Last night (8 January), the Duchess and Duke of Sussex announced they will be stepping down from their senior royal roles. The couple will move to Canada, with their son Archie, and “work to become financially independent”. The decision was made public after the pair returned from a six-week break in Canada.
Various tabloids have, predictably, called it a “shock resignation” or a “shock move”. The BBC’s royal correspondent Jonny Dymond has described it as “astonishing” and “momentous”. And it has quickly become the top trending topic on Twitter.
But, although it is undoubtedly a huge decision, does it really come as that much of a surprise?
The Sussex’s statement read in full:
“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. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment.”
It continued: “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.” - The Duke and Duchess of Sussex.”
Over the three years that the pair have been together, they have been under constant public scrutiny. But more specifically, it is Meghan who has faced racism and sexism. You don’t need us to remind you of the relentless headlines that pit her against sister-in-law Kate Middleton, and accuse her of not “fulfilling her duties” properly as a new royal family member. And let’s not forget the time a tabloid thought it was in the public interest to publish a personal letter that Meghan had written to her estranged father.
That’s why Harry and Meghan announced their decision to sue said newspaper last year.
Speaking about her experiences of the press while she was pregnant with Archie last year, Meghan said in a recent documentary that she was “not OK”.
She said: “Look, any woman especially when they are pregnant, you’re really vulnerable and so that was made really challenging, 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…”
She told the interviewer: “And, also thank you for asking, because not many people have asked if I’m OK. But it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.”
He then asked her: “And the answer is, would it be fair to say, not really OK, as in it’s really been a struggle?”. Evidently emotional, Meghan nodded and simply replied: “Yes”.
Harry has also spoken out about his complicated relationship with his public role before, aftering seeing what happened with his mother Princess Diana.
In the statement about their plans to sue the newspaper: Harry wrote: “My deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
Now that Harry and Meghan have a baby together, it’s perhaps totally understandable that they want to protect him from such a scathing spotlight.
The reaction to their news proves this.
On the one hand, people are coming out in support of the Sussexes and completely understand why they want to step out of the royal limelight.
One Twitter user wrote: “Meghan deserves peace. British press and too many British people have vilified her when she has done nothing but live her life. I don’t blame her or Harry for making the decision they have made. Also, kudos to Harry for supporting his wife and the wellbeing of his family.”
Another person tweeted: “#PrinceHarry lost his mother, Princess Diana, at 12. He grew up watching the British press & paparazzi treat her badly & that led to her death. He is watching the same thing being done to #MeghanMarkle & he is now a father. He is right to do whatever he can to protect his family.”
And one writer added: “Can’t wait for the country that has subjected a woman to daily racist hectoring while treating her like their possession to be OUTRAGED by her decision to call time on the horror show. Good lass. And I’m sure her boy will thank her for it.”
But others are accusing Meghan of “breaking up the royal family”, “dragging Harry away from his family” and “getting what she wanted in the first place”.
Piers Morgan (of course) has gained nearly 50,000 likes for his tweet, which read: “People say I’m too critical of Meghan Markle – but she ditched her family, ditched her Dad, ditched most of her old friends, split Harry from William & has now split him from the Royal Family. I rest my case.”
Matt Haig has perfectly articulated why the popularity and prevelance of this kind of comment further validate Meghan and Harry’s reasons to step away.
“Media: If Meghan and Harry don’t like the attention they should take a back seat.
Meghan and Harry: *take a back seat*
Media: How dare they take a back seat!”
More details about the Sussexes’ plans will likely become clearer in the following weeks.