Inside ‘Megxit’: How and Why Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Are Stepping Away From Their Duties
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shocked the world when they announced they were stepping back from their royal duties, moving to Canada part-time and becoming “financially independent.”
But why would two of the most celebrated people in the world, who could live off the wealth and riches of the crown for their entire lives, want to leave the palace behind? And how are they going to make new careers for themselves?
The royal couple’s exit from royal duties — coined "Megxit” by the press — is one of the most fascinating developments in royal family history. Read on to see why Harry and Meghan made the big decision and how they could make money in the future.
The Shocking Announcement
On Wednesday, January 8, 2020, the couple posted a message to their official Instagram account and website. In case you missed it or just read some snippets, here it is in full:
“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. 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.
It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity.
We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.”
A statement from the queen on January 18 says that the “new model” would happen in “the spring of 2020.”
While Canada is under the crown’s constitutional monarchy (the queen is Canada’s head of state), there’s another reason why the couple may have considered the country. Markle used to live in Canada part time because “Suits,” the television program she used to star in, was filmed there; she also lived in this $1.75 million house in Los Angeles with her former husband. She also does some charity and activism work with Canadian advocacy groups.
A post on their official Sussex Royal Instagram states:
“The Duke and Duchess have a strong connection to Canada. It’s a country The Duke of Sussex has visited many times over the years and it was also home to The Duchess for seven years before she became a member of The Royal Family.”
So what happened?
It All Started With the Tabloids
British tabloids have not treated Markle kindly. In February 2019, she visited New York, New York, on her own dime for a baby shower, at a party paid for by Serena Williams and attended by high-profile friends like George Clooney.
The Daily Mail reacted with predictable pearl clutching. An opinion piece by Princess Diana’s former secretary said that taking gifts from people outside the royal family would lead to favors that that “must be returned” and that “obligations [will] quickly multiply” until the royals are “handing over” their “credibility and dignity.”
“Just nine months ago, the world watched enchanted as the British Crown laid on its pixel-perfect wedding for the latest recruit. Back then, it seemed impossible that the bride who was its flawless centrepiece should fail to recognise what was being entrusted to her,” the former secretary wrote.
The tone of this piece is similar to many other articles from the tabloids. Royal historian Marlene Koenig told Vanity Fair that the tone of stories from the British press “is much more of an attack. It’s a pile-on.”
The Double Standard Was Insane
The tabloids gushed over Harry’s brother, Prince William, and William’s wife, Kate Middleton. But when it came to Meghan and Harry — often over the same topics — they were out for blood. BuzzFeed compiled a list of headlines and article snippets about the two couples from the same tabloids. Some examples:
- Daily Mail in March 2018: “Not Long to go! Pregnant Kate tenderly cradles her baby bump while wrapping up her royal duties ahead of maternity leave — and William confirms she’s due ‘any minute now’”
- Daily Mail in January 2019: “Why can’t Meghan Markle keep her hands off her bump? Experts tackle the question that has got the nation talking: Is it pride, vanity, acting — or a new age bonding technique?”
- The Express in September 2017: “Kate’s morning sickness cure? Prince William gifted with an avocado for pregnant Duchess.”
- The Express in January 2019: “Meghan Markle’s beloved avocado linked to human rights abuse and drought, millennial shame.”
Markle’s Father Caused a Ton of Turmoil
Markle and her father have been estranged for a long while, and things have only gotten worse. In conjunction with tabloid attacks, Thomas Markle handed over a handwritten letter from Meghan to him after the royal wedding. Thomas said he was doing so because he was “misrepresented” in a People article.
That article quoted an unnamed friend of Meghan, who said, “After the wedding she wrote him a letter. She’s like, “Dad. I’m so heartbroken. I love you, I have one father. Please stop victimising me through the media so we can repair our relationship.”’
She and Harry are Suing the Daily Mail
With the publication of parts of the private letter, which the couple says The Mail had intentionally omitted portions and pieced together others to push a narrative, Harry and Meghan sued the paper in October 2019, about nine months after the Daily Mail’s article.
It’s possible that Thomas Markle will testify against his daughter in court.
Was Racism a Factor?
One long-standing criticism of the British tabloids is their word choice when writing about Meghan due to her heritage. One oft-cited example is the Daily Mail’s headline from 2016, when the two were dating: “Harry's girl is (almost) straight outta Compton: Gang-scarred home of her mother revealed - so will he be dropping by for tea?”
The bulleted subhead reads:
- “Prince Harry's new girl, Suits star Meghan Markle, is from Crenshaw, LA
- Crenshaw has endured 47 crimes in the past week - including murder
- Gangs, including the Bloods, count the neighborhood as their territory
- Markle' social worker mom, Doria Ragland, lives in the run-down area
- And the actress's aunt, Ava Burrow, is in nearby gang-afflicted Inglewood”
Meghan didn’t grow up in the house, or ever even live there — her mother bought the place in 2011. Markle isn’t even from Crenshaw, which is a predominantly Los Angeles black neighborhood. Markle lived in the Woodland Hills and Mid-Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles as a kid.
For her schooling, she attended Little Red School House (now Hollywood School House), a private nursery and elementary school. Later she attended Immaculate Heart Catholic School, a private school that currently has an annual admissions price tag of $17,650.
But the juxtaposition of her mother living in a neighborhood “plagued by crime and riddled with street gangs” paints the picture of someone daring to step into the royal family.
Racism as a Factor, Continued
Tensions between Meghan, Harry and the British tabloids started very early, prompting an official public statement from Harry, printed on the crown’s website. For a royal, it was an unusual and significant move. The statement says, in part:
“His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public - the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments. … Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her.”
Harry issued the statement on November 8, 2016. They were first spotted dating in July. Within five months, things were already getting ugly.
More Bad Press
Aside from Markle’s heritage, tabloids could also hone in on the fact that she was a divorced woman from America. Some headline examples:
- The Express, March 2019: ‘Meghan Markle has Queen scared of DIVORCE - 'Duchess will sing like canary' - expert”
- Daily Mail, April 2019: “Meghan's Ameri Poppins! Duchess 'wants US nanny to take care of Baby Sussex' says source” Subhead: “Meghan Markle and Prince Harry said to be shunning another Royal tradition”
- The Sun, November 2018: “MEGHAN MADE KATE CRY Meghan Markle ‘left Kate Middleton in tears’ over her strict demands for Princess Charlotte’s bridesmaid’s dress”
- The Express, April 2019: “Meghan Markle: Prince William 'wanted an ESCAPE' from Duchess at Sandringham says expert”
- The Sun, April 2019: “Frown Jewels: Meg is banned by Queen from using Di gems”
- The Express, March 2019: “Meghan Markle 'pretty DIFFICULT' person to deal with – 'Harry is MISERABLE' - royal expert”
The Death of Princess Diana
Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, died after a car crash in a Paris tunnel; the driver was recklessly trying to outrun the paparazzi after having three times the legal limit of alcohol allowed in France to legally drive. Diana was not wearing a seatbelt.
Diana, whose pictures could fetch up to £500,000 ($656,000) per photo, once screamed “You people make my life hell!” at the paparazzi.
Harry Hates the Tabloids
While he has had clashes with the press in the past, like when he punched a paparazzo in the face in 2004, he has been generally held in high regard among the British people. But he clearly does not like the tabloids and still blames them in some way for the death of his mother.
In a statement following the Daily Mail lawsuit, Harry said: “I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
What About the Money?
The royal family has a lot of ways it makes money (more on that here), but one of the main ways they pay for themselves is with the Sovereign Grant. Here’s how the couple used that recently.
In preparation for the royal baby, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex moved from Kensington Palace to Frogmore Cottage, near Windsor Castle. Don’t let the name fool you — Frogmore Cottage isn’t humble. It’s a 10-bedroom home that used to be five separate housing units, according to I, a British newspaper. To get everything ready, the two cottage underwent £2.4 million ($3.1 million) in renovations in summer 2019.
It was paid for with taxpayer money, taken from the queen’s 2018-2019 £82 million ($107 million) Sovereign Grant; £33 million of that grant was set aside for maintenance. The couple paid for the furnishings with their own money. That kind of money is what they’ll be giving up after they step down. And in this case, they’re paying it back.
Where Will they Live?
It’s unknown where the couple plans to live in Canada, but we do know they will continue living at Frogmore Cottage. On January 18th, the queen announced the couple will repay the £2.4 million in renovations back into the Sovereign Grant.
So they already have a few million in debts — what will they do for work?
The Problem With Royal Work
The couple’s plan to step back from royal duties and become financially independent is a vague one. Part of this is because working while a royal family member is murky territory.
BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond said, "There is a problem for members of the Royal Family — relatively senior ones, even if they say they're no longer senior — getting jobs, because they are seen to monetise their brand and you run into a whole host of questions about conflict of interest."
It’s unclear whether those conflicts of interest would be anything more than a faux pas. The crown grants something called a Royal Warrant, which is a seal of approval granted to businesses for goods and services used by the crown (currently, there are over 800 Royal Warrant holders). But it’s the businesses that profit from a Warrant, not the crown.
The Sussex Royal Brand
One avenue of income for the Duchess and Duke is a nascent brand called Sussex Royal, which they filed a trademark for in July 2019. The trademark covers printed matter, clothing, campaigning, charitable use, education and social care services. The trademark is still pending review, and could be registered by February 2020, barring any unforeseen disputes.
However, the Sussex Royal brand will likely be part of the couple’s new charity foundation, which Markle called “Sussex Royal 2020” during a speech.
A Royal Line of Clothes?
One of the big ways the couple could cash in on their worldwide fame would be via the fashion industry. The Sussex Royal brand might be used for a fashion label, or the entire brand might be used only for charitable purchases. Markle would be remiss not to cash-in on her own fashion-savvy brand.
She has what has been called the “Markle Sparkle,” which sees a surge of new search trends for fashion items worn by her whenever a big event, like a pregnancy announcement, occurs.
Plus, Markle already has experience in the fashion industry. While on “Suits,” she signed a deal with Reitmans and developed a clothing line that completely sold out.
Getting Paid to Show Up
Before she was a royal family member, Markle was already making bank by charging for appearance fees.
According to “Meghan: A Hollywood Princess,” Markle charged $20,000 “and up” per appearance. This was just during her time on “Suits,” a USA network show that, at its peak, drew around 4.5 million viewers.
Getting Paid to Speak
There’s also lots of money in speaking engagements. Jeff Jacobson, co-founder of the Toronto-based speaking agency Talent Bureau, told Bloomberg that Harry and Markle could make more than $100,000 per appearance, each, on the lecture circuit.
Blogging and Endorsements
Before she was a duchess, Markle ran a popular lifestyle blog called The Tig and an Instagram account. Before those were taken offline, Markle was making an estimated $80,000 in sponsorships and endorsements.
This path might be a little too gaudy for the royals, though, and they would get skewered by the press — but at this point, would they even care?
Going Back to Movies and Television
It’s also possible, if not guaranteed, that Markle will do some kind of work in movies or television. In July 2019, Harry was caught on tape talking with Disney CEO Bob Iger about his wife’s talents at the “Lion King” premier.
“You know she does voice overs,” Harry could be heard saying on footage dug up by People. After a brief conversation, Iger tells him “Sure, we’d love to try.”
A deal with Disney has already been signed — however, it’s not for a paying gig. Quite the opposite: Markle will donate a sum of money to Elephants Without Borders to secure the work. But it does look like Markle is interested in going back to the entertainment businesses.
The Queen Mother, Harry’s great-grandmother, set aside £14m for Harry and William, although “the bulk of the cash” went to Harry, since William will eventually become king, the BBC reported in 2002.
When Diana died, Harry and William split her £8.5 million inheritance evenly. However, according to the Mirror, “clever investments by royal advisors meant this had swelled to more than £20 million” by the time the two were old enough to receive the inheritance.
Harry will be forgoing his annual allowance from the Duchy of Cornwall, which paid out £21.6 million ($28.2 million) for the public duties and some private costs to Kate, William, Harry and Meghan in 2018.
Markle’s no slouch, either. Before marrying Harry, her net worth was estimated at $5 million.
They’ll Need Visas
The crown, and therefore the queen, owns 90 percent of Canada (it’s called Crown Land), while only 9.7 percent of land is privately owned. So it’s strange to think that her grandson would need a visa to live in Canada. But it’s true. Like other Britons and Americans, Harry and Meghan can live in Canada for up to six months as a visitor before needing a visa.
But, according to the New York Times, they won’t be able to earn money while living there during those first six months.
What About Security?
The couple will need security — no doubt about that. But how much it will cost and who funds it is another matter.
Traditionally, security is paid for by the British government. But Canada has a unique monarchy and is not under direct control of the crown.
“That is part of the reflection that needs to be had, and there are discussions going on," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said when asked about security costs. “[W]e’re not entirely sure what the final decisions will be [or] where the dispositions are … how that looks and what kind of cost is involved — there’s still lots of discussion.”
And how much security will cost is still unclear. The New York Times says it might cost $1.5 million USD. A security expert, speaking to the Globe and Mail, says the costs can be more than $10 million Canadian ($7.7 million USD).
Will They Keep Their Titles?
The queen voiced her support of the couple early, with an official statement reading, in part:
“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.”
In mid-January, the queen announced that the couple would no longer formally represent the queen, and they would drop the titles “His Royal Highness” and “Her Royal Highness.” They will keep their Duke and Duchess of Sussex titles.
The Couple Might Not Get a Warm Welcome
While the prime minister might be welcoming of the couple, not everyone will be. Already, an editorial in the Globe and Mail, which the New York Times notes is normally supportive of the monarchy, is calling for the couple to not make Canada home.
“You are welcome to visit, but so long as you are senior royals, Canada cannot allow you to come to stay,” the paper said. The paper argues that royal family living in Canada “breaks an unspoken constitutional taboo.” Canada, the paper says, has never been home to true royalty; even the people in charge are just Canadians.
Perhaps the Canadian people will be more welcoming.