London – The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will no longer use their HRH titles and will repay millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money spent refurbishing Frogmore Cottage as the price of a ‘Hard Megxit’ deal, it was dramatically announced last night.
Under the terms of the historic deal thrashed out at Sandringham on Saturday, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan will cease to be working members of the Royal Family from this spring and will not perform any official duties on behalf of the Queen – effectively leaving ‘The Firm’ completely.
The Queen sought to soften the blow in a warm statement in which she heaped praise on ‘my grandson and his family’, adding: “Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved members of my family.”
“I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life. I want to thank them for all their dedicated work across this country, the Commonwealth and beyond, and am particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.
“It is my whole family’s hope that today’s agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life.”
But Harry and Meghan, who sources say intend to spend ‘the majority’ of their time in North America, will pay a heavy financial and emotional cost.
As well as returning the £2.4 million spent on a lavish refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, they will pay a commercial rent – estimated at up to £360 000 a year – to retain it as their British home.
Prince Charles will continue to “offer private financial support” and, crucially, the couple will have free rein to negotiate lucrative commercial deals that experts believe could net them hundreds of millions of pounds, although they have pledged ‘to uphold the values of Her Majesty’.
It is understood that continuing concerns about how such commercial deals might damage the reputation of the monarchy is part of the reason why the extraordinary deal will be reviewed in a year.
A Royal source said no commercial contracts had yet been signed.
Painfully for Harry, who has spoken fondly of his time in the Army, he will lose several military roles including Captain General of the Royal Marines, Honorary Air Commandant of RAF Honington and Commodore-in-Chief of the Small Ships and Diving, Royal Naval Command. He will also no longer be a Commonwealth Youth Ambassador.
But the Sussexes will continue their work with the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust and Harry will retain his private charitable patronages, including the Invictus Games and Sentebale, the African charity set up in his mother’s memory.
A number of unresolved issues remain, including whether Harry and Meghan will be required to strip the word ‘Royal’ from their SussexRoyal website, and who will pick up the multi-million pound bill for their continuing security requirements.
Buckingham Palace said royal security was a matter for the Government.
A fudge was agreed on the sensitive issue of the couple’s HRH titles. Harry’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, and the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, both lost their HRH status when they divorced Prince Charles and Prince Andrew respectively.
Those decisions were seen by many as vengeful and the Queen was anxious for that not to be repeated. Instead, Harry and Meghan will keep HRH in name but will not use it.
Royal biographer Penny Junor said: “It sends a message that the Queen would seriously frown on them cashing in on their royal titles. The idea that might happen stuck in the public’s throats too.
“Harry is who he is simply by accident of birth. If he was able to make squillions of pounds from that it would be wrong.’
News of dramatic deal came as it emerged:
* Meghan’s father Thomas Markle will break his silence in a Channel 5 documentary in which he will accuse her of ‘cheapening’ the Royal Family and throwing away “every girl’s dream’ for money”.
* Footage showed Meghan joking that she and Prince Harry attended the premiere of The Lion King in London in order to ‘pitch’ for work;
* At a women’s hostel in Canada last week visited by the Duchess a trans woman paraded naked in front of female residents and posted a series of lewd comments on Facebook;
* Sources said Harry may make a surprise appearance at a vital African investment summit which begins today.
The Megxit deal falls well short of what the Sussexes initially wanted. When they announced their plans to ‘step back’ from royal duties earlier this month, they hoped to be able to carry out some official engagements.
But talks between royal aides quickly established that such a ‘have cake and eat it’ approach was unworkable.
However, a source said: “The talks were all extremely friendly and constructive because there was a common goal to reach a conclusion.
“Everyone is pleased to have got here. As the discussions have been ongoing there has been an acceptance and understanding of what it is the Sussexes want to achieve and a genuine desire to come up with a new way of working that supports their wish for a more independent life.”
A statement released on Harry and Meghan’s behalf said: ‘They understand that they are required to step back from Royal duties, including official military appointments.
“They will no longer receive public funds for Royal duties. With The Queen’s blessing, the Sussexes will continue to maintain their private patronages and associations.
“While they can no longer formally represent the Queen, the Sussexes have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty.
“The Sussexes will not use their HRH titles as they are no longer working members of the Royal Family. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have shared their wish to repay Sovereign Grant expenditure for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, which will remain their UK family home.”
The announcement of the deal came just hours after Prince Harry was seen enjoying a night out with a group of about half a dozen friends at the Brook House pub in Fulham, West London.
Fellow drinkers said Harry, whose wife Meghan is with their son Archie at an £11 million mansion on Vancouver Island in Canada, was “laughing and joking” and “seemed very happy and relaxed”.
However, Royal biographer Angela Levin raised fears that being wrenched from his family will be particularly hard for Harry.
She said: “I think it’ll be fine for Meghan, she’s got lots of friends, lots of contacts. I fear that it’s going to be very difficult for Prince Harry… When he looks back, he might find that he’s lost a great deal.”
She added: “Harry’s very vulnerable. This is all a big trauma and I think he got very low.
“I think there is that sort of mental health issue that can sort of engulf him really.”