Royal Conflict: What is happening with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex?

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Royal Conflict: What is happening with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex?

Corinna Caimi, Executive Producer of #THAT

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It was an absolute bombshell when Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, dropped the news about his relationship with American actress Meghan Markle in Nov. of 2016. The couple started hearing wedding bells a year later in Nov. of 2017 and have been officially married since May 19, 2018.

Everything had been quiet with the pair until Jan. 8, when the couple announced that they will be taking a “step back as ‘senior’ members of the royal family and work to become financially independent,” in a lengthy Instagram post on @sussexroyal. The post included that they would continue to support the Queen, and for the first time would split their time between North America and England.

Comments underneath the post seemed to confirm a sense of confusion from the public. The British monarchy itself has no governing power, and members largely act as figure heads who attend events and ceremonies. However, the Duke and Duchess stepping down is a much bigger deal than just a lack of handshakes and cute photo-ops.

It is the first time in a long time that anyone has voluntarily sacrificed their role in the Royal Family. The last notable person to do so did in 1936. The Queen’s husband only recently stepped away to take care of his health in his old age, and others have stripped of their duties — most notably, Princess Diana after she divorced Prince Charles. Royals have gotten out of their duties before, but simply giving them up is almost unheard of.

So, if it’s so uncommon, why would Markle and Harry choose this route? The couple has been quite candid about the toll the royal life can have on them mentally. Markle did not grow up in England and has never had any Royal training. Prince Harry has been open about how the spotlight stole his mother, Princess Diana, from him when she died in a car crash while being chased by paparazzi. 

As if that wasn’t enough, the couple’s tabloid coverage since their beginning has often been racist and exhausting towards Markle, who is of mixed race, making her the first ever in the family. And with the birth of their son, Archie, it only makes sense they might want a little less spotlight in his childhood.

While this all seems well and good, the Queen does not support the decision. Buckingham Palace released a contractionary statement in response to the Instagram post that essentially stated the couple could not get out of their duties that easily. 

When looking back at events such as the Queen failing to include the pair in her annual Christmas address or the Duke and Duchess spending Christmas with Meghan’s mother in the states, the brewing tension becomes obvious.

Even with all the drama, this seems like a good decision that the couple has put a lot of thought into. It shows a willingness to be different, and a potential upgrade in the modernity of the Royal Family as a whole. Markle and Harry marching to the beat of their own drum shows that even the most traditional institutions can become progressive, and that nothing is set in stone.