contribution to our country,” he said. “I am sure that we will miss the Sussexes. But at the end of the day this is about making sure that we respect their wishes and allow them to get on with their lives.”
As part of the agreement, the couple will step back from royal duties, including official military appointments. They will no longer receive public funds for royal duties, according to the statement.
The Sussexes will continue their roles with various private charities and associations. “While they can no longer formally represent the queen, the Sussexes have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty,” according to the statement.
Neither the queen’s statement nor the comments from the palace elaborated on the financial arrangements the Sussexes will make in their new roles, which are to begin in the spring.