Harry and Meghan begin life as (almost) ordinary people
LONDON, (AFP): Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan began a new life Sunday as — somewhat — ordinary people with financial worries and security concerns after being stripped of their royal titles and public funding by the Queen.
The settlement announced by Buckingham Palace on Saturday saw the 93-year-old monarch assume her painfully familiar role of managing a family crisis that threatened the very foundations of one of Britain’s oldest institutions.
The “Megxit” mess began when the young couple gave up their font-line family duties and announced plans to chart a “progressive new role” in North America on January 8.
They did so without winning Queen Elizabeth II’s permission or seemingly knowing how it was all going to work out.
A mad rush of royal family meetings and screaming headlines in the tabloid press culminated with a ruling Saturday that The Daily Telegraph called “the hardest Megxit possible”.
– ‘Absolutely unprecedented’ –
The couple lost their right to be called “his and her royal highness” (HRH) — much as Harry’s late mother Princess Diana did when she divorced Prince Charles in another family drama that upset the Queen in 1996.
They further agreed to repay £2.4 million ($3.1 million) of taxpayer’s money spent on renovating their Frogmore Cottage home near Windsor Castle.
“No royal has ever paid back money,” former royal press secretary Dickie Arbiter wrote in The Sun on Sunday.
“It is absolutely unprecedented.”
Harry was also stripped of the military titles and patronages he was awarded after serving two tours in Afghanistan with the British Army and rising to the rank of captain.
But Arbiter said it was the loss of the HRH “royal highness” title that really made Palace history.
“Even when Edward VIII abdicated (in 1936) he dropped from being His Majesty The King to HRH the Duke of Windsor,” he said.
Arbiter noted that Princess Diana was not born a royal and had her HRH “obtained through marriage.”
– ‘The point of life’ –
Few know what Meghan — an American former TV actress with a huge social media following and A-list celebrity friends such as Oprah Winfrey and the Obamas — thinks of the British brouhaha about ancient acronyms.
The 38-year-old frankly admitted on UK television in October that she “really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip. I tried, I really tried.”
But she admitted sadly: “That’s not the point of life. You’ve got to thrive.”
Harry has also been open about still being haunted by his mother’s death in a 1997 car crash involving a chasing pack of paparazzi.
He and Meghan filed a series of lawsuits against British media outlets in October — a step that predictably outraged the tabloids and renewed debates about the royals’ role in public life.
Harry is expected to join Meghan and their baby son Archie on a resort island near the southwestern Canadian city of Vancouver this coming week.
Royal observers think they will spend little time in Britain once — in the restrained words of Buckingham Palace — “this new model” takes effect “in the spring of 2020”.
– ‘Stuck in public’s throats’ –
The immediate question facing Harry and Meghan is how they will make ends meet.
Sky News said Prince Charles will continue paying his son some money from his private income.
Harry has undisclosed millions of pounds in savings and Meghan has enjoyed a lucrative acting career. She is now thinking of starting her own line of health and “wellness” products.
The Sunday Times asked a royal aide if Harry and Meghan will be able to cash in on the “Sussex Royal” brand they trademarked in December.
“That is still one the areas being worked through,” the royal aide told the paper.
“That translates as: ‘The Queen isn’t at all sure’,” The Sunday Times wrote.
Arbiter observed that Diana’s “global appeal” was in no way affected by her losing the HRH tag.
Some deals are likely to involve Hollywood.
Video footage emerged of Harry highlighting Meghan’s interest in doing voiceover work to a Disney boss in December. There has also been some speculation about the couple teaming up with Netflix.
The Palace said the separate issue of who pays for their pricey security detail will have to be resolved by the UK government at a later date.
But royal biography Penny Junor said the idea of the couple in any way profiting from their royal titles really “stuck in the public’s throats”.
“Harry is who he is simply by accident of birth,” said Junor. “If he was able to make squillions of pounds from that it would be wrong.”