Meghan Markle and Prince Harry 'Step Back' From Royal Family: What Does This Mean?

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex revealed on Wednesday that they will 'work to become financially independent.'

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are making a historic move by becoming the first in the royal family to take a "step back" as senior members.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced the news in a statement on Wednesday, adding that they will "work to become financially independent while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen."

"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," their statement reads. "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 [Archie] 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," the statement continues. "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."

Now, ET is breaking down what this all means for Meghan, Harry, and the royal family. 

Have any other members of the royal family taken a "step back" before?

No. The move is unprecedented in modern royal history.

Does this mean Meghan and Harry are cutting ties with the monarchy?

According to their official website, as working members of the royal family, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex "remain dedicated to maximising Her Majesty's legacy both in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth. They will continue to proudly do so by supporting their patronages and carrying out works for The Monarchy within the UK or abroad, as called upon."

Will Meghan and Harry still hold their royal titles?

Yes. When Meghan married Harry in May 2018, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed upon them the titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 

Why do Meghan and Harry want to "work to become financially independent?"

"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex take great pride in their work and are committed to continuing their charitable endeavours as well as establishing new ones," a statement on their official website reads. "In addition, they value the ability to earn a professional income, which in the current structure they are prohibited from doing. For this reason, they have made the choice to become members of the Royal Family with financial independence. Their Royal Highnesses feel this new approach will enable them to continue to carry out their duties for Her Majesty The Queen, while having the future financial autonomy to work externally."

How much financial assistance were they receiving beforehand?

The Sovereign Grant -- the annual funding mechanism of the monarchy that covers the work of the royal family in support of the Queen -- covered five percent of costs for Meghan and Harry, and was used specifically for their official office expense. As they step back as senior members of the royal family, however, they will no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant. They will become members of the royal family with financial independence, according to their website.

Learn more here.

How big of a deal is it that they will be splitting their time between England and America?

The British royal family has reigned in the U.K. for years, and this transition means that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will no longer be based there full-time.

Will they maintain their residence at Frogmore Cottage?

Yes, though it will continue to be the property of Queen Elizabeth II. "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," their website reads.

What does this mean for baby Archie?

As Meghan and Harry said in their statement, the geographic balance will enable them to raise their 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."

Royal expert Katie Nicholl told ET last July that the couple has discussed wanting to provide a normal life for Archie. “I think the couple is determined for Archie to have as normal a life as possible," she shared. "Prince Harry grew up very much in the spotlight, never far away from the gaze of the cameras, and at points in his life, that's been something he has resented. My understanding is that at Frogmore, they have essentially built a fortress. One of their closest friends told me it was their oasis -- their sanctuary where they're going to raise their child away from the spotlight."

"Archie is being raised in a very loving, relatively ordinary upbringing as far as royal childhoods are concerned," she continued. "It was a very deliberate decision not to give Archie the HRH title. He is of course technically a prince, but they chose not to make him His Royal Highness and that is quite simply because they want him to be raised as a private citizen."

Could this decision be due to tabloid pressure?

Possibly. Last fall, Meghan candidly opened up about the stress of living in the spotlight following the birth of Archie in an interview with ITV journalist Tom Bradby.

"Any woman, especially when they're pregnant, you're really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging," she explained at the time. "And then when you have a newborn, you know. And especially as a woman, it's a lot. So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed . . . thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I'm OK."

Will Meghan and Harry's new roles affect their media relations policy?

Yes. According to the Sussex Royal website, "their sincere hope is that this change in media policy will enhance access and give The Duke and Duchess the ability to share information more freely with members of the public."

"In the spring of 2020, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be adopting a revised media approach to ensure diverse and open access to their work," the website reveals. "This updated approach aims to engage with grassroots media organisations and young, up-and-coming journalists; invite specialist media to specific events/engagements to give greater access to their cause-driven activities, widening the spectrum of news coverage; provide access to credible media outlets focused on objective news reporting to cover key moments and events."

Meghan and Harry will also, according to the site, "continue to share information directly to the wider public via their official communications channels" and will "no longer participate in the Royal Rota system." More on that here.

Why is this change so important to Meghan and Harry?

"The Duke and Duchess believe in a free, strong and open media industry, which upholds accuracy and fosters inclusivity, diversity and tolerance," their website explains. "Both The Duke and Duchess have collaborated with media organisations including: Time Magazine, National Geographic, The Daily Telegraph, British Vogue, and various others. Their Royal Highnesses recognise that their roles as members of the Royal Family are subject to interest, and they welcome accurate and honest media reporting as well as being held to account if appropriate. Equally, like every member of society, they also value privacy as individuals and as a family."

How does the Queen feel about Meghan and Harry's decision?

"Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage," she said in a statement released to the press on Wednesday. "We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through."

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