Why you should care
The Sussexes are trying to forge a new path out of the media spotlight – but they’re also forgoing the scant protections they currently enjoy.
This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.
WHAT TO KNOW
What happened? In an Instagram post to their 10-million-plus followers, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (aka Prince Harry and Meghan Markle) announced that they’ll be stepping back as senior members of the royal family, splitting their time between the U.K. and North America, and aiming for financial independence. It was a bombshell to royal watchers — and, apparently, to Buckingham Palace, which reportedly had not been consulted before the announcement and issued a terse statement shortly after that said “discussions … are at an early stage.”
Why does it matter? The young royals (Harry is sixth in line to the British throne) have been battling with the British press for as long as they’ve been a couple, and they’ve promised a “revised media role” in the wake of this big change, including a focus on grassroots media. Harry’s mother, Princess Diana (pictured), died in a car wreck while being chased by paparazzi, and Meghan — who is biracial — was mocked by the press from the get-go as “straight outta Compton.” The couple have initiated legal action against some newspapers for alleged phone hacking, and opened up to others about the toll that living in the spotlight has taken on their young family. But the British press has long gone easy on members of the royal family — and without that protection, Harry and Meghan may find their new situation difficult in some ways.
HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT
No holds barred. While the aggressive British press notoriously plays nicer with the royal family than with many celebrities, Harry and Meghan may lose that protection by divesting themselves from “the Firm.” Still, Harry’s father, Prince Charles (pictured), has long made plain his desire to streamline the royal family, focusing on monarchs and immediate heirs, which might fit in well with Harry and Meghan’s “stepping back” — they’re notably not the most popular royals, according to an August poll that put Harry in second place (after the queen) and Meghan in sixth.
Whither thou goest. While Meghan’s American passport might indicate they’ll end up in the U.S., where her mother lives, the couple may head a bit farther north. They spent part of the Christmas holidays in British Columbia, Canada, and Meghan has a history in Toronto, where her best friend lives and where she filmed her TV show, Suits, before giving up acting for a royal life. Canada is also part of the British Commonwealth — technically Harry’s grandmother is queen there too — and has a notably more restrained tabloid culture. The pair also made their first public outing since November on Tuesday … to the Canadian High Commission in London.
A working prince? The Sussexes’ statement spoke of trying to achieve “financial independence,” and indicated that they’ll give up the 5 percent of their income derived from the Sovereign Grant (aka taxpayer money). The rest comes from Harry’s father, but given enough distance from the royal family the pair could potentially get jobs, something royal family members are banned from doing. Some have questioned who will pay for their security, not to mention the recent $3 million renovation of their home, Frogmore Cottage, where they live by permission of the queen.
WHAT TO READ
Harry and Meghan Might Not Like the Price of Financial Independence, by Joanna Weiss in The Atlantic
“That Harry and Meghan would turn to influencing, like some aspiring fashionista from Brooklyn or a video gamer in Buffalo, might sound crass. Surely the duke and duchess have other skills, and at least one of them can act. On the other hand, their current life is an analog of, and a natural bridge to, the influencer economy.”
Harry and Meghan Inc. May Work Better as a Royal Family Spinoff, by Sarah Green Carmichael in Bloomberg
“They have clearly struggled to balance the public and private aspects of royal life, and frankly, seem pretty miserable doing the job they’ve been trying to do since their wedding.”
WHAT TO WATCH
Harry and Meghan Step Back From Their Royal Duties
Watch on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on YouTube
“This means Meghan Markle can go back to Suits, and Harry can sell them at Men’s Wearhouse!”
How Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Fell Out of Love With the Royal Family
Watch on The Telegraph on YouTube
“I will always protect my family, and now I have a family to protect.”
WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER
Measured response. In the hours after the announcement, sources within the palace said that the royal family is “hurt” and “disappointed” by the Sussexes’ actions — a stronger response than was reported in the aftermath of Prince Andrew, Harry’s uncle, conducting a BBC interview in which he said he didn’t regret his close friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew did step down from royal life shortly after.