Do you typically follow what happens in the British royal family? What have you read, watched or heard about Prince Harry and Meghan, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex? What is your initial reaction to the news of their announcement that they will be “stepping back” from their official duties? What questions about it do you have?
In “Prince Harry and Meghan to ‘Step Back’ From Royal Duties in Extraordinary Retreat,” Mark Landler explains:
In a year of gut punches to Britain’s royal family, Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, delivered a jarring blow of their own on Wednesday, announcing that they would “step back” from their official duties.
It was an extraordinary retreat by the popular prince and his American wife, who had grown increasingly isolated within the House of Windsor since their wedding in 2018.
In a statement, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as they are also known, said they planned to divide their time between Britain and North America and would “work to become financially independent.”
… While the language in the statement was mild and upbeat, the change that Prince Harry and his wife are embarking on is momentous. Although he is only sixth in the line of succession to Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Harry has exerted an outsized hold on the public imagination ever since his days as the mischievous, ginger-haired younger son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
For the duke and duchess to forsake Britain and relinquish their royal duties, even for part of the year, will be a jolt to one of the nation’s most immutable institutions. It continues the convention-defying ways of Prince Harry, who enthralled millions of Britons, and angered some others, when he and Meghan, an American actress with a biracial background, decided to marry.
Buckingham Palace issued a terse two-line statement Wednesday evening, suggesting the couple’s announcement had caught the royal family off guard, if not totally blindsided it.
The article closes with this quotation from Prince Harry:
In recent months, the prince, whose public image was forever fixed for millions as the somber boy walking with his father and brother behind his mother’s casket, lashed out in a way that left some royal watchers puzzled.
“I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person,” Prince Harry wrote. “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
To learn more, take a look at “What to Know About Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Stepping Back.” Here are a few of the questions and answers.
Why are they stepping back?
Specific reasons mentioned on their website include enabling themselves “to earn a professional income, which in the current structure they are prohibited from doing,” and handling their own media relations. On that second point, they particularly emphasized their decision to operate independent of the so-called Royal Rota — a key feature of royal family press relations that grants perpetual special access to journalists from seven British publications, including some tabloids.
Harry has long been critical of the British press. In October, he and Meghan initiated legal proceedings against the publishers of multiple British newspapers. He explained their decision in a statement posted on one of the Sussex websites, in which he excoriated the media and drew a connection between the royals’ treatment at the hands of the press and his mother Princess Diana’s death.
And let’s not forget the 2017 interview with Newsweek in which Prince Harry mused, “Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.” Not a glowing endorsement of the enterprise.
What does the British public think?
More Britons currently appear to have a view on Megxit than they did on the royal wedding itself.
At first, there were clear and loud rumblings of support. Then a few questions arose about cash, given that quite a lot of it had been thrown about in the last few years. The wedding. The house. The bodyguards.
What really roused Brits was the statement from the palace, which implied that couple had not fully discussed their retreat from royal life with the queen, whom we love. How dare they?
The tabloids, however, had a field day. “They didn’t even tell the Queen!” fumed the Thursday front page of the Daily Mirror. “Queen’s fury as Harry and Meghan say: we quit!” read the lead headline of the Daily Mail. (Other institutions got in on the drama, too: Madame Tussauds in London separated its wax figures of Harry and Meghan from those of the rest of the royal family.)
The term “Megxit” got a lot of airtime. “Harryverderci” has yet to catch on.
What was public sentiment toward the Sussexes like before “Megxit”?
Mixed? Very positive around the birth of baby Archie. Less positive around all the private jet hopping last summer. But most Brits haven’t been paying much attention. Between the recent general election, Australia being on fire and Brexit, the prospect of Megxit had not crossed many people’s minds.
Students, read one of the articles above, then tell us:
Now that you have a bit of context, what do you think of Prince Harry and Meghan’s decision to “step back” as “senior members” of the royal family? What about their decision to spend time in both England and North America? What factors do you think may have propelled them to make this decision? Do you agree or disagree with their choice?
What do you think of the “terse two-line statement” from Buckingham Palace in response? Why does the couple’s decision raise so many questions and issues for the royal family?
Why do you think so many people — even those who never paid attention to the royal family — are so interested in this story? What seems significant to you about the announcement and the reactions?
The hashtag #megexit has been trending on Twitter, and the English broadcaster Piers Morgan tweeted, “People say I’m too critical of Meghan Markle — but she ditched her family, ditched her Dad, ditched most of her old friends, split Harry from William & has now split him from the Royal Family.” Why do you think so much of the focus is on Meghan instead of Prince Harry? What is your reaction to the hashtag #megexit and responses like Mr. Morgan’s?
Prince Harry and Meghan have been criticized for seeking privacy. For example, the British press was upset when the Sussexes did not pose for a photograph when leaving the maternity ward after their son Archie’s birth. Do you think that Prince Harry and Meghan have a right to this privacy or do you think that as members of the royal family they are obligated to share moments, like a birth or christening, with the British public?
In “Black Britons Know Why Meghan Markle Wants Out,” Afua Hirsch writes of Meghan, “Her treatment has proved what many of us have always known: No matter how beautiful you are, whom you marry, what palaces you occupy, charities you support, how faithful you are, how much money you accumulate or what good deeds you perform, in this society racism will still follow you.” Do you agree?
What other questions or reactions does this story raise for you? What do you predict will happen in the coming weeks and months as a result?
Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.