It’s been a whirlwind week for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Not only did the Duchess of Sussex win a high-profile privacy lawsuit against Britain’s Mail on Sunday, but the couple also revealed they’re expecting baby number two in a sweet Valentine’s Day photo op.
But the news that will undoubtedly garner the most tabloid ink (and hand-wringing from the royal family) landed on Feb. 19 when the pair officially announced they would not be returning to royal duties. Ever.
The duke and duchess have confirmed to Her Majesty The Queen that they will not be returning as working members of the royal family.
The couple — who stepped back from full-time royal work in March 2020 before moving to California — just completed a 12-month trial period wherein they had to decide whether to return to the fold. While the news certainly isn’t shocking (would you want to return to a life that exposes you to intense media scrutiny and has a litany of ridiculous rules to follow?), it’ll unfortunately only add to the mounting anti-Harry-and-Meghan online commentary currently fueled by Britain’s tabloid culture and die-hard royalists.
On Friday, Buckingham Palace released a statement that read, in part: “The duke and duchess have confirmed to Her Majesty The Queen that they will not be returning as working members of the royal family. 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. 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.”
It ended with, “While we are all saddened by their decision, the duke and duchess remain much-loved members of the family.”
As a result, Harry will lose his honorary military titles and other trusts and patronages, including Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, the Rugby Football League, the Royal National Theatre and the Association of Commonwealth Universities. Despite this, Harry will still retain the Invictus Games Foundation he started, as well as his charity Sentebale, which he co-founded to help fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic in southern Africa. In addition, Harry can continue his work with WellChild, which supports sick kids and their families.
A spokesperson for Harry, 36, and Markle, 39, released a statement that concluded with a subtle dig at the Windsors: “As evidenced by their work over the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the U.K. and around the world and have offered their continued support to the organizations they have represented regardless of official role. We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”
With a brand new podcast, high-profile Netflix deals and an upcoming televised interview with Oprah on March 7, the duo appear comfortable and confident forging their own path outside of the looming shadow of the royal family. And while they certainly have their detractors — you’ll notice them lurking on Facebook — officially closing this dramatic chapter of their lives just might help everyone (even those tabloids) move on.
If Harry and Meghan had agreed to return to the House of Windsor and resume their former royal duties, their detractors would have voiced their discontent then, too. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t — so they might as well do what they damn well please.