“There’s no doubt at all that what we’ve seen is something that is a blow to the royal family because they were the modernizing face of it globally from a charitable intent,” royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams tells Us Weekly exclusively.
Fitzwilliams believes that media scrutiny played a large part in the couple’s decision. “It’s completely unprecedented,” he says. “There’s no question, however, that it marks a combination of months whereby it’s been clear that … pressures, especially from the media, have made them deeply unhappy in the roles of senior royals. And what we have seen is something that ensures, as they see it, that they will be doing things their way.”
However, Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, will be forced to figure out what it means to be less dependent on the royal family. “The issue of financial independence — I mean, this will be very difficult to achieve,” Fitzwilliams admits. “Will this mean Meghan goes back to being an actress, and to what extent will they still be reliant, for example, on the British taxpayer? … These are issues that will be solved in the months to come.”
In the meantime, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expected to “bring [son] Archie up their way,” continue with charitable work and “keep their patronages,” despite their move to opt “for independence.”
Meghan and Harry made waves on Wednesday, January 8, when they announced via Instagram that they will retreat from the royal family. “We have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution,” their statement read. “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 pair noted that they “plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America.” They added: “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.”
Buckingham Palace claimed on Wednesday that Meghan and Harry are still in the “early stage” of discussions regarding their next steps. “We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through,” the statement said.
Fitzwilliams, for his part, tells Us: “The other royals didn’t know of the statement. This really is extraordinary. It’s totally irresponsible.”
With reporting by Marc Lupo
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