Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are stepping back from the royal family in an unprecedented move

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have announced their intention to “step back” as senior members of the royal family.

This bold move was laid out on in a statement on their official Sussex Royal website and Instagram on Jan. 8.

“After months of reflection and internal discussion, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution,” it reads. “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.”

The Duke & Duchess of Sussex Attend a Roundtable Discussion on Gender Equality with The Queens Commonwealth Trust
Getty Images | WPA Pool

As part of their new, reduced roles, the royal couple will also plan to spend significantly more time in North America — though they didn’t specify whether in the U.S. or Canada, where they spent their holidays.

“It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment,” the statement continued. “We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duties to the Queen, the Commonwealth and our Patronages.”

In May 2019, the royals welcomed their first son, Archie. They say that their new dual-continent lifestyle will allow them 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.”

The full statement was also posted to their official Instagram account:

What Will Financial Independence Look Like For Prince Harry And Meghan Markle?

The funding page on their website explains that 95 percent of the income for their “office” comes from The Prince of Wales — Harry’s father, Prince Charles — generated through the Duchy of Cornwall, a private estate. The remaining five percent comes from the Sovereign Grant, which is the funding from the Queen and is the amount the Sussexes will be giving up in their new arrangement.

“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex take great pride in their work and are committed to continuing their charitable endeavours as well as establishing new ones,” the website reads. “In addition, they value the ability to earn a professional income, which in the current structure they are prohibited from doing. For this reason they have made the choice to become members of the Royal Family with financial independence. Their Royal Highnesses feel this new approach will enable them to continue to carry out their duties for Her Majesty The Queen, while having the future financial autonomy to work externally. While the contribution from The Sovereign Grant covers just five percent of costs for The Duke and Duchess and is specifically used for their official office expense, Their Royal Highnesses prefer to release this financial tie.”

Markle previously worked as an actor, having starred on USA network’s “Suits” for seven seasons. She also ran a lifestyle blog, The Tig, though it’s unlikely she will return to either of these roles, or if the funding from the Duchy of Cornwall may cease in the future.

duchess sussex photo
Getty Images | WPA Pool

While There Is Some Precedent, The Move Was Unexpected

They are not the only royals to distance themselves from public duties. Prince Andrew’s daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, do not hold official roles within the monarchy. Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall, son and daughter of Princess Anne, also are not working members of the royal family.

princess eugenie princess beatrice photo
Getty Images | Chris Jackson

Prince Harry has always been independent. However, as sixth in the line to the throne, and given his close ties to the monarchy, he certainly was not expected to give up his duties as a senior member of the royal family. Despite the shift, the couple assert they remain committed to the Queen.

“As working members of the Royal Family, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain dedicated to maximising Her Majesty’s legacy both in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth,” the website funding page states. “They will continue to proudly do so by supporting their patronages and carrying out works for The Monarchy within the UK or abroad, as called upon.”

Together, they are passionate about a number of issues, including environmental and societal well-being, women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Markle is not the only American to marry into the British Royal family. In 1936, Edward VIII became the monarch of the United Kingdom. However, he abdicated the throne to marry an American socialite, Wallis Simpson, in 1937.

Although they are not fully relinquishing their royal duties, it will be interesting to see how Markle and Prince Harry will navigate this uncharted territory!