Queen Elizabeth II released a statement after high-stakes family crisis talks into what the British media are calling “Megxit.” On the surface, the statement was conciliatory toward Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, who have announced they are stepping back from the Royal Family. The Queen’s statement said that the monarch and her family are “entirely supportive” of Harry and Meghan’s desire to “create a new life as a young family.”
The Queen’s statement, released through the Royal Family’s social media accounts on January 13, 2020, also indicated that there will be a “period of transition” in which Harry and Meghan will “spend time in Canada and the UK.” However there were a lot of questions the Queen’s statement didn’t address, and if you read between the lines, there were some interesting implications.
Update: The Queen has now announced that Meghan and Harry won’t use their HRH titles anymore, won’t take public money and will repay sovereign grant funds used to renovate Frogmore Cottage, their UK residence. Whether taxpayers will pay for their security remains unclear. Thus, she’s now answered some of the questions posed below.
Certainly, the statement didn’t placate everyone. Commentator Piers Morgan, who has made his concerns about the former Meghan Markle very clear, wrote, “Harry/Meghan have successfully bullied the Queen into letting them have their cake & eat it.” Whether you agree with that position or not, here are 9 questions that the Queen’s statement didn’t answer:
1. Why Didn’t the Queen Use the Couple’s Titles in Her Second Statement?
One of the most interesting angles to emerge from a careful reading of the Queen’s statement is the fact that, twice, she referred to the couple as “Harry and Meghan,” eschewing their formal titles of Duke and Duchess. The Queen did refer to the couple as the “Sussexes” at another point but, nowhere in the statement, does she give them the courtesy of title.
Contrast. Here’s the Queen’s January 8, 2020 statement, when the couple first went public with their intentions to step back from the Royal Family and seek financial independence:
“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.”
Here’s the Queen’s full statement on January 13, 2020. Notice the difference in how she refers to Harry and Meghan:
Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family.
My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.
Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives.
It has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK.
These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days.
Elizabeth II is a shrewd monarch who knows what she is doing, tested over decades. Thus, it’s hard to imagine this is not purposeful. People also noted the Queen’s references to “my family” and “his family.”
The above question leads into another: Whether Harry and Meghan will get to keep the coveted HRH status and titles as they attempt to carve out their own lives. Conventional wisdom was that the Royal Family didn’t want to pull the titles like it did to Princess Diana after her divorce, thinking that would upset the public as it did then. However, this time around, British comment threads are crammed with people demanding that the Queen get rid of the HRH status and titles, and the former Meghan Markle doesn’t enjoy the love from the British public that was directed toward Diana. For starters, she wasn’t around as long.
2. Will British (or Canadian) Taxpayers Have to Pay for the Couple’s Security?
This was a demand that Meghan and Harry made on their new flashy “Sussex Royal” website, and there are those who don’t think they should get a public dime if they don’t want to do all of the work. However, the Royals will remember what happened when Diana decided to forgo Royal protection. In addition, since he served in Afghanistan, Harry is a more vulnerable target than other members of the Royal Family. That complicates this question, but when the Queen referred to the couple not wanting public money, it’s unclear whether that includes security.
On their website, the couple stated they should still receive this security. “The provision of armed security by The Metropolitan Police is mandated by the Home Office, a ministerial department of Her Majesty’s Government, responsible for security and law & order,” they wrote. “As stated on gov.uk, ‘No breakdown of security costs is available as disclosure of such information could compromise the integrity of these arrangements and affect the security of the individuals protected. It is long established policy not to comment upon the protective security arrangements and their related costs for members of the Royal Family or their residences.’”
The Sun reported that Scotland Yard currently provides security to the tune of £600,000 a year (almost $780,000) but that this could escalate if they spend a lot of time overseas. Will Canada be on the hook for some of that bill?
3. Will the Couple Retain the Right to Stay in Frogmore Cottage?
The couple’s home, refurbished with public money (£4.5 million or $5.8 million in public funds), is owned by the Crown Estate, but Meghan and Harry demanded on their website the right to stay in it – when they’re in the UK. Will the Queen agree? This is a historic property. Some members of the public think the couple should have to pay rent or pay back the cost of refurbishments.
On their website, the couple stated as a fact that they would continue to use Frogmore Cottage, but, of course, that’s really up to the Queen of England, not them. They wrote, “Frogmore Cottage will continue to be the property of Her Majesty the Queen. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will continue to use Frogmore Cottage – with the permission of Her Majesty The Queen – as their official residence as they continue to support the Monarchy, and so that their family will always have a place to call home in the United Kingdom.”
Town and Country explained some of the cottage’s history, “Queen Charlotte had a second cottage, Frogmore Cottage, within the grounds of Frogmore House, leased in 1790, that was a retreat for her and her unmarried daughters within Windsor Home Park.”
4. Will the Couple Be Able to Undertake Commercial Ventures While Remaining Members of the Royal Family?
How will it work if Meghan and Harry, say, enter into commercial sponsorships hawking watches or high fashion lines? What happens if Meghan decides to resume her acting career? Is there any line the Royal Family will draw to avoid the cheapening of and commercializing of the monarchy? How will they draw it?
A video emerged showing Prince Harry asking Disney’s head for a voiceover job for his wife, but that job went to help elephants. What happens if they do similar work for their own benefit?
On their new flashy website Sussex Royal, Meghan and Harry revealed they desire to “work to become” financially independent. There is some precedent; among other Royals who have held jobs or taken sponsorships is Zara Tindall, Princess Anne’s daughter, who is an ambassador for Land Rover. But she’s not the child of a future King, nor is she considered a senior Royal. She also doesn’t have a title.
“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family, and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen,” Meghan and Harry, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, wrote.
It remains unclear what “work to become” means – how long? When the Queen referred to a transition, what did that mean financially? Will they profit from their new charitable entity?
On a separate tab titled “funding,” the couple wrote, “In 2020, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have made the choice to transition into a new working model. As they step back as senior members of the Royal Family and no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant, they will become members of the Royal Family with financial independence which is something they look forward to.”
5. Will the Couple Be Able to Advocate Political Positions While Remaining Members of the Royal Family?
The couple has made no secret of their woke liberal politics, but the Royal Family has historically remained apolitical to stay a unifying force. Even Royals who aren’t considered senior, like Beatrice and Eugenie, don’t share what they think of… say, Trump. Meghan had an excuse for not meeting with the American president. However, what happens if the couple suddenly becomes overt political activists?
Daily Mail reported that the former Meghan Markle doesn’t want to move to the United States as long as Donald Trump is president, and Trump said he didn’t think this all should be happening to the Queen. However, the United States and Great Britain are allies. How does it work if the couple start taking overt public stands on politics, like Meghan did before she met Harry (calling Trump a “misogynist”?)
6. Who Will Pay for the Couple’s Travel?
Meghan and Harry insist they want to “collaborate” with the Queen (a word choice that upset some). They also demanded the public continue paying for their travel, although they said they are giving up their portion of the sovereign grant. How will this work? And we’re not talking about horse-drawn carriages…
The couple indicated on their website that they would pay for personal travel, but they wrote, “The Duke and Duchess proudly carry out official overseas visits in support of Her Majesty The Queen at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), as is the case for all members of the Royal Family. The length and location of these tours are determined by the FCO and the Royal Visits Committee. All Official overseas visits are in support of Her Majesty’s Government’s objectives and paid for by The Sovereign Grant as well as contributions from the host country, when appropriate.” The Queen has yet to weigh in.
7. Will the Queen & Prince Charles Get to See Archie?
An obscure provision in British law actually gives the sovereign custody of grandchildren. But Archie is the great-grandchild of the Queen. If Charles becomes King one day, he would have custody of Archie.
Until then, with the couple splitting time between the UK and Canada, and some British publications reporting (through sources) that Meghan never wants to live in the UK again, will the Queen, Charles, William, Phillip, and the rest of the family get to see Archie? How much?
Meghan only reappeared briefly in the UK before hightailing it back to Canada, and the couple never brought Archie back to British shores.
8. To What Degree Will the Sussexes Remain Part of the Royal Family and How?
Will they show up for major events like Trooping of the Color? Will we ever see them on the balcony again? Will they be at Beatrice’s wedding? Will they still do public engagements on behalf of the Queen? What will happen to their patronages. OK, that’s a lot of other questions, but they’re all related to the above.
British news media comment threads are clogged with angry members of the public demanding that the Sussexes lose all of those things. The crisis talks were said to include the heirs to the throne – Charles, William – as well as Harry and the Queen, with Meghan participating from Canada.
On their website, the couple made it clear that they want some involvement with the Royal Family, writing, “It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge, and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.”
9. Will Charles Still Give the Couple Money From the Duchy of Cornwall?
On their website, the couple dodged the question of whether they will still receive money from Prince Charles via his Duchy of Cornwall estate, although they spent a lot of time talking about it. Notably, Prince Charles has yet to make any public comment.
In addition to the millions he possesses in fortune, Prince Harry has a lot of his expenses paid by the Duchy of Cornwall. The same is true of his father, Prince Charles, and brother, and the Duchy of Cornwall more than $9 million on them collectively in recent years. According to the Duchy of Cornwall financial statement, “the majority of staff and official and charitable activities, including the official offices of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, are paid for from His Royal Highness’s private income from the Duchy of Cornwall.”
The Prince of Wales’ annual financial review documents say the estate’s value has been increasing. “The Prince of Wales’s private income comes from the Duchy of Cornwall, an estate comprising agricultural, commercial and residential property mostly in the South West of England,” the site reports. “The Duchy also has a financial investment portfolio. His Royal Highness chooses to use the majority of his income from the Duchy to meet the cost of his, The Duchess of Cornwall’s, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s and Prince Harry’s public and charitable work.”
Harry also receives an annual allowance that he shared with William and Kate. It’s estimated at $4.7 million per year. Everything from his suits to his travel expenses are covered.
Prince Charles doesn’t actually own the property in the Duchy of Cornwall. However, “his royal position enables him to receive income from it as the land’s sole beneficiary,” Reader’s Digest reports. According to The Independent, the Duchy “is a private estate that was established in 1337 by King Edward III.” As a result of this, some people, upset by the couple’s announcement, don’t believe they should still get this money if they’re not willing to perform the duties of senior royals.
There’s certainly another question – what will the public accept?
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