Updated Jan 8, 2020

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to "step back" as senior royals

Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced Wednesday that they will "step back" as senior members of the British royal family in order "to carve out a progressive new role within this institution."

Why it matters: The move, which will see them become financially independent from the crown and split their time between the U.K. and North America, can be viewed as an effective resignation from royal duties by the pair — after they faced increasing harassment from the press.

The other side: Buckingham Palace said in a statement Wednesday afternoon, "Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through."

Prince Harry and Markle's full statement:

"After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. 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.
It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment.
We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honor our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages.
This geographic balance will enable us 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.
We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support."

Flashback: Harry and Meghan's royal wedding pictures

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Queen Elizabeth II said in a statement Monday she has agreed to a "period of transition" in which Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, will split time between the United Kingdom and Canada, after the pair announced last week they would "step back" as senior members of the royal family.

Why it matters: It's an expression of support that follows an emergency family summit this weekend. The queen said she would have "preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family," but respects their wish to live a "more independent life."

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Prince Harry told a London charity event Sunday he and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, had "no other option" but to step back from working as senior members of Britain's royal family.

Why it matters: In his first speech since the couple agreed to relinquish their "royal highness" titles in order to split their time between the U.K. and North America, Harry expressed "great sadness" about the move. He alluded to British press harassment in his speech, saying "the media is a powerful force." They hoped to continue to with duties "without public funding," he said. "Unfortunately, that wasn't possible."

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have agreed to repay roughly 2.4 million pounds, or $3.1 million, of taxpayer money spent on Windsor Castle renovations, AP reports.

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