It is perhaps one of the most iconic pieces of Royal film ever: a 21-year-old Princess Elizabeth dedicating her entire life to the service of her people and further Commonwealth family. Her historic words –“my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service” – set a precedent for her reign, and in the near seventy years of service as Queen and Monarch, she has unflinchingly, stoically and tirelessly honoured each and every word.
How sad that her grandson so willingly and brutally neglected that same sense of duty. In an unprecedented statement, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced that they are to ‘step back’ as senior members of the Royal Family, and work to become ‘financially independent’.
In a long statement, the couple also pledged to “fully support Her Majesty The Queen”. Though within hours, that pledge appeared to be broken. It soon became aware that Buckingham Palace, including the Monarch, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge, were completely blindsided by the shocking announcement.
In their own statement the Palace said: “Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”
There is no underlining the significance of this above statement. Never in the history of the Queen’s reign has she instructed the release of such a terse and blunt announcement. It was swiftly followed with reports confirmed to the BBC that Her Majesty was deeply disappointed with the Sussex’s decision. The Prince of Wales, along with the Duke of Cambridge were said to be ‘incandescent with rage’ according to numerous royal sources, after Prince Harry refrained from their council.
It’s hard to remember that twenty months ago, it all looked so optimistic. A young Prince, marrying his American bride beneath the outpouring of public adoration as the summer Sun bathed the happy couple in a newlywed glow. It all seemed akin to a Royal fairy-tale.
Though what was once a fairy-tale is now a nightmare scenario for the Royals, with one source speaking to The Sun newspaper: “This is a declaration of war on the family… Harry and Meghan wanted it their way or the highway.”
So, what happens now? Can Harry and Meghan really navigate the institution of Monarchy with a new self-governed progressive role? Will they be able to be financially independent whilst still members of the Royal Family? The answer will most likely be – no.
The Monarchy never has – and never will – work with a ‘half-in, half-out’ approach. You either play the game or leave the pitch, it’s that simple. Being inside the royal gilded birdcage brings immense privilege but locks you into a set of constitutional rules and immense scrutiny. It silences you, and in Meghan’s case, more so than those higher up the royal chain. It may seem unfair and unjust to some, but this was the price Meghan Markle paid when she uttered those words “I do” to a Prince who is a ‘spare’ not an ‘heir’.
The progressive vision that Harry and Meghan have set their sights on is one which will always remain a pipedream whilst those three letters ‘HRH’ appear before their names. And if they decide to renounce their titles and are no longer part of the Monarchy, the unique selling-point of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex vanishes, and so does interest.
This is the same for any financial independence. How will Harry and Meghan fund their charitable foundation? And more so, their own private lives? According to the couple’s newly launched website they will fund most of their travel privately, though any Foreign tours and security will continue to be paid for by the British Taxpayer. It is a notion which doesn’t exactly scream independence.
Or will they find other ways of raising money? At the moment, the Sussex’s current plan would allow them to trade on their titles, effectively using the Duke and Duchess of Sussex name, as well as the connection to Monarchy, as a means of persuading investors. But this would, rightly so, lead to catastrophic backlash amongst the media and the public. And if they choose to raise money for their charity, then there would be no personal income.
There is also the Duchy of Cornwall, but considering Harry’s father, Prince Charles, controls the funding, and his brother Prince William is set to inherit the Duchy once Charles becomes King, it seems unlikely this idea is sustainable.
The reality is Harry and Meghan’s announcement of their potential future is much more than just unprecedented. It is badly constructed.
The couple expect to spend their time between the UK and North America – a decision which is understandable considering Meghan’s heritage – but is it appropriate to expect the Taxpayer to fork out for the couple’s security on these endeavours? I would argue no. And here in lies the main issue.
Harry and Meghan seemingly want their cake and eat it. They can’t. It doesn’t work that way, and the Monarchy operates within rules that are unbreakable, each one underlined by the passionate oath Her Majesty took when she was 21.
Overall, whatever you think of the Royal Family or even the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, this whole debacle is deeply tragic. There is an overwhelming feeling that it didn’t need to be this way. Harry and Meghan could have been a huge force of good for the Royals, if they had simply played the game. They could have stuck to the side-lines, followed precedent and refused to rock the boat, and work with the monarchy instead of against it, alas they chose a different path. But it is one which leads to isolation from the only family Harry has ever known - his brother, whose relationship after the tragic death of their mother was deemed ‘unbreakable’.
What is certain is the Royal Family will be changed forever after the Sussex’s statement. A rift has now formed, creating two separate camps. And unlike the previous battle, between the Monarchy and Diana, Princess of Wales; Harry and Meghan lack the immense popularity his mother was bestowed.
How all this chaos ends has yet to be seen, but if one thing is certain, Her Majesty The Queen deserved better from her grandson. She has dedicated her entire life to ensuring the institution, which has embellished Harry’s life with unimaginable privilege, continues to exist and thrive. The influence and opportunities he has been offered, are down to his grandmother. How sad that as her reign nears its end, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex couldn’t have heeded the iconic words of a 21-year-old Princess Elizabeth and followed her dedication of service.