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Questions Follow Harry and Meghan's Decision to Step Back


Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex react as they leave after her visit to Canada House in London, Jan. 7, 2020.
Questions Follow Harry and Meghan's Decision to Step Back
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Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan have announced they will step back from senior positions in the royal family. The couple said they hope to become financially independent and create a new charity -- while continuing some royal duties.

The move came as a surprise to the British royal family. Hours after the announcement appeared on Instagram, Buckingham Palace released a short statement. It said discussions with Harry and Meghan “were at an early stage” and that such complex issues take time to work out.

British media did not like the idea, either. The Daily Mirror called the announcement a “shocking disregard” for the Queen. The Sun described the decision as “Megxit.” The word is a play on “Brexit” -- a common term for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

It also raises questions about how the couple will earn a living, who will pay for their security, and what their new positions will involve.

Security and living situation

In their announcement, Harry and Meghan said they plan to divide their time between Britain and North America.

Meghan was born in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in Hollywood. Harry and Meghan spent the last six weeks of 2019 in Canada. Their first official appearance of 2020 was a trip to Canada House in London, home of Canada’s diplomatic mission to Britain.

They will continue to base themselves at Frogmore Cottage in the grounds of the queen’s Windsor Castle while in Britain. The property was recently repaired at a cost of 2.4 million pounds ($3.13 million) by taxpayers.

The couple also made clear that they expect the government to continue to pay their security costs. This is required by the Home Office, which is responsible for security of the royal family. The cost of the security is not publicly available information. But it is estimated to cost hundreds of thousands of British pounds a year.

How will they earn a living?

The couple said on their new website that they are seeking financial independence from the royal family’s funding, known as the “Sovereign Grant.” This is government money that covers the ongoing costs related to daily life and travel.

The couple said the grant represented about 5 percent of money needed to run their official office. They did not say if they will give up the remaining 95 percent, which comes from Prince Charles’ centuries-old private estate.

The couple’s new website, Sussex Royal, does not say exactly how they plan to fund themselves in the future. Last year, it was reported that Harry would be executive producer of a film on mental health for Apple’s video streaming service. And royal writer Penny Junor suggested that Meghan, who starred in the television show Suits, might restart her acting career.

The couple has not said they would give up their royal names -- the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. And, their website noted that other royal family members have kept their titles while earning money in other ways.

Marriage - and the media

Harry and Meghan married in May 2018 in a ceremony in Windsor Castle. Their marriage was considered at the time to be a sign of a more modern monarchy.

Their son, Archie, was born in May 2019.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex leave Windsor Castle in the Ascot Landau carriage during a procession after getting married at St Georges Chapel on May 19, 2018 in Windsor, England.
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex leave Windsor Castle in the Ascot Landau carriage during a procession after getting married at St Georges Chapel on May 19, 2018 in Windsor, England.

The family’s relationship with the media has worsened quickly over time, as they struggled to deal with the pressure, criticism and scrutiny.

Harry described the media’s treatment of his wife as “bullying,” and likened it to that of his mother before her death. His mother, Princess Diana, died in a car crash in France in 1997 while being chased by paparazzi.

Harry and Meghan announced they plan to greatly change media access to their official events. They will no longer take part in the traditional “royal rota” system, which is an agreement providing access for royal correspondents.

The royal rota system permits access to their appearances and events by official correspondents. These correspondents take photographs and videos, which they then share with others in the media.

Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle pose for photographers during a photocall in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017.
Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle pose for photographers during a photocall in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017.

Now the couple said their plan is to speak directly to the public through social media. They plan to deny automatic access to some royal correspondents.

The change may make them more of a target for paparazzi photographers, who will no longer worry about losing access to official events if they are already excluded.

I’m Caty Weaver.

And I'm Pete Musto.

Ashley Thompson adapted this story based on reports by the Reuters news agency and other materials. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

charity - n. an organization that helps people who are poor, sick, etc.

disregard - n. the act of ignoring something or treating something as unimportant

funding - n. an amount of money that is used for a special purpose

estate - n. all of the things that a person owns

monarchy - n. a country that is ruled by a monarch (such as a king or queen)​

scrutiny - n. the act of carefully examining something especially in a critical way

access - n. a way of getting near, at, or to something or someone

correspondent - n. a person whose job is to send news to a newspaper, radio station, or television program often from different places around the world

paparazzi - n. photographers who follows famous people in order to take their pictures and then sells the pictures to newspapers or magazines​

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