It was with “great sadness” but without having “any other choice” that he made the decision to withdraw from the British monarchy, Prince Harry finally said Sunday evening in a speech with intimate overtones.
“The decision I made for my wife and I was not taken lightly” but after “months of talks, following years of challenges”, justified the Duke of Sussex to the guests on Sunday of a charity dinner in London.
In this first public speech since the announcement of his withdrawal, he apologized for “not always having done things right”, without specifying which ones.
Harry, 35, and his wife Meghan, 38, revealed on January 8 that they wanted to gain financial independence and settle in North America with their son Archie. Without warning Harry’s grandmother and father, Elizabeth II and Prince Charles.
If the Duke and Duchess of Sussex initially wished to keep a foothold in the royal family, the Queen quickly undeceived them by announcing on Saturday evening that they should give up using “their title of royal highness, since they are not plus active members of the royal family. ”
– “Hard Megxit” –
The tabloids, who accused them of “wanting their cake and eat it too”, welcomed the fact that the duke and duchess, now freed from their “royal obligations”, could no longer “formally represent the queen”.
It is an “undeniably radical agreement,” the Daily Telegraph said. The Sunday Mirror welcomed on the front page that “the queen orders a hard Megxit”, in reference to the Brexit scheduled for January 31.
The couple’s stormy relationship with British newspapers, which Harry described as a “mighty force” in his speech on Sunday, weighed in on their decision to step back. Accused of racism towards the Metis American actress, the sensation press regularly attacked Meghan with vitriolic articles.
For protocol expert of the royal family Alastair Bruce, questioned by the Sun, the queen settled the question of an “iron fist” and the abandonment of the title of royal highness is equivalent to “an abdication”, since Harry thus finds himself demoted to the same rank as thirty other British dukes.
If the couple will keep their titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex, they will however renounce their royal allowance and will have to reimburse certain public expenses from which they benefited, in particular the 2.3 million euros employed to renovate their residence in the United Kingdom. .
“It is absolutely unprecedented,” said Sun Dickie Arbiter, former royal press secretary, noting that “no member of the royal family has ever repaid money,” even those who had already been deprived of their royal highness status.
– Core members –
Before the young prince, who will fall from his sixth place in the order of succession to the British throne, his mother Lady Diana had also lost this status after having divorced Charles in 1996. But it was a ” honorary title “, obtained by marriage. It is, however, the very first time that a Windsor by birth has been deprived of this status.
Many commentators draw a parallel with the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936, who by marrying a divorced American woman had renounced the throne. The latter had in fact not lost his title, seeing himself simply demoted from “His Majesty the King” to “His Royal Majesty the Duke of Windsor”.
The decision of Elizabeth II thus marks a turning point in the history of one of the oldest British institutions, opening an era of new functioning tightened around the elder branch only.
Prince Charles, who is preparing to take over from his 93-year-old mother, had already expressed his desire to “bring back (the family) to a core of senior members who work full time”.
At the end of 2019, the scandal over Prince Andrew’s relations with the American financier Jeffrey Epstein accused of trafficking minors, had forced him to withdraw and pave the way. By withdrawing from Harry and Meghan their status, the queen has just put in a first relay.
Many royal experts now expect a decline in the lifestyle for the family, many of whose members have a rank worth remuneration.
From an emotional point of view, “Harry, Meghan and Archie will remain very dear members of my family”, however underlined Elizabeth II. “I will always have the greatest respect for my grandmother, my commander-in-chief,” replied the Duke of Sussex on Sunday evening, moved.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, when interviewed by Sky News, said he was convinced of the ability of “the royal family to find a way to move forward”, wishing Sussex “all the best for their future”.
Palace decisions are to take effect in the spring.