LONDON — Buckingham Palace announced Friday that Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will lose their last royal patronages and honorary military titles, as Queen Elizabeth II confirmed that the California-based power couple could not keep the perks if they did not do the work.
“Following conversations with The Duke, The Queen has written confirming that in stepping away from the work of The Royal Family it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service,” the palace said in a statement, which sounded a bit pointed to many.
Also worth noting, the queen’s “conversations” (more than one) were with the duke — not the duchess.
After they walked away last year from their lives as “working royals” in Britain, the palace agreed to a 12-month review to see if some compromise could be struck, whereby the couple would continue to represent the monarch as part-timers — half Hollywood, half pomp and circumstance.
Alas, the queen has never liked the concept of “one foot in, one foot out” for working royals. You are either in the castle — or “The Firm,” as it is casually known — or you are beyond the walls and on your own.
“The queen made pretty clear last January, when they were negotiating, that you’re either in or you’re out,” said Dickie Arbiter, the queen’s former press secretary. The past year, he said, was about the duke and duchess “finding out what direction they want to go, and they have chosen that direction. They signed with Netflix. They signed with Spotify. They are doing an interview with Oprah Winfrey. They’ve chosen their direction and it’s not the same direction as the queen and the monarchy. So, they are out.”
The statement from Buckingham Palace put the onus on the couple, now living in the oceanside hills south of Santa Barbara, Calif., on a $15 million estate, while they podcast, endorse products and prepare to produce content for Netflix.
Oprah Winfrey is one of their neighbors. The palace is said to be bracing for possible embarrassments after CBS announced this week that it will air a 90-minute program, “Oprah with Meghan and Harry,” on March 7.
“Winfrey will speak with Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, in a wide-ranging interview, covering everything from stepping into life as a Royal, marriage, motherhood, philanthropic work to how she is handling life under intense public pressure,” the network said in a statement.
The palace spun the yanking of patronages as something that must be done in accordance with tradition, but stressed there are no hard feelings.
“While all are saddened by their decision” not to come home and return to royal duties, they “remain much loved members of the family,” the palace said.
Harry, 36, and Meghan, 39, have announced they are expecting a second child in the spring.
The honorary military appointments and royal patronages held by Harry and Meghan will be returned to the queen, before being redistributed among working members of the royal family.
This is a blow to Harry, certainly.
His life has been very much intertwined with his military service (he did two tours in Afghanistan as a forward air controller and a helicopter pilot) and with his support of British sporting life.
The prince will also no longer serve as captain general of the Royal Marines, a role passed to him from his grandfather, Prince Philip, who had held the post for 64 years. The 99-year-old Philip spent his third night in a hospital under observation after feeling poorly. The British media reported that the duke will probably remain in hospital over the weekend and into next week. The palace said the illness is not coronavirus-related.
Gone, too, is Harry’s post as “commodore-in-chief, small ships and diving” in the Royal Navy.
The Sun newspaper reported that Harry will no longer be able to wear a military uniform at official events, including the dashing red Royal Marines uniform he wore in March last year. The couple have not been seen publicly in the U.K. since then. Meghan, a former TV actress, will also surrender her patronage of the National Theatre, bestowed to her by the queen, who herself had held the honor for 45 years.
She will keep her private patronages with Smart Works, which offers coaching to unemployed women, and Mayhew, an animal charity. Harry will also retain a number of private patronages, including with Invictus Games, the sporting competition for wounded service personnel that he founded.
Royal patronages help charities to raise their profile — and often to raise funds. As a supporter of a charity or organization, a royal can draw attention to causes.
In all, the couple are saying goodbye to formal relations with the Royal Marines, the Royal Air Force Honington base, Royal Navy Small Ships and Diving, the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, the Rugby Football Union, the Rugby Football League, the Royal National Theatre and the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
A spokesperson for the couple said: “As evidenced by their work over the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the [United Kingdom] and around the world, and have offered their continued support to the organisations they have represented regardless of official role.”
The statement added: “We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”