With Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announcing Wednesday that they are stepping down as senior members of the royal family, working to become “financially independent” and relocating half-time to North America, their dramatic decision raises plenty of questions, including: Where will they live and what will they live on?
Will the Duke and Duchess of Sussex move to Canada, where they spent much of their long holiday break? If so, where in Canada? British Columbia?
Will they also keep Frogmore Cottage at Windsor Castle, which underwent $3 million in taxpayer-funded renovations before the birth of their son, Archie, last May?
Harry and Meghan stunned royal fans — and reportedly the royal family — with their announcement, which is unprecedented in modern history. On their official Instagram Wednesday evening, the couple said they had decided “after many months of reflection and internal discussions” to transition this year to “a progressive new role” within the royal family.
“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,” the announcement read.
As has been rumored for many months, the couple also plan to move away from the United Kingdom — at least for part of the year. They said they want to “balance” their time between Harry’s home country and somewhere in North America, U.S.-born Meghan’s home continent.
Harry and Meghan said this “balance” will allow them to raise their son “with an appreciation for the royal tradition” while also “providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity.”
Queen Elizabeth II, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex watch the RAF flypast on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, as members of the Royal Family attend events to mark the centenary of the RAF on July 10, 2018 in London, England. (Getty)
No doubt, the “space” they are talking about refers to living in a country without the aggressive British tabloid press, which has appeared to take delight in regularly filing negative reports about the couple and about the former TV actress individually.
But the “space” could also mean getting away from the royal family — or the constraints of being so closely tied to the family.
For its survival, historians say, the monarchy must maintain public favor, which means it must operate within certain constraints, especially when it comes to media relations. Harry and Meghan could also have been looking for “space” from an institution that they evidently don’t believe has sufficiently appreciated their potential to use their global fame for worthy causes.
The BBC reported that no other member of the royal family had been consulted before Harry and Meghan issued their statement and reported that Buckingham Palace is “disappointed.”
The palace then released a statement of its own, saying, “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.”
The couple remain patron of all the same charities as before and will spend much of 2020 shaping their soon-to-be-launched #SussexRoyal foundation to respond to the pressing needs of the modern world.
Similarly, Harry and Meghan’s statement doesn’t address specifics, including where in North America the couple will base themselves or the nature of Sussex Royal charitable foundation they hope to launch.
Speculation rests on them either moving to Toronto — where Meghan filmed her TV series “Suits” and where they enjoyed their early secret courtship — or to Vancouver. The couple holed up in a $14 million oceanfront mansion on nearby Vancouver Island over the Christmas holidays.
But the couple’s desire to become financially independent seems necessary, given that they could lose “millions” if they quit being royals, according to an analysis by the Daily Mail.
If this “progressive new role” means they stop doing the day-to-day work of senior royals, they could immediately lose access to the estimated $10.5 million a year from the Sovereign Grant that is divided between Harry and William. This grant is funded by the taxpayer.
The Daily Mail also said the couple would be responsible for covering the cost of their staff, that includes a private secretary and a nanny for Archie. That cost is around $1.3 million a year.
But Harry and Meghan will hardly be destitute. By most measures, they already should be “financially independent.”
Harry’s net worth is said to be close to $40 million, which includes about $26 million he inherited from his late mother, Princess Diana, the Daily Mail said. Meanwhile, Meghan has a net worth of around $5 million, from the $50,000 per episode she earned while on “Suits.”
But another source of income for Prince Harry is the annual allowance in the millions of pounds that he receives from Prince Charles’s $1.5 billion Duchy of Cornwall estate. Charles is hardly likely to cut his son off from this source of income, the Daily Mail said.
Another valuable asset the couple probably won’t lose is Frogmore Cottage, which was a gift from the queen, the Daily Mail said.
But if Harry and Meghan buy a new home across the Atlantic, whether in Toronto, Vancouver, her hometown of Los Angeles or someplace else, they’ll have to cover that cost themselves, the Daily Mail and the Sun said.
An arrangement of UK daily newspapers photographed as an illustration in London on January 9, 2020, shows front page headlines reporting on the news that Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, plan to step back as "senior" members of the Royal Family. (Getty)
Up in the air is whether they will have to cover the costs for their security, the Daily Mail said. The couple are assigned six Metropolitan Police bodyguards, who each earn more $130,000 per year. They are expected to require police protection for the rest of their lives, whether they or the British government pays.
Royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams told the Daily Mail that a move to Canada will be a huge and costly “undertaking.”
“They will have to find a location that wants you, the security costs would be vast and impossible to estimate,” Fitzwilliams said.
Originally published in Mercury News