Shortcuts / 22 January 2020

Harry and Meghan’s ‘new arrangement’

What it means to be a ‘senior royal’, how are the Royal Family funded and how do they work with the media? In this episode we tackle those questions while we talk you through Harry and Meghan’s new arrangement, and how it’ll work.

Who are the members of the royal family?

Queen Elizabeth II is head of the house of Windsor – the reigning royal house of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, including Australia. Her first born Prince Charles is the heir to the throne. Then there’s his eldest son Prince William, and his son Prince George, daughter Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis make up the first 5 in line of succession. Other senior royals include the Queens husband, Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, Charles’ wife Camilla, William’s wife Catherine (the Duchess of Cambridge), Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, and Baby Archie. The term ‘senior royal’ isn’t an official one, but it’s used to describe those who are high up in the line of succession, and their spouses. Then there’s the Queen’s other children, who are not considered senior royals but are still members of the royal family – Princess Anne, Prince Andrew (Duke of York), and Prince Edward (Earl of Wessex). Their children, including Zara Tindall, Peter Phillips, Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, and Lady Louise and James, Viscount Severn – and their grandchildren are also part of the royal family.

What are the qualifications to being a senior royal?

Being a working, senior royal is not simply a matter of birth or marriage. It is also about an expectation you will ‘serve and survive’ – that is, having to engage in hundreds of ceremonial and civic duties every year, and ensuring their actions aid – rather than threaten – the survival of the House of Windsor. Being a member of the Royal Family requires one to follow a number of quirky rules. Royal women are expected to wear hats to formal appearances during the day, as do most socialites and members of the aristocracy. However, come 6 p.m. it’s all about a tiara. Boys wear shorts until the age of 8. No shellfish. And no to heirs to the throne can travel on the same flight – a rule Kate and William have disobeyed so far but as little George gets a bit older, this will be a requirement.

How is the royal family funded?

They are largely funded by the Duchy of Lancaster, the Queen’s private portfolio of commercial, agricultural and residential properties, some of which date back to 1265. This money, which generates an income of about 20 million pounds a year, is generally used by the Queen to pay for official and private expenses, as well as members of the royal family who undertake official engagements on her behalf. They also have a private estate, the Duchy of Cornwall, which was established in 1337 to provide an income to the heir of the throne. Its income, which generally amounts to 20 million pounds a year, is sourced from a number of properties it owns and operates, including a collection of islands and rental cottages in Wales and Cornwall. Prince Charles controls this estate, and hands out payments to his sons Harry and William through this estate. Finally, there’s the Sovereign Grant, which is largely made up of taxpayer funds. It is valued depending on how much money the Crown Estate —a huge portfolio of land including Regent Street and Ascot Racecourse has brought in. The Grant, which amounts to 25% of the royal family’s net income since 2016, pays for the costs associated with those associated with the official duties of the Queen, and the upkeep of occupied royal palaces, including staff costs.

How are they held accountable for what they spend?

The Royal Family is exempt from the UK’s freedom of information laws. But that doesn’t stop the media and the public from commenting on the matter of royal expenses. While the royal family is quite secretive about their finances, the House of Windsor releases a report of its annual income and expenditure every year.

So what’s happening with Harry and Meghan?

On Monday, 6 January, Harry and Meghan released a statement, the second line of that statement read as follows “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”. Harry and Meghan’s intention was to be ‘part-royal’ and ‘part-private’, and that threw up some dilemmas. First and foremost – as a royal, they are not allowed to use their royal status for personal gain. And while senior royals are prohibited from taking on professional work, the Sussexes said they wanted to start earning their own keep. Harry also wanted to keep doing some public work on behalf of the Queen and to maintain his military appointments. And they would spend their time between the UK and Canada, which is a problem when you look at maintaining homes and providing security for official members of the royal family. But it wasn’t to be and in less than two week, an agreement had been struck between the Sussexes and the Queen about a way forward. More than a ‘step back’, they’re taking a ‘step out’. This means that they will no longer perform royal duties, and will no longer receive public funds. Harry, who served in the British Army for 10 years, will quit his royal military roles. The Sussexes will, however, be allowed to retain their 20 patronages. And while they no longer formally represent the Queen, Harry and Meghan “have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty.” They retain their HRH titles, but won’t use them given they are no longer senior royals. They will also repay the taxpayer-funded $4.5 million spent on renovations to Frogmore Cottage, their home in Windsor. It will remain their UK home, and they will now pay rent for it. In his first public comments about what has come if their desire to change their lives, Harry said “It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges and I know I haven’t always got it right, but as far as this goes there really was no other option.”

So what’s next for Harry and Meghan?

They will go through a transition period and by mid-2020, they will no longer be working royals. They will carve their own way in the world commercially and forge a new relationship with the media with no ties to the royal rules.

Are there any precedents for Harry and Meghan’s departure from royal life?

This kind of uncoupling from the royal family is being compared to the abdication of Prince Edward back in 1936. King for less than a year, King Edward the eighth abdicated so he could marry an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Now, things have changed quite a bit. Harry was allowed to marry an American divorcee. But for Edward, he stepped down, was made the Duke of Windsor, handed the crown to Queen Elizabeth’s father, who became King George the sixth. He died in 1952 making Queen Elizabeth II queen at just 26yo. Edward spent most of the rest of his life in France apart from the royal family. So that’s an extreme comparison but is much referred to in reaction to any new arrangement. Interestingly though, in their statement Harry and Meghan have said they want to do all this, but “continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages.” In the end they won’t be able to continue to serve the Queen in a formal sense. But they keep their patronages, and say they remain committed to “uphold the values of Her Majesty.”  In the lead up to settling the arrangement, The Queen made it clear she still loved and supported them. “My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.” And she’s also called out Meghan for special attention saying she was “particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.” A lot has been said about Meghan and her role in this. Harry though has been keen to say the call to leave royal life was his.

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Sussex Royal instagram: @sussexroyal

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