Palace Makes Prince Harry And Meghan's 'Step Back' Official

Jan 20, 2020
Originally published on January 20, 2020 7:26 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So while the United Kingdom has a little longer to wait for Brexit, this weekend the kingdom did get a Megxit. On Saturday, Buckingham Palace announced that Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, will soon no longer be able to use their royal titles, His and Her Royal Highness, nor will they be able to represent the queen.

This announcement comes less than two weeks after the couple said they plan to step down as senior members of the royal family. Prince Harry addressed this decision last night.

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PRINCE HARRY: It brings me great sadness that it has come to this. The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly. There was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges.

GREENE: All right. Let's bring in NPR's London correspondent, Frank Langfitt. Good morning, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, David.

GREENE: OK. So I don't speak royal necessarily...

LANGFITT: Sure.

GREENE: ...Can you tell me exactly what's going on here?

LANGFITT: Yeah. The bottom line is the royals and the couple cut a deal, and Harry doesn't like it. He and Meghan, of course, as you remember - we've been reporting on this - felt constrained in their royal duties. They felt attacked by the press. And they wanted to build a sort of a more commercial operation, to some degree, with a charitable foundation - maybe TV deals, things like that - while still having the platform as senior royals.

Now, the queen said, you can't do this. And the reason, I think, in part is there's a sense from Buckingham Palace that they would want to vet any projects. Understandably, they want to protect the crown and avoid any conflicts of interest.

GREENE: Well, say more about that. Why was there so much on the line for the queen here?

LANGFITT: Sure. I think that, you know, it's a combination of things. The crown is required to be apolitical, so what would Harry and Meghan want to endorse? And the crown can't survive in Britain if it doesn't remain above these sorts of things. There was also some criticism here that the couple were trying to have it both ways, that they wanted to make money off the crown, curtail their duties, live overseas without any oversight.

And last night, Harry said, you know, that what he was doing in Canada with his wife and his young son now was a leap of faith. It's not entirely clear what this new enterprise is going to look like or how successful it's going to be and whether there'll be a loss - the loss of the royal title affects their earning power.

GREENE: So Harry speaking very directly, not just about his disappointment over the decision from the queen, but about his decision to start all of this. How are people reacting there?

LANGFITT: Well, it was mixed. It was really interesting. This morning on the BBC, you had two royal watchers literally bickering on live television. One was team queen, one was team Harry. I think that this - while from a distance this kind of looks abstract to people across the Atlantic, people are very - here are very connected to Harry. They care about him. They think of him almost as their nephew.

And one of the things that we've also heard is as this has gained a lot of attention here, there is a sense among some people, particularly political types, that the country should be focusing a lot more on what you were mentioning at the beginning, Brexit. The country is going to leave in 11 days. There's been a lot more discussion recently, really, about the relationship between the queen and Harry than there has been the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the EU, which is going to affect tens of millions of lives.

GREENE: Sure. Well, before we move on to Brexit...

LANGFITT: Sure.

GREENE: ...In the coming days, Prince Harry telling the crowd yesterday he hopes this leads to a more peaceful life for him. What exactly is he talking about?

LANGFITT: Yeah. That has to do with his very bitter relationship with the press here. And it goes back to his mom, Princess Diana, who died in a car crash when she was actually being followed - chased by photographers. The British tabloids here have been really tough on Meghan Markle, treating her as a social climber. Some of the early coverage was clearly racist.

But there's a bigger thing going on here, I think, in some ways, David. And that is a battle with the press and the media over the access game. This couple was not willing to play it on those terms by the press here. And they're suing some of the major papers. And part of the reason they're leaving is they just don't want to do this anymore.

GREENE: NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Frank, thanks.

LANGFITT: You're very welcome, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.