The Queen has confirmed that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will not be returning as working members of the Royal Family nearly a year after stepping down, Buckingham Palace said today.
The dramatic announcement was made in a palace statement at midday today, and sees the Sussexes quit for good more than one month before the one-year ‘Megxit’ review was due to be concluded on March 31.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex quit as senior working royals in March 2020 to earn their own money in the US, where they have signed deals with Spotify and Netflix estimated to be worth more than £100million.
Stepping down as working royals also means the couple, who now live in an £11million mansion in Montecito, California, will not be able to hold on to their military, Commonwealth and some other patronages.
The decision was made after conversations between the Duke of Sussex and members of the Royal Family. It brings to a conclusion an astonishing week in royal relations between the Sussexes and Buckingham Palace – and while Harry’s grandfather the Duke of Edinburgh is being treated at King Edward VII Hospital in London.
The military, Commonwealth and charitable associations which will revert to the Queen are: the Royal Marines, RAF Honington, 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.
The Sussexes, who revealed on Sunday that they are expecting their second child, are poised for an ‘intimate’ interview about their lives with Oprah Winfrey on March 7, which CBS announced on Monday.
Meghan, Harry and the Queen at an awards ceremony at Buckingham Palace on June 26, 2018
Buckingham Palace (left) and a spokesman for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (right) both released statements today
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend Trooping the Colour outside Buckingham Palace in London in June 2018
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle released this picture on Sunday as they revealed Meghan is pregnant with their second child
The Duke of Edinburgh (left) and the Duke of Sussex (right) laugh together following the wedding of Lady Gabriella Windsor and Thomas Kingston at Windsor Castle in May 2019. Prince Philip is currently in hospital in London receiving treatment
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said in a statement issued at 12.01pm today: ‘The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have confirmed to Her Majesty The Queen that they will not be returning as working members of the Royal Family.
‘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.
Harry and Meghan’s patronages: What have the couple lost and what do they now have left?
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been stripped of the royal patronages given to them by the Queen, and Harry has lost his honorary military positions. What have they lost and what have they retained?
Former soldier Harry, who served on the frontline in Afghanistan, is no longer the Captain General of the Royal Marines, Honorary Air Force Commandant of the Royal Air Force Base Honington, or Honorary Commodore-in-Chief of the Royal Naval Commands’ Small Ships and Diving.
He has also had to relinquish his role as president of The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.
A QCT spokesman said: ‘We have been very lucky to have had the keen support and encouragement of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in our formative years. They have enabled us to make fast progress and have helped us to take the organisation to readiness for its next phase. We are glad that they remain in our circle of supporters.’
The duke will no longer be patron of the Rugby Football Union and the Rugby Football League – roles which he took over from the Queen.
A Rugby Football League spokesman said: ‘The Rugby Football League thanks The Duke of Sussex for his time, care and commitment in supporting Rugby League at all levels in recent years.’
A Rugby Football Union spokesman said: ‘We would like to thank Prince Harry for his time and commitment to the RFU both in his position as Patron and Vice Patron.’
Harry is also no longer patron of the London Marathon Charitable Trust.
The role was on a three-year term, which was renewed twice, covering nine years. It came to an end in January, and it was decided it would not be renewed.
He so far retains the following private patronages or presidencies: African Parks, Dolen Cymru, the Henry van Straubenzee Memorial Fund, Invictus Games, MapAction, Rhino Conservation Botswana charity, Sentebale, and WellChild.
A Sentebale spokesman said: ‘The Duke of Sussex will continue as Patron of Sentebale and is fully committed to supporting Sentebale.’
And a WellChild spokesman added: ‘We are delighted to have the Duke of Sussex as our Patron. He has always been a great supporter of WellChild’s work and we look forward to continuing to work with him in the future.’
An Invictus Games Foundation spokesman said: ‘We are proud to have The Duke of Sussex as our Patron. The Invictus Games was founded by him, it has been built on his ideas and he remains fully committed to both the Games and to the Invictus Games Foundation.’
It is not yet known whether Harry will retain his two other rugby-related patronages of the Rugby Football Union All Schools Programme and the Rugby Football Union Injured Players Foundation.
The Queen handed Meghan two royal patronages in 2019, but the duchess loses these: The Royal National Theatre and the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
A National Theatre spokesman said: ‘The National Theatre is very grateful for the support offered by the Duchess of Sussex throughout the course of her patronage. The Duchess championed our work with communities and young people across the UK, and our mission to make theatre accessible to all.’
Meghan also has to give up her role as vice-president of The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.
She keeps her two private patronages: Smart Works and animal charity Mayhew.
‘The honorary military appointments and Royal patronages held by the Duke and Duchess will therefore be returned to Her Majesty, before being redistributed among working members of The Royal Family.
‘While all are saddened by their decision, The Duke and Duchess remain much loved members of the family.’
A statement was issued about three minutes later at 12.04pm by a spokesman for Harry and Meghan, sent to their trusted media partners such as royal biographer Omid Scobie.
It 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 UK and around the world, and have offered their continued support to the organisations they have represented regardless of official role. We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.’
Shortly after the announcement, the Rugby Football Union confirmed that Harry would be stepping down from his role as a patron.
A spokesman said: ‘We would like to thank Prince Harry for his time and commitment to the RFU both in his position as Patron and Vice Patron. The RFU has greatly valued his contribution to promoting and supporting the game.’
The Rugby Football League, of which Harry was also a patron, tweeted: ‘The Rugby Football League thanks The Duke of Sussex for his time, care and commitment in supporting Rugby League at all levels in recent years – from the children’s game to the Challenge Cup, the England teams and RLWC2021.’
And the National Theatre, of which the Duchess of Sussex was a patron, tweeted: ‘The National Theatre is very grateful for the support offered by the Duchess of Sussex throughout the course of her patronage.
‘The Duchess championed our work with communities and young people across the UK, and our mission to make theatre accessible to all.
‘As Buckingham Palace have stated, the process of appointing a new patron is ongoing and will be announced in due course.’
The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust has thanked the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for their support following the news the couple are returning their patronages to the Queen.
The trust said in a statement: ‘The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust exists to support young people around the world who are delivering practical help to those who need it most.
‘We have been very lucky to have had the keen support and encouragement of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in our formative years.
‘They have enabled us to make fast progress and have helped us to take the organisation to readiness for its next phase. We are glad that they remain in our circle of supporters.
‘Our focus, as always, is on the young people we work alongside. We will be pressing on with vigour to help them reach even more people with the essential services they provide.’
Meanwhile the Duke of Edinburgh was today spending a fourth day in hospital for ‘observation and rest’ after being admitted earlier this week after feeling unwell.
Philip was described as being in ‘good spirits’ after he walked unaided into King Edward VII Hospital in London on Tuesday evening, on the advice of his doctor.
Buckingham Palace has said admitting the 99-year-old royal was a ‘precautionary measure’. There were no reports of visitors arriving at the private hospital, but the duke is known for his ‘no fuss’ attitude.
Philip, who turns 100 on June 10, is in hospital for an undisclosed reason, although it is not coronavirus-related.
It is understood a doctor was called after Philip felt unwell for a short period and he was taken to hospital by car, where he walked in unaided as a non-emergency admission.
Philip has been spending the latest lockdown with the Queen at Windsor Castle and in January they both received Covid vaccinations. It is understood the decision to admit him was taken with an ‘abundance’ of caution.
He last had a spell in hospital when he spent four nights at the King Edward VII in December 2019, where he was treated for a ‘pre-existing condition’ and discharged on Christmas Eve.
On Monday, it was confirmed this week that Harry and Meghan had agreed to a ‘wide-ranging’ interview with Oprah Winfrey. It is believed the programme could be recorded at some point this week.
The statement issued by Buckingham Palace shortly after midday today, announcing the news about Harry and Meghan
The Queen on Remembrance Sunday last November (left) and meeting key workers at Windsor Castle last December (right)
Oprah Winfrey, who is interviewing the couple, is pictured at Harry and Meghan’s Windsor Castle wedding on May 19, 2018
Prince Harry and Meghan speak from the garden of their £11million home in Montecito, California, last September
The Sussexes did not tell the Queen in advance that they were planning the interview – but are keen to avoid upsetting the monarch during their chat, it has been claimed.
A royal source said that because the couple were no longer working royals, any decisions taken with regard to ‘media commitments are matters for them’.
The source added that the Sussexes were ‘under no obligation’ to inform the Royal Household of the interview, which was announced by CBS in a press release.
Meghan and Oprah are friends and near neighbours in California, with Oprah attending the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding in 2018 and plugging a range of vegan lattes that Meghan has helped finance.
One source described the interview as ‘one of the most inevitable and, sadly, predictable consequences’ of the ‘Megxit’ saga.
Harry will also feature in the 90-minute show. It will air next month on CBS and the couple will discuss their move to the US.
It will be the first time the pair have spoken publicly about their bombshell decision to leave Britain and step down from their working roles in the Royal Family.