The warning signs had been there for some time, but when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a statement confirming that they intended to step down as senior members of the royal family, it still came as a huge shock to everyone — including, according to the British press, the Queen herself. Several reports emerged alleging that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had not notified anyone from the family about their bombshell statement before releasing it to the public, and that didn’t go over too well. Sources cited by The Sun (which quickly coined the term « Megxit ») claimed that Her Majesty was « deeply upset » at not being warned, and that Prince Charles and Prince William were both « incandescent with rage » when they found out.
More than a week had passed by the time the Palace officially addressed the news, and while it cleared up a couple of things (the statement confirmed that « the Sussexes will not use their HRH titles as they are no longer working members of the royal family »), there were still numerous unanswered questions. What did Harry and Meghan mean when they said that they planned to « carve out a progressive new role » for themselves? How exactly did they plan to become « financially independent » from the royal family?
Here’s a look at the biggest question marks hanging over Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s unprecedented departure from senior royal life.
Will Meghan Markle act again?
Meghan Markle had already carved out a career as an actor when she met her future husband, but will the former Suits star return to her roots now that she’s no longer a working royal? As of this writing, it certainly seems likely. In fact, it appears as though she’d been plotting a return to Hollywood for some time. In July 2019, the Sussexes attended the European premiere of The Lion King, and Prince Harry was overheard putting in a good word with Disney CEO Bob Iger. « You do know she does voiceovers? » he quietly told Iger, whose interest was clearly piqued. « We’d love to try, » he replied (via The Sun). « That’s a great idea. »
Negotiations apparently took place over the next six months, because in January 2020, it was revealed that Markle had signed a voiceover deal with the Mouse House. The duchess reportedly recorded some dialogue before she, Harry, and baby Archie jetted off to Canada for a six-week getaway. All that’s known about the project at the moment is that Markle had Disney donate to the conservation charity, Elephants Without Borders, in lieu of payment.
Judging by comments made by Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment, the Sussexes won’t be short of offers in Tinseltown. « We have an office waiting for them in the animation studios building should they be looking to produce television, » she said (via The Hollywood Reporter). Meanwhile, Netflix has already expressed interest in working with the couple.
Who will pay for Harry and Meghan’s security?
The cost of keeping Prince Harry and Meghan Markle safe became a hot topic when they announced that they wanted to kind of move to Canada. While Buckingham Palace stated that it « does not comment on the details of security arrangements, » the couple’s security was originally covered by the UK taxpayer — and the idea that the British people would continue to pay for former senior royals who live on the other side of the Atlantic seemed untenable. Yet, Canadians clearly weren’t thrilled about potentially covering the costs.
A survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute (via Fox News) found that 73 percent of the people they polled wanted the Sussexes to cough up 100 percent of their own expenses, should they move to Canada. Laurel Collins, MP for Victoria, felt the same way, telling London’s Evening Standard, « When it comes to the money our government spends and taxpayer money, it’s important that we put this into context and think about our priorities. »
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed there were « discussions » to be had about Harry and Meghan’s security costs (via BBC News), but Canada and the UK appeared to initially be splitting the bill. With photographs of Markle being watched over by her British police bodyguard and a Mountie emerging from Canada, an insider told the Daily Mail, « This is likely to be the arrangement for the Sussexes going forward until the deal over who pays is thrashed out. »
How exactly will they achieve financial independence?
One of the biggest questions about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex quitting senior royal life is about their income, which had been covered partially by the taxpayer. In their statement, they said that they wanted to « work to become financially independent » going forward, and the Queen echoed this sentiment when she made her first statement on the matter, telling the public, « Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives. » The Palace then confirmed that the Sussexes would « no longer receive public funds for royal duties, » but it didn’t give any indication as to how exactly they would support themselves. So, how will they earn a living?
The couple will still be entitled to receive money from Duchy of Cornwall (a private estate managed by the Duke of Cornwall, currently Prince Harry’s dad), but how much will be up to Prince Charles. Royal expert Marlene Koenig told Time that it « seems a bit presumptuous of them » to assume they’ll continue to benefit from the Duchy, which has been covering around 95 percent of their office expenses. Koenig believes that it’s possible the Sussexes will hit the international celebrity circuit and line their pockets by « selling access » to themselves, but this kind of thing has historically been « frowned upon » by The Firm. « Basically, members of the royal family aren’t supposed to use their titles for any financial compensation. »
Will they be allowed to keep their Sussex royal brand?
It might be frowned upon, but it seems as though Prince Harry and Meghan Markle fully intend to profit from their titles. As reported by Time, the Sussexes submitted a trademark application for the name « Sussex Royal » in June 2019. This covered a variety of products, from T-shirts and baseball caps to Sussex-branded crockery. Over 100 goods and services were included in the trademark, which seemed to suggest that Harry and Meghan believed the strength of the Sussex brand would be a big earner for them. That’s no doubt true, but the question remains, will they actually be able to use the Sussex Royal name going forward?
According to The Guardian, critics of the couple have pointed out that by keeping the Sussex Royal brand and logo (which uses a crown motif) they are still profiting from the royal family. They will no doubt be hoping that the Palace doesn’t see it that way, because changing the name at this stage would be « expensive and incredibly complicated, » according to British PR agent Mark Borkowski.
Is there a way around this? David Haigh, chief executive of valuation consultancy firm Brand Finance, believes the couple might decide to reserve the Sussex Royal brand for charity work only: « They could have different trademarks for their commercial activities, and that would make it clear to everyone they are not trying to trade on their royal heritage — at least not so obviously. »
Are Harry and Meghan even entitled to live in Canada?
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle said they wanted to balance their time between Britain and North America when they announced their exit, and the Queen confirmed that they were going to get their wish when she reacted to the news: « There will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK. » But are the Sussexes even entitled to live in Canada?
Like all British and American citizens, Harry and Meghan have the right to reside in Canada for six months at a time without having to apply for any kind of visa. They will likely be looking for a more permanent solution, however, as spending half the year in the country without paying taxes would surely attract the wrong kind of attention. They could apply for residency, but the route they take mainly depends on Markle’s current standing in Canada.
Markle lived in Toronto for seven years when she worked on Suits (she played attorney Rachel Zane in the legal drama from 2011 to 2018), but what we don’t know is whether or not she was granted residency in that time. « If she is a permanent resident, she can sponsor Harry in the family class, » the director of Ryerson University’s Center for Immigration and Settlement told Global News. Even if she wasn’t made a resident then, Markle’s history means she would most likely have enough skilled worker points to become one now.
How will Harry and Meghan balance their carbon footprint?
Balancing your time between the UK and Canada sounds great in theory, but the environmental impact of a transatlantic lifestyle cannot be ignored. Both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been accused of eco-hypocrisy in the past. The prince took a « gas guzzling super-yacht » to Google’s climate summit (via The Sun), while The Express called Markle out for using private jets « despite the couple’s anti-poverty and environmental campaigning. » Critics lampooned the royal couple for taking four private flights in the space of just 11 days in 2019, and those same people are in full voice with the news of their proposed new lifestyle.
According to the Daily Mail, the Sussexes’ individual carbon footprints could end up being three times bigger than the average Brit. The tabloid calculated that if they were to fly back and forth from Vancouver (where Markle is « eyeing up a $27 million waterfront dream home, » The Sun reports) three times a year, their footprints would rise to a « damaging 27.3 tonnes per head. » Leading scientists are urging people to produce no more than 1.97 tonnes of carbon per year if climate change is to be reversed by 2050.
On their official website, the Sussexes said that their travel would be « undertaken via commercial air carriers, local trains and fuel-efficient vehicles » whenever possible, though they made sure to add that this might not always be possible due to security concerns. This one is still up in the air.
The mix up with Harry and Meghan’s new titles
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle said that they wanted to « step back » in their landmark statement, but didn’t make any mention of their titles. This got cleared up when the Queen responded to her grandson’s unexpected announcement. Well, kind of. The official response from Buckingham Palace stated that the Sussexes « will not use their HRH titles as they are no longer working members of the royal family, » and it was later confirmed that they would continue to be addressed as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Harry is still a prince, and remains sixth-in-line to the throne. The confusion stems from the individual titles they will (or won’t) be using.
When the Palace revealed that the couple would go by Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, royal commentators were quick to point out that this formatting has some very negative connotations. In the past, this styling was reserved for women who have divorced from the royal family. Harry’s mother became Diana, Princess of Wales after her split from Prince Charles, and Sarah Ferguson became Sarah, Duchess of York when she separated from a pre-Epstein scandal Prince Andrew.
The Palace said the new titles had been given « erroneously » in a statement to Sky News, whose events commentator, Alastair Bruce, first spotted the gaffe, saying, « I fear that eight years giving advice to Downton Abbey makes me eagle-eyed for such things. » The titles are now expected to be revised.
Where will baby Archie go to school?
Another big question relates to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s son. Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was born in London and people assumed he would be educated in England like his father (both Harry and Prince William attended the famous Eton College), but when the Duke and Duchess announced that the family would come and go, Archie’s future became a little more complicated. Will their first-born go to school in Britain, or will he end up getting his education in Canada?
According to the Daily Mail, the Sussexes may opt to use the American Community School (conveniently located opposite Windsor Great Park) as a compromise. They have made it clear that they want Archie to grow up as a « global citizen, » and this $32,000 a year institution just so happens to align with their values. « At ACS we prepare our students to be ready, » the school’s mission statement reads. « Ready for cultures that cross over, boundaries that blur and ideas that interconnect. Ready for a world that demands a new kind of learning — and a new kind of citizen. »
The trouble is, if Archie enrolls at a school — whether it be in England or in Canada — he won’t be able to travel during term time. This could potentially hinder the freedom of movement sought by the Sussexes, whose best option could well be to home school their son. « Private tutoring is the obvious option, » academic consultant Edd Williams told Femail.
How will Harry and Meghan pay for Frogmore Cottage?
The fact that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex chose to step down from their senior roles not long after the British taxpayer covered the cost of an overhaul to Frogmore Cottage rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way. Around $3 million was spent on refurbishing the Grade-II listed royal property, which wasn’t mentioned in the Sussexes’ statement of intent. The Palace must have known that this would be likely cause unrest, because it made sure to address the Frogmore money in its own statement: « The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have shared their wish to repay Sovereign Grant expenditure for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, which will remain their UK family home. » Case closed, right? Not exactly.
Putting this into practice might be harder than you would think. According to the Daily Mail, Palace officials have been left « baffled » by the idea of Harry and Meghan repaying the money spent fitting out Frogmore. One insider told the tabloid, « The mechanism by which they pay the money has yet to be worked out, » while another said that « this will all be sat down and discussed in due course. »
At the moment, there’s no official word on how and when the money will go back into the public coffers. Question marks also remain over rent — officials have suggested that the Sussexes might have to pay a commercial rate for Frogmore, which could be as high as $40,000 a month.