Harry And Meghan To Ditch Royal Titles, And Return $3M To Taxpayers

Jan 18, 2020
Originally published on January 18, 2020 9:00 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to go to London now, where there's big news from Britain's royal family. After 10 days of controversy and headlines, Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, have struck a deal with the queen that will allow them to give up their roles as working members of the family. In exchange, they will no longer use the valuable royal title, and they will pay back several million dollars. For more, we turn to our occasional royals correspondent, Frank Langfitt in London. Hi, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hi, Michel.

MARTIN: So tell us a bit more about this agreement.

LANGFITT: Yeah. What's going to happen is Meghan and Harry are no longer going to be able to use their titles, his and her royal highness. They'll still be the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but that, of course, doesn't sound quite so good. They've agreed to pay back $3 million in public funds to renovate their house outside of London. They're no longer going to get any money for any royal work they do, and they won't formally represent the queen. And in exchange, they're free to move to Canada and pursue basically an independent role and live on their own.

MARTIN: But did the queen have anything to say about the relationship she hopes to have with them? I mean, there have been all these anonymously sourced stories about, you know, how hurt everyone was by all of this.

LANGFITT: Yes. She was incredibly diplomatic, as you would expect. She is the queen. And what she said is they appreciated how the couple had felt under terrible scrutiny here from the press and that the couple and their son, Archie, would always be much loved members of the family. So she put, as always, sort of the nicest face she could on this.

MARTIN: What is the significance of this? For people who don't have this kind of emotional attachment to the monarchy that some people clearly do, what do - why does this matter?

LANGFITT: It's interesting, Michel. It's a separation agreement, and they - what the queen was trying to do was end a story that's been dominating the U.K. news for the last 10 days and was putting pressure on the monarchy. The couple said they were going to move to Canada and carve out a new role, have a private foundation. They trademarked Sussex royal.

And there was a growing backlash, I think, against the couple - people saying, you know, you're leaving this house that we spent a lot of money on for you. And would they continue to get public money? And some people felt they were trying to have their cake and eat it, too - keep the title but not do the work. And so the queen, I think, wisely recognized she had to solve this quickly, and that's what she's done.

MARTIN: This seems to have become, like, a global story - and this at a time when the U.K. still hasn't figured out how it's going to leave the European Union. So why do you think this has gotten so much attention?

LANGFITT: For one thing, it has all these different elements. You have royalty, celebrity - Meghan Markle, who's a former actress. Money is at stake, and also race. She was biracial, and many people felt - and there was clear evidence of this - that some of the early coverage of her was - certainly had racist elements to it.

But at the same time, at the end of this month, the United Kingdom is going to take its biggest step in 40 or 50 years and leave the European Union. And I think this is a little easier for people to make sense of, and it does prove to be something of a distraction.

MARTIN: What's next for them?

LANGFITT: Meghan's already in Canada, and they want to develop basically their own brand and try to make their way on their own. It's not clear how they're exactly going to fund themselves. They could get some money perhaps from Prince Charles. But really, we're moving to the next chapter of the story. They've got their freedom, and the question is, what do they do now?

MARTIN: That is NPR's London correspondent, Frank Langfitt.

Frank, thank you so much.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.