Harry and Meghan begin life as (almost) ordinary people

Dmitry Zaks, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 20 2020 06:55 AM | Updated as of Jan 20 2020 02:09 PM

Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, leave Canada House in London, Britain Jan. 7, 2020. Toby Melville, Reuters/File

Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan began a new life Sunday as somewhat ordinary people with financial worries and security concerns after being stripped of their royal titles and public funding by the Queen.

The settlement announced by Buckingham Palace on Saturday saw the 93-year-old monarch assume her painfully familiar role of managing a family crisis that threatened the very foundations of one of Britain's oldest institutions.

The "Megxit" mess began when the young couple gave up their font-line family duties and announced plans to chart a "progressive new role" in North America on January 8.

They did so without winning Queen Elizabeth II's permission or seemingly knowing how it was all going to work out.

A mad rush of royal family meetings and screaming headlines in the tabloid papers culminated with a ruling Saturday that The Daily Telegraph called "the hardest Megxit possible".

'ABSOLUTELY UNPRECEDENTED' 

The couple lost their right to be called "his and her royal highness" (HRH) -- much as Harry's late mother Princess Diana did when she divorced Prince Charles in another family drama that upset the Queen in 1996.

They further agreed to repay £2.4 million ($3.1 million) of taxpayer's money spent on renovating their Frogmore Cottage home near Windsor Castle.

"No royal has ever paid back money," former royal press secretary Dickie Arbiter wrote in The Sun on Sunday.

"It is absolutely unprecedented."

Harry was also stripped of the military titles and patronages he was awarded after serving two tours in Afghanistan with the British Army.

But Arbiter said it was the loss of the HRH "royal highness" abbreviation that really made Palace history.

"Even when Edward VIII abdicated (in 1936) he dropped from being His Majesty The King to HRH the Duke of Windsor," he said.

Arbiter noted that Princess Diana was not born a royal and had her HRH "obtained through marriage."

'LOST SOULS' 

Few know what Meghan -- an American former TV actress with a huge social media following and A-list celebrity friends such as Oprah Winfrey and the Obamas -- thinks of the British brouhaha about ancient acronyms.

The 38-year-old frankly admitted on UK television in October that she "really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip. I tried, I really tried."

But she admitted sadly: "That's not the point of life. You've got to thrive."

Harry has also talked about still being haunted by his mother's death in a 1997 car crash involving a chasing pack of paparazzi.

He and Meghan filed a series of lawsuits against UK media outlets in October -- a step that predictably outraged the tabloids and renewed debates about the royals' role in public life.

One these involved a UK paper that published fragments of a private letter Meghan had sent her estranged father Thomas Markle after her Windsor wedding to Harry in May 2018.

Thomas told Britain's Channel 5 over the weekend that he found Meghan's decision to quit the royals "embarrassing".

"This is one of the greatest, long-living institutions ever. They are destroying it. They are cheapening it. They are making it shabby," Meghan's father said.

"I think both of them are turning into lost souls at this point."

'THE QUEEN ISN'T SURE' 

The expensive lawsuits and the possibility that they might have to start paying for their top-notch security detail raise the immediate question of how they will make ends meet.

Sky News said Prince Charles will probably continue paying his son some money from his private income.

Harry has undisclosed millions of pounds in savings and Meghan has enjoyed a lucrative acting career. She is now also thinking of starting her own line of health and "wellness" products.

The Sunday Times asked a royal aide if Harry and Meghan will be able to cash in on the "Sussex Royal" brand they trademarked in December.

"That is still one of the areas being worked through," the royal aide told the paper.

"That translates as: 'The Queen isn't at all sure'," The Sunday Times wrote.

But Arbiter stressed that Diana's "global appeal" was in no way affected by her losing the HRH tag.

Harry was seen talking to a Disney boss in December about Meghan's interest in doing voiceover. There has also been speculation about the couple teaming up with Netflix.

The Palace said the separate issue of who pays for their protection will have to be resolved by the UK government at a later date.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave little of the game away when pressed by a British TV crew in Berlin on Sunday.

"I am sure that the royal family -- it's been a round a very long time -- will find a way forward," Johnson said with a smile.

 
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