Windsor, England — Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, will stop using their loftiest royal titles, give up state funding and repay at least $3 million in taxpayer money used to refurbish their official residence at Windsor Castle under an agreement announced by Buckingham Palace on Saturday.
The unusual deal, negotiated by aides to Queen Elizabeth II, Harry and other senior family members, is intended to end a crisis that erupted 10 days ago when the couple abruptly announced plans to step back from their royal duties and spend part of each year in North America.
However civil, the agreement codifies one of the most dramatic ruptures within the British royal family since King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry an American woman, Wallis Simpson. It is a spectacle that has enthralled and divided Britain, overshadowing even the country’s impending departure from the European Union and provoking conversations around the world about race, privilege and tradition.
The couple plan to spend a majority of their time outside Britain, initially in Canada but later likely in the United States as well, according to officials at the palace. They will continue to carry out limited duties on behalf of the queen and will retain another of their royal titles, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Harry will also remain a prince and sixth in line of succession. But under the deal, the couple will no longer use their most exclusive titles “His Royal Highness” or “Her Royal Highness” because they will no longer be working royals.
They will be allowed to earn money in the private sector, although palace officials said the duke and duchess had agreed that whatever work they pursued would “uphold the values of Her Majesty,” a phrase intended to allay fears that they will overly commercialize their ties to the House of Windsor.
The queen instructed her family last Monday to come to an agreement with the duke and duchess after an extraordinary family conclave at her country residence, Sandringham, during which she said she would reluctantly accept their desire to break away and chart their own future.
The drama has plunged the royal family into perhaps its greatest crisis since the 1997 death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the mother of Harry and his older brother, Prince William.
There have been reports of a bitter rift between the two princes, and the couple’s announcement blindsided the palace. Meghan, who returned to Canada afterward to be with their son, Archie, appears increasingly isolated within the family.
The couple have had a toxic relationship with Britain’s tabloids, which soured on Meghan after initially giving her rapturous coverage — a 38-year-old American actress with a multiracial background who brought a breath of fresh air into one of the country’s most revered but hidebound institutions.
In a statement, the queen said she recognized the challenges the couple “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,” the queen said, adding that she was “particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.”
In a separate statement, issued by Buckingham Palace on behalf of the duke and duchess, the couple thanked the queen and other members of the royal family for “their ongoing support as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.”
The duke said he would relinquish his honorary military appointments and his status as a Commonwealth youth ambassador, although the couple will preserve their links to a network of private charities.
The agreement takes effect later in the spring and will be reviewed by the palace after a year, according to a palace official.
There are still several unanswered questions, like whether the duke and duchess will continue to receive publicly funded security, either in Britain or overseas. The palace declined to discuss security arrangements.
Prince Charles will continue to provide the couple financial support, officials said, although it is not clear whether that money will come from the Duchy of Cornwall, his hereditary estate, which has funded the bulk of their expenses since they were married in 2018.
Hammering out terms for Harry and Meghan to shift to “part-time” status was never going to be easy. The couple draw millions of dollars a year from Charles, and the state also provides extensive police security for the pair — arrangements that will now come under scrutiny.
The queen gave the duke and duchess Frogmore Cottage, a historic house on the grounds of Windsor Castle, to serve as their primary residence. They came under criticism for refurbishing the house at a cost of at least 2.4 million pounds ($3.1 million) in public funds.
Repaying that money may buy them some goodwill. Reaction to the announcement on social media was generally positive, with many people praising their commitment to pay for the renovations. They will continue to use Frogmore Cottage when they are in Britain, officials said.
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“It will appease those people who were angry about the money,” said Penny Junor, a royal biographer.
She said the agreement avoided what could have been a muddy situation, with the couple half in and half out of the royal family.
“It means there are no blurred lines about what’s royal and what’s not,” she said. “They’ve said they want to get out, so let them get out.”
The palace also declined to say whether, and how, it would monitor the couple’s private-sector activities. Other members of the royal family who have tried to enter the private sector, like Prince Edward, the queen’s youngest son, or Sarah Ferguson, the former wife of Prince Andrew, have stumbled.
Andrew himself was banished from public life last year by the queen after he gave a disastrous interview to the BBC about his dealings with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
The Canadian government has been cordial about the prospect of having Harry and Meghan move there but noncommittal about whether it would pay for any of their security or other expenses.
“Most Canadians are very supportive of having royals be here, but how that looks and what kind of cost is involved — there’s still lots of discussion,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week to Canadian broadcaster Global News.
Harry last Thursday made his first public appearance since the situation unfolded, presiding over a draw for the Rugby League World Cup at Buckingham Palace. He looked tense under the glare of cameras but appeared to loosen up as he joked with a group of children playing rugby outside the palace.
The duchess is staying at an estate on Vancouver Island in Canada where the couple spent the Christmas holidays.
On this historic Saturday morning at Windsor Castle, age-old tradition mingled with unmistakable signs of change.
Shortly before 11 a.m., the Scots Guards formed up in the castle’s lower ward for the ceremonial changing of the guard. Standing in the shadow of St. George’s Chapel, where Harry and Meghan were married on a sunny Saturday morning only 18 months ago, they presented arms.
After being inspected, the troops stood at attention as a detachment of new guards marched into the courtyard from a nearby barracks, preceded by the Band of the Household Cavalry, sunlight glinting off their horns.
As the old and new guards faced each other, impassive under their bearskin hats, the bandleader raised his baton. Tourists jostled and cameras flashed as the military band plunged into a jaunty rendition of “Get Lucky,” a disco funk hit co-written by Pharrell Williams, followed by “It’s Not Unusual,” the smoldering 1960s pop tune made famous by Welsh singer Tom Jones.
New York Times