Prince Harry, Meghan Markle announce plan to 'step back as senior members of the Royal Family'

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex plan to "work to become financially independent."

January 8, 2020, 3:33 PM

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced on Wednesday that they plan to "step back as senior members" of Britain's royal family.

"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," the couple wrote in an Instagram post. "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 couple, who just returned from a weeks-long stay in Canada over the holidays, dropped a few hints to their future plans in the post.

Harry and Meghan -- who was born in Los Angeles and lived for several years in Canada while she starred in the TV drama "Suits," plan to no longer live full-time in the U.K. -- instead choosing to "balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America."

"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," they wrote. "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."

Shortly after Harry and Meghan's announcement was posted, Buckingham Palace issued a statement of its own.

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

ABC News understands that none of the other members of the royal family were made aware of the contents of Harry and Meghan's statement before it was released.

Harry and Meghan currently live with their 8-month-old son Archie in Windsor at Frogmore Cottage, a home given to them by Queen Elizabeth II that they renovated and moved into just before Archie's birth in May.

The move from Kensington Palace, where they were neighbors of Prince William and Kate, to Windsor, was just one of the ways the couple forged their own path since marrying in May 2018.

In just two years, they have become parents, established their own household, launched new charitable initiatives and separated from the Royal Foundation, the charitable organization Harry founded with William and Kate.

The strain the spotlight placed on Harry and Meghan was evident late last year in interviews the Duke and Duchess of Sussex gave for a documentary on their tour of Africa.

"It's hard," Meghan told ITV News at Ten anchor Tom Bradby for the documentary, "Harry & Meghan: An African Journey." "I don't think anybody could understand that."

"And I think the grass is always greener," Meghan said later in the interview. "You have no idea. It's really hard to understand what it's like. I know what it seems like it should be. It's a very different thing. That's OK. The good thing is, I've got my baby and I've got my husband, and they're the best."

Prince Harry, sixth in line to the British throne, spoke honestly about the grief he still feels over the death of his mother, Princess Diana, in a 1996 car crash in Paris, describing it as a "wound that festers" and one that motivates his actions today.

The youngest son of Prince Charles and Diana also did not deny rumors of a rift between him and his only sibling, Prince William.

"We're certainly on different paths at the moment, but I will always be there for him and as I know he'll always be there for me," Harry said. "We don't see each other as much as we used to because we're so busy, but I love him dearly."

In addition to their openness -- unusual for members of the royal family -- Harry and Meghan also have been public about their attempts to fight any intrusion in their lives.

Harry took legal action in October against a British tabloid over privacy concerns.

Just a few days later, Buckingham Palace confirmed that Harry had also started legal action against some U.K. media outlets with regard to "the illegal interception of voicemail messages."

In November, Buckingham Palace announced Harry and Meghan would not spend Christmas with Harry's family and would take extended time off from royal duties to enjoy family time.

The couple made their first public appearance of 2020 on Tuesday when they visited the Canada House in London to thank them for the hospitality they experienced while in Canada.

What's next for Harry and Meghan?

Harry and Meghan launched a website,, that includes more details about their future plans.

They plan to keep Frogmore Cottage as their official U.K. residence, with the permission of Queen Elizabeth, who will continue to own the property, according to the website.

The duke and duchess plan to stay active on social media but will no longer participate in the Royal Rota system, which gives U.K. print and broadcast outlets exclusive access to the royal family's official engagements.

In explaining their decision, Harry and Meghan wrote, "The current structure makes it challenging for The Duke and Duchess of Sussex to personally share moments in their lives directly with members of the public (via social media for example), without first going through the filter of the Royal Rota ... They look forward to continuing their use of social media and believe that their updated media approach will enable them to share more, with you, directly."

In a section of their new website focused on the monarchy, Harry and Meghan write, "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex deeply believe in the role of The Monarchy, and their commitment to Her Majesty The Queen is unwavering."

Harry and Meghan say they will continue with their royal patronages of multiple U.K.-based charities, while also working in 2020 to shape their own Sussex Royal charity around "community action" and "progressive change."

"After carefully considering a number of foundation models, and having researched the incredible work of many well known and lesser known foundations, The Duke and Duchess are actively working to create something different – a charitable entity that will not only help complement these efforts, but also advance the solutions the world needs most," the website reads. "They look forward to sharing more with you in due course."

In response to one of the most eye-catching lines of their statement, that they will "work to become financially independent," Harry and Meghan's website has a detailed section on funding.

"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," the website explains. "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," the statement reads.

Harry and Meghan will no longer receive money from the Sovereign Grant, the annual funding of the monarchy that they say covered 5% of their official office expenses.

With that change, they are "members of the royal family with financial independence," according to the website.

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