This site is privately owned and is not affiliated with any government agency. Learn more here.

Harry and Meghan: Palace anger, ‘betrayal’ and no precedent for what happens next

Hello, royal watchers. This is your biweekly dose of royal news and analysis. Reading this online? Sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox.

Few royal happenings in recent years have rivalled Prince Harry and Meghan’s announcement that they intend to step back as senior members of the Royal Family. It has also set off rampant speculation about what may happen next for the sixth in line to the throne and his wife.

“This is unprecedented and the way the Sussexes made the announcement has had serious repercussions,” Katie Nicholl, author of Harry and Meghan: Life Loss and Love, said via email.

The announcement has caused anger and disappointment at Buckingham Palace, Nicholl said.

“There’s a sense of betrayal at the palace over how the Sussexes went ahead and made this public when they were asked not to by the Queen.

“How they come back from this remains to be seen.”

Meghan has returned to Canada to be with their son, Archie, who had remained there as his parents went back to the U.K. after a six-week stay in British Columbia over Christmas.

At the same time, Queen Elizabeth and other senior royals are working out a plan for the couple. Buckingham Palace announced Saturday that the Queen will meet with members of the Royal Family on Monday at her Sandringham estate in eastern England to agree on “next steps” for Harry and Meghan.

But there aren’t many examples to turn to for how Harry and Meghan may try to carve out a role more to their liking.

Certainly there is nothing in the current family to offer any guide. But go back a few generations, and there is at least a bit of precedent for the decision to step away.

“There have been cases in the past of people who have been born princes and princesses deciding that they want a big change in terms of how their lives will unfold,” Toronto-based royal author and historian Carolyn Harris said.

Take, for example, one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters, Princess Patricia of Connaught. When she married in 1919, she became Lady Ramsay.

“She wanted to have the same title as her husband, so she stopped using the title of princess and stepped away from royal duties and devoted her time to her husband and her son and her watercolours,” said Harris.

But that was a different time, and there’s no suggestion there were issues wound up in that decision to rival Harry and Meghan’s, which includes their stated desire to achieve financial independence and launch their “new charitable entity.”

Of course, there are examples of royals who have lost their royal duties in significantly different circumstances. The Duke of Windsor, for example, abdicated as King Edward VIII in 1936. For him, there was an interest in trying to find a role after the abdication.

Princess Patricia stepped away from royal duties when she married in 1919. (Getty Images)

He was governor of the Bahamas during the Second World War, “but afterwards he was never able to have a successful public role,” Harris said, and he and his wife, the Duchess of Windsor, “became public curiosities as they grew older.”

In more recent years, there have been attempts by some members of the Royal Family to forge a career. But they haven’t ended well, either.

Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, ran into trouble when they tried. Edward’s failed television production company was left with assets of only 40 pounds when it was liquidated in 2009. And Sophie quit as head of a public relations company in 2001 after embarrassing comments she made were secretly recorded by a tabloid reporter posing as an Arab sheik and published in the News of the World.

What about the money?

Frogmore Cottage was refurbished using funds from the Sovereign Grant before Harry and Meghan moved in to the home near Windsor Castle. (GOR/Getty Images)

Amid the many questions that loom over how Harry and Meghan might carve out a new role, a major one is how their desire to achieve “financial independence” might work out.

On a website built to promote their new initiative, a long section is devoted to trying “to provide clarity on existing and future funding arrangements.” And part of that includes plans to cut their tie with the Sovereign Grant, which they say covers just five per cent of their costs, “and is specifically used for their official office expense.”

Craig Prescott, director of the Centre for Parliament and Public Law at the University of Winchester in southern England, said on Twitter that it appears Harry and Meghan “are forgoing that five per cent to obtain greater freedom to operate as they please and to control more tightly how they work with the media, probably to use social media more,” but they will keep receiving income from the Duchy of Cornwall, which is held by Harry’s father, Prince Charles.

“The accounts for 2019 state that it is worth around £930 million and the surplus from the estate given to Prince Charles was £21.6 million,” Prescott said via email. “Some of this has been used to fund Harry and Meghan.”

Prince Charles attends a reception to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his chairmanship of the Duchy of Cornwall Prince’s Council at the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery in Lostwithiel, United Kingdom, on July 16, 2019. (Ben Birchall/Getty Images)

What’s “uneasy” about all this, Prescott wrote on Twitter, “is how they appear to be taking advantage of the complex and messy division between the public and the private when it comes to royal property. It’s worked out very well for them.”

Harry and Meghan also plan to continue to live at Frogmore Cottage (where renovations were also funded by the Sovereign Grant).

“So once again, to simply say that by no longer taking money from the Sovereign Grant means that they are financially independent from the monarchy is skating over a much more ambiguous situation, and the position is nowhere near as stark as the phrase ‘financial independence’ indicates,” Prescott said. “They will continue to benefit from the substantial expenditure covered by the Sovereign Grant for their refurbished property.” 

The danger for Harry and Meghan, Prescott said, “is that instead of increasing their independence, their proposed arrangements rely on the continuing consent of Prince Charles and the Queen.”

If they thought Harry and Meghan’s new activities would distract attention from or embarrass the monarchy, they could pull the plug, he said.

“As shown with Prince Andrew, both [the Queen and Prince Charles] are not afraid of acting decisively if required in the broader interests of the monarchy. Harry and Meghan will no longer have the defence of being full time ‘senior royals’ to justify the benefits they have received so far.”

For example, Prescott suggests, what if those who are managing the Duchy of Cornwall on behalf of Charles decide to hike the rents of its tenant farmers, “while Harry and Meghan are photographed in Toronto with their celebrity friends and Instagramming a glamorous life in Canada? The headlines in the British newspapers would be terrible.”

All of this, Prescott said, makes him think “that the details have not been properly considered.”

A Toronto tie

Prince Harry and Meghan made their first public appearance together at the Invictus Games in Toronto on Sept.25, 2017. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The website that includes the section on Harry and Meghan’s financial plans has a Canadian connection — it was created by Article, a Toronto-based company that describes itself as a “digital creative agency.”

Article founder Ryan Sax said it’s been a pleasure to work with Harry and Meghan on the website.

“To know that they chose our boutique Canadian agency means so much to us, and I’m happy we could create something special for them,” Sax said via email on Friday afternoon.

According to the company’s website, Article creates “tailored online experiences,” and its clients “range from national brands to lifestyle influencers.”

The website says Article doesn’t choose projects based on size, and is “particular about fit.”

Article works “with brands we believe in,” and along with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, it lists the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tim Hortons, the NBA, cannabis company Canopy Growth and Joe Fresh among its clients.

4 generations in front of the camera

Multigenerational photos of the Royal Family are not a dime a dozen, but there have been two within the past few weeks.

First came the charming pre-Christmas shot of the Queen looking on as her son Charles, his son William, and William’s son, George, stirred some Christmas puddings.

And then to mark the beginning of the new decade, there was a more formal photo released of the royal foursome.

Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George pose for a photo on Dec. 18, 2019, to mark the start of the new decade in the Throne Room of Buckingham Palace in London. (Ranald Mackechnie/Buckingham Palace via AP)

Some speculation has focused on that photo in particular as perhaps being at least a partial trigger for Harry and Meghan moving forward with their plans to chart their own course.

Another wedding — with a lower profile?

Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi are to marry later this year, but no date has been announced. (Princess Eugenie/Buckingham Palace/The Associated Press)

While no official announcements have been made revealing further details about Princess Beatrice’s wedding to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi sometime this year, there are hints it may not have the profile of recent royal nuptials.

Numerous reports suggest it will be a smaller affair than the marriages in 2018 of Harry and Meghan, and Beatrice’s younger sister Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank. Broadcasters BBC and ITV have also confirmed they would not carry live coverage of the wedding.

But some reports suggest that live coverage may never have been intended for Beatrice’s big day.

The Daily Mail reported that a friend of Beatrice’s family said there never had been any plan to televise her wedding “and any suggestion that she had been snubbed or shunned because [of the] scandal surrounding her father’s friendship with convicted [sex offender] Jeffrey Epstein was ‘plain wrong.'”

Royally quotable

Prince William has announced the Earthshot Prize, which will award five prizes a year over the next 10 years for innovation to battle climate change. (Royal Foundation)

“The Earth is at a tipping point and we face a stark choice: either we continue as we are and irreparably damage our planet or we remember our unique power as human beings and our continual ability to lead, innovate and problem-solve.”

— Prince William announces the Earthshot prize, which aims to encourage innovation to fight climate change and tackle environmental problems.

Royal reads

  • A private memoir by Wallis Simpson’s divorce solicitor reveals new details about the divorce that cleared the way for her marriage to King Edward VIII . [The Guardian]  

  • An exhibition hopes to alter the long-held perception of the “madness” of King George III, and better understand his life and the mental health issues he faced. [The Telegraph] 

  • Prince Charles popped ahead of Princess Anne in an annual accounting of royal engagements. [Daily Mail] 

  • Prince Harry’s anger with the media has been growing for years. [The Guardian]

Sign up here to have The Royal Fascinator newsletter land in your inbox every other Friday.

I’m always happy to hear from you. Send your ideas, comments, feedback and notes to Problems with the newsletter? Please let me know about any typos, errors or glitches.