Prince Harry And Meghan To 'Step Back' From Their Royal Duties

Jan 9, 2020
Originally published on January 9, 2020 7:49 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So there's some big news we're covering out of the U.K. And get this, it is not about Brexit. Even if you're not an avid royal observer, this is pretty fascinating. Meghan Markle and her husband Prince Harry want out. The duke and duchess of Sussex dropped this bombshell announcement yesterday, saying they intend to step back as senior members of the royal family and that they want to work to become financially independent.

NPR's Frank Langfitt is covering this from London. Hi, Frank.

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

GREENE: So am I - can I call - start calling this Megxit (ph), or is that too corny?

LANGFITT: That's what the tabloids are calling it.

GREENE: Oh, it is?

LANGFITT: And it is a huge - oh, yeah. No, that's in the tabs. It's on - it was trending on Twitter last night. This is very, very big news in this country. It knocked Iran off the front pages this morning. A couple of tabloid headlines - The Sun, Civil War as Harry and Meg Quit the Royals. The Daily Mirror says they didn't even tell the queen.

GREENE: Did they not tell the queen?

LANGFITT: According to sources in Buckingham Palace, talking to British journalists, no, apparently not. This was a surprise to everybody, at least the nature of this and the announcement itself. And actually talking to people on the street today, people were bothered by that and saw this as sad to see this rift in the family become very public and so sudden. Last night, Buckingham Palace did put out a statement saying discussions with the couple are in their early stages. And the quote was, we understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues and will take time to work through.

GREENE: Hmm. So what is the different approach? What are they actually asking to do here?

LANGFITT: Well, here's what they're saying, and it's raised as many questions as it's answered. They want to split their time between the United Kingdom and North America. This is - the speculation is they're going to move to Canada, which is a Commonwealth country. They want to create a new charity. What they're not going to be doing is all the ribbon-cutting and hospital visiting and dealing heavily with the British press. They haven't liked that at all. They say they want to earn a professional income, but there's no deal tell exactly how they're going to do that.

And there is some skepticism when you talk people on the streets, taxpayers - like, for instance, who would pay for their security in North America? I was talking to a guy named Ashley Edwards (ph). He's a retired engineer in a place called Staines. It's in suburban London. And this is what he told me this morning.

ASHLEY EDWARDS: I think that's going to be a struggle. When you think the style that they like to live in, that's got to be - run into the millions per year, not like us average people.

GREENE: Oh, it's so interesting. His message is wait until you see what real life is like.

LANGFITT: Yeah, very much.

GREENE: What else are you hearing?

LANGFITT: There's also a lot of support, David. I mean, everybody knew that this couple was not happy. She didn't fit in in the royal family. She's a former actress, as we know. She's outspoken, didn't want to be a figurehead at all. And she also was targeted by the British tabloids. You know, the couple is suing one of the tabloids for printing a letter that she wrote to her father with whom she has a very difficult relationship. You know, Harry's also complained that some of the coverage has had racial undertones, which a lot of people would probably agree with.

We also talked to somebody in Peckham, a neighborhood in South London. Her name's Kiera Knight (ph). She's a singer-songwriter. Like Markle, she's biracial, and this is what she had to say.

KIERA KNIGHT: They're humans. I mean, they're in the public eye, so there is going to be a certain amount of scrutiny that is unavoidable. You know? But at the same time, there's something called invasion of privacy, and I think it's gone too far in my opinion.

GREENE: Frank, I mean, I don't want to overdramatize this moment...

KNIGHT: Yeah.

GREENE: ...But if there is some kind of rift in the family - if you have royals who are saying they don't necessarily want to be royals, what does all that mean for, like, the future of the monarch?

LANGFITT: Well, for right now, I think it's more turmoil. You know, a couple of months ago, Prince Andrew had to step back from royal duties because of this scandal over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein...

GREENE: Oh, right.

LANGFITT: ...A convicted sex offender. But it's been a tough couple of months. Now in some ways, this may help because Prince Charles actually wants to streamline this whole process. So maybe in the long run, it actually works for the royals.

GREENE: NPR's Frank Langfitt joining us from London. Thanks so much, Frank.

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