The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s final exit as working members of the House of Windsor is one of the most significant events in the history of the modern monarchy. The announcement was made by Buckingham Palace on February 19, 2021: “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex 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. While all are saddened by their decision, The Duke and Duchess remain much loved members of the family.”
The Sussexes announced their aim to become “independent” financially when they left the UK in early 2020 but their future relations with the Royal Family were left open, to be reviewed a year later. The final conclusion seems to have been as messy and, possibly, acrimonious as their initial departure was said to have been. Following the official statement another was released by a spokesperson for Meghan and Harry: “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 organisations they have represented regardless of official role. We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.” Royal commentators noted that the statement almost reads like a rebuttal of the official release.
It has certainly been a momentous month for Harry and Meghan, with a legal victory over Associated Newspapers, the happy news that they are expecting their third child and, in early March, they will give a major interview to Oprah Winfrey. However, the announcement of the interview is thought to have played a role in the final step to sever official ties by Buckingham Palace, which was made whilst the Duke of Edinburgh is spending time in hospital, further suggesting that these momentous events unfolded rapidly.
Harry and Meghan have often objected to speculation over their royal lives, but as the couple continue to develop their new lives in the USA they have reached a defining moment. Harry and Meghan have lost their patronages and honorary titles, which will revert to Queen Elizabeth II and be distributed amongst other members of the Royal Family. Balancing the scales, the status of their titles agreed in January 2020 is unchanged – they remain HRH Duke and HRH Duchess of Sussex, but cannot use the HRH prefix in their daily lives as they are no longer working royals.