Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle lay ferns and a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Warrior at the newly unveiled UK war memorial and Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, on Oct. 28, 2018, in Wellington, New Zealand. Getty Images/Rosa Woods

The past year was a year of gut punches for the British royal family, especially for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who have come under fire many times for increasingly isolating themselves within the House of Windsor since they tied the knot in 2018. On Wednesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex caught everyone blindsided with the announcement of their withdrawal from their royal duties.

Rumors about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepping back from their royal duties started to float around last year after they admitted in an explosive BBC interview their struggles with royal life. When they announced that they’re spending Christmas away from the royal family last December, royal followers could not help but think that it’s them making strides towards becoming totally independent from the rest of the family. Just as speculated, they delivered a shuddering blow of their own on Wednesday when they confirmed that they’re stepping back from the monarchy to split their time between Britain and North America moving forward.

In their official announcement on Instagram, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex explained why they’re cutting ties with the royal family and talked about their plans to work to become financially independent. “After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year to carve out a progressive new role within this institution,” they wrote. “It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment,” they added.

The royal couple explained that as they pull away from royal life, they will no longer benefit from the Sovereign Grant, which means that will work to earn their own money moving forward. The current structure of the royal family prohibits them from earning a professional income.

“While the contribution from the Sovereign Grant covers just five percent of costs for the Duke and Duchess and is specifically used for their official office expense, Their Royal Highnesses prefer to release this financial tie,” the Sussex website cited. However, they remain committed to continuing their charitable endeavors and even establish new ones in the future. They said that despite the upcoming changes, they would ensure diverse and open access to the work they will do in the future.

The changes in Prince Harry and Meghan’s relationship with the media will also be part and parcel of their status change. According to their website, the current system predates the dramatic transformation of news reporting in the digital age, and this is something they want to do away with as they cut ties with the monarchy. 40 years ago, the royal rota system was established to coordinate media coverage of the royal family. However, the Duke and Duchess feel that several media brands are now taking advantage of this system.

It can be recalled that last year, Meghan filed a suit against The Daily Mail for the misuse of private information, infringement of copyright, and breach of the Data Protection Act of 2018. Prince Harry also filed a separate suit against two other publications for alleged phone hacking. When they opened up about their struggles as a royal couple in an emotional interview back in October, they admitted having a hard time dealing with the press.

Although Prince Harry and Meghan will no longer be as involved with the royal family, they promised to remain dedicated to maximizing Queen Elizabeth’s legacy both in the U.K. and throughout the Commonwealth. “They will continue to proudly do so by supporting their patronages and carrying out works for The Monarchy within the U.K. or abroad, as called upon,” they wrote.

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