Harry & Meghan’s exit: Will they lose their titles and other burning questions answeredJanuary 14, 2020
The “Megxit” summit of 2020 is over and Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan have emerged with Queen Elizabeth’s OK for change, so is the latest Windsor crisis over? Not yet: There are still many complicated details to resolve about their future royal roles.
The devil is in the details as Harry and Meghan and their 8-month-old baby Archie prepare for a new life as semi-working royals on both sides of the Atlantic.
Nevertheless, Queen Elizabeth II’s grandson Harry, 35, and his American wife, the former actress Meghan Markle, 38, won a major victory Monday following a crisis summit at Sandringham with the queen, Harry’s father, Prince Charles, and his older brother, Prince William, plus their top staffers.
The mission: Calm the storm that arose last week after the Sussex bombshell announcement that they wish to step back from their royal roles, become financially independent and split their time between the United Kingdom and North America.
Royal memorabilia featuring Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan of Sussex on sale in a store near Buckingham Palace on Jan. 10, 2020. (Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP via Getty Images)
And they got what they wanted. The queen, who rarely issues statements about family matters, described the discussions on the future of “my grandson and his family” as “constructive.”
Given the outraged terms in which the British tabloids have described the crisis they call “Megxit” (because they blame Meghan for it), it was a fairly bland statement from a monarch said to be hurt, disappointed and even offended by the Sussex announcement and its timing.
But some royal experts were unsurprised, such as Sally Bedell Smith, the acclaimed American biographer of the queen and Harry’s mother, the late Princess Diana.
“People tend to lose sight of the fact that behind the queen’s devotion to duty and reverence for tradition, she is a broad-minded and careful listener who is adept at solving problems,” Smith said. “The queen keeps a laser focus on preserving and modernizing the monarchy, but she is equally committed to ensuring that Harry is happy.”
A sign to the Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's Sandringham Estate, Britain. (Photo: NEIL HALL, EPA-EFE)
Now to the details:
Who will pay for their security when they’re abroad?
It’s expensive, and it would be even more so outside the U.K. Will taxpayers pay for it?
On their website, the couple say they are by definition “internationally protected people” and their security is required under British law. Home Secretary Priti Patel said Monday “safety was always a priority” for the royal family, although she would not discuss details, as per usual with the British government.
And shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that she believes their security should continue. “I think the British taxpayer should pay for the security of Harry and Meghan and their family, as they do for former ministers,” she said, also highlighting Harry’s service in Afghanistan when he was in the British Army.
Will they lose their titles and royal status?
When Princess Diana and Prince Charles divorced in 1996, she lost her “Her Royal Highness” status but not the title of Princess of Wales.
The queen’s statement said nothing about this issue but some are wondering if it’s significant that she never refers to Harry and Meghan by their titles in the statement.
Still, experts consider it unlikely the Sussexes will be stripped of title or status, if for nothing else that the palace would want to avoid the criticism and unhappiness that followed after Diana lost her HRH. And the Sussexes are not getting divorced.
A gated entrance to Queen Elizabeth II's Sandringham estate in Norfolk on Jan. 13, 2020, as the media gathered early outside in advance of the royal summit of the queen, Prince Harry, Prince William and Prince Charles to discuss the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's future role in the family. (Photo: NEIL HALL, EPA-EFE)
Will they have to pay taxes if they live abroad?
There are complicated tax implications if they live outside the U.K. for an extended period. Under the Canadian tax system, anyone who lives in Canada for 183 days or more a year must pay tax on their global income, regardless of where it is earned or received. The same goes for the U.K., but the relevant period is 90 days.
As an American citizen, Meghan already has to pay taxes in the U.S. on any global earnings regardless of where she lives. But, as the Mail on Sunday warned, Harry might have to limit his time in Canada or face being “double-taxed” on any commercial income he earns, paying in both countries.
Where will their income come from?
Harry and Meghan are giving up their share of the Sovereign Grant, the taxpayer-supplied fund that supports the queen and other working royals. The grant amounts to 5% of the total of their office costs, according to the Sussex website.
The rest of their income comes from Prince Charles’ private resources from the rich Duchy of Cornwall, which in 2019 amounted to about $27 million according to the duchy website. This paid for most of the official and charitable activities of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and the official offices of his two sons.
Will the Prince of Wales cut back on his financial support now that Harry and Meghan are going to be more financially independent? And what happens when Prince William inevitably takes over the duchy?
The Duchy of Cornwall is a private estate assigned to whoever is the Prince of Wales, beginning in the early 14th century, with the purpose of supplying income to the heir apparent. Up until 1993, it was tax exempt but since then, Charles has voluntarily paid income tax on the duchy income.
When Charles becomes king, the duchy will pass to William, who has been training to take over the vast estate for some years.
In addition, Harry inherited millions from the estate of his late mother, and Meghan earned millions as an actress on legal drama “Suits.”
Duchess Meghan of Sussex and Prince Harry at a reception in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2, 2019. (Photo: FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA, EPA-EFE)
What kind of jobs could they get?
Do either of them need one, beyond charity campaigners? Is it really likely Meghan might return to acting?
All this is up in the air, but Canadians have been polled and more than 60% support the queen appointing Harry governor general as her representative in the Commonwealth nation, according to the National Post, reporting on a Postmedia poll.
This would mean taking over from the current occupant, Montreal-born Julie Payette, which might be awkward. Nevertheless, even in Quebec, with its vein of anti-monarchy sentiment, the poll found a surprising 47% of Quebecois liked the idea of the queen’s grandson becoming governor general.
“The governor general position is indeed possible,” says Smith, pointing to Harry’s great-uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, who served as Governor General of Australia from 1945 to 1947. “He was 45 when he was appointed. I don’t think Harry’s age would be disqualifying.”
In any case, according to The New York Times and Canadian media, the possibility of Harry and Meghan settling in Canada has sparked excitement, offers of free coffee and some dissent.
Can they make deals to endorse commercial products?
Will Harry and Meghan be allowed to sign deals for purely commercial purposes, as opposed to raising money for charity? If so, under what conditions?
“If (they remain) within the royal family, will they endorse commercial brands?,” wonders British royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams. “Would this be appropriate for a royal? Who defines what ‘appropriate’ is?”
Even before the Megxit crisis, Meghan apparently did a voice-over for Disney to benefit the wildlife conservation charity Elephants Without Borders, according to The Times of London and TMZ.
Multiple outlets, including People, ran newly surfaced video of Harry and Meghan at “The Lion King” premiere in London in July 2019, in which Harry is heard pitching his wife for voice-over work to Disney CEO Bob Iger.
Where will they live in either U.K. or Canada?
They said on their website they intend to continue to live at Frogmore Cottage in Windsor while in the U.K., but there’s been some push-back from media critics and anti-monarchist republicans about that.
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