Following the decision of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to withdraw from a frontline royal role, the nature and timing of that departure has now been announced. Robert Hazell and Bob Morris explain what the settlement means for both the Sussexes and the monarchy itself.
When it wants to, the British monarchy can move with remarkable and decisive speed. There were just ten days between the Sussexes unilateral declaration on 8 January and the outcome of the second Sandringham meeting released on 18 January. What has it all been about and how should the immediate and longer-term effects of the settlement be understood?
The settlement of 18 January
Its main features are:
- The couple will from 1 April 2020 withdraw from active royal duties (including Prince Harry’s honorific military offices), no longer receive public money, surrender use of their ‘HRH’ titles, and seek to become self-sufficient financially.
- They will live for substantial periods each year in Canada, at a location as yet undetermined.
- So far as their activities abroad are concerned, they have undertaken ‘to uphold the values of Her Majesty’: this a reference to the Nolan Principles of Public Life.
- Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor estate will remain their residence in England. They will reimburse the £2.4m public money cost of the refurbishment.
- The working of the arrangements will be reviewed from 1 April 2021. During this period, the Prince of Wales will continue their funding of £2.3m a year until they become self-sufficient.
- No constitutional changes are involved, but some possible secondary implications of reducing the size of the active royal family are considered below.
Not settled in the statement are:
- The Canadian immigration, residential and tax status of the couple – Canada’s leading daily newspaper, the Toronto Globe and Mail, raised some sharp questions on whether they should be allowed to live in Canada and advised that the Canadian government’s response should be a simple and succinct ‘No’. Although the Canadian government has so far been silent, it is expected to have a more welcoming, if cautious, attitude.
- Meghan’s application for British citizenship – still under consideration, where length of residence outside the UK will be one of the criteria in the balance.
- How financial self-sufficiency is to be achieved – the reference to upholding ‘the values of Her Majesty’ shows some anxieties about the means that the couple may choose.
- The arrangements for police protection – British police officers have no police powers in Canada, nor may they carry firearms. The nature of protection and defraying the considerable costs of providing it remain to be settled.
While some changes (resigning the post of Captain General of the Royal Marines) will happen immediately from 1 April, withdrawal will be a process rather than an event. It will also be conditional on the progress made. That is, the settlement implies that permission to keep but not use the HRH title can be withdrawn if the Queen is, say, dissatisfied with the way the Sussexes embark on commercial ventures which capitalise on their royal status (HRH status was withdrawn from the wives of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York following their divorces). Similarly, establishing a review mechanism not only leaves open the possibility of the Sussexes’ return to UK public life, but also a possibility that the settlement’s terms might be tightened if developments are not to the Queen’s satisfaction. Continue reading