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Sussex Announcement: My thoughts

Photo: Getty/PA

As everyone has heard by now, Harry and Meghan announced on Wednesday that they would be stepping back in their roles as senior royals. I posted about all of the official information made available about the upcoming transition but wanted to share my personal opinions about the announcement. Like many fans, I have a lot of opinions about this announcement and their proposal to move forward.

First off, I am a firm believer in doing what works best for you and your family. I don''t believe in staying in a job, relationship or keeping habits that are harming your physical or mental health and through the past year or so, its become more and more clear that being "working royals" was not working very well for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. I support the decision they have made and wish them all the best but I am disappointed about the announcement for a few reasons.

Mostly I'm disappointed for the very selfish reason that fans likely won't get to see them as much. Harry has always been the "fun one" and it was a joy to see him so happy with Meghan. I understand it isn't fair that Harry was pegged as the rebellious, fun brother when he was four and has been expected to maintain this unofficial title throughout his life. Obviously people change, Prince Harry is now in his thirties, married and has a young child but his infectious personality and relaxed nature were always great fun to watch as a longtime royal fan. Knowing we won't be able to see that quite as much moving forward is a disappointment.

I have really enjoyed getting to see Harry and Meghan more and discovering more about their dynamic and relationship through their public appearances over the last two years. They seem interested in continuing their charitable work but it seems like they will be more selective about what they share with the public, doing more private engagements and sharing photos later. We've seen this model of work with a couple of their visits such as Meghan's visit to Luminary Bakery last year or the breakfast she hosted while in South Africa. I appreciated the photos but watching Royals interact live with their charities and the public is always a highlight for me and it doesn't seem like we will be getting to see this quite as much if all goes according to the Sussex's plan.

I'll also admit that I am disappointed in how they released this news. Two hours after making their announcement, Buckingham Palace released a rather odd statement. In the interest of not putting my own spin on BP's words, here is the statement in full;

"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."

-Buckingham Palace

From my personal impression, it seemed that Buckingham Palace was caught off guard by this announcement. The Sussex's had clearly been working on this for at least a few weeks judging by their new site (which is phenomenal, by the way) so not having included Buckingham Palace and by extension the Royal Family in these conversations did not seem like the most ideal way to handle this.

The statement, in my opinion, made it clear that the family was supportive of their decision to take a different path, but did not appreciate the announcement coming before more things could be settled logistically. While the Royal Family is a business of sorts, they are also a family and it didn't sit quite right that Harry and Meghan didn't give their family a bit more warning that this would be coming.

Now it is important to note that I think there are two types of Royals Fans. There are fans who enjoy following the people in the family. They typically have one or two favorite royals they dedicate their time to and follow their fashion and personal lives. Then there are fans of the institution of the Monarchy. They still might have some royals they prefer over others but they are generally aware of all major royals and the role that they play within the family and institution. Both fans are completely legitimate and some people, like myself, fall into both camps.

From what I have seen on social media and in articles, it is the former camp that is very happy about this announcement. They are celebrating Harry and Meghan for the decision that they have made and supporting their decision to become Royals with financial independence. It is the latter category that are not thrilled by the news, or like myself are disappointed about it.

The institution of the monarchy can seem antiquated and out of place in the 21st century, and in certain regards it is, but it also plays a vital role in the United Kingdom and frankly, this announcement is not good for the institution. Which brings me to the third reason I'm disappointed (and this is where I, unfortunately, start to get more pessimistic).

The monarchy exists in a delicate place in today's society. The Monarch and by extension the Royal Family needs to remain completely politically impartial in order to continue in its role as an un-elected head of state. Members of the Royal Family need to work with the media to continue to be an asset to the causes they support by bringing attention and recognition to these organizations and charities and the work that they do. They also cannot make their own income in order to protect against corruption since, if members of the Royal Family begin to accept money, organizations, politicians and the media can buy favor and influence for a certain price.

The Sussex announcement touches on both Media and Funding with more explanation of their intentions on their website. To be fair, we don't yet know how any of these plans will play out logistically, but I do not see a way yet how their plan in regards to the media and financial independence can work while still remaining working members of the royal family with the influence and access that comes with.

"The Duke and Duchess have chosen to revise their media policy to reflect both their forthcoming change as members of the Royal Family with financial independence, and their wish to reshape and broaden access to their work."

-Sussex Royal

They state that they will no longer be participating the Royal Rota (a system set up with 7 media organizations who are granted exclusive access to the Royal Family). This in itself is fine but they do say that they will grant access to grassroots media and up-and-coming journalists. Access is being taken from large media organizations only to be given to smaller and less established organizations, to me, doesn't seem like a very feasible plan.

While they say it is to ensure more accurate and fair reporting the larger organizations will still report on whatever story is written by a smaller group and they will be able to circulate it much faster. This structure would rely on fans and the public going to these small and less established news sources first, which to be frank seems unlikely.

There is also an element to their media policy that is concerning in terms of ensuring accurate and unbiased reporting. Giving smaller groups and journalists a chance at more access to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is great in theory but in reality could result in inaccurate reporting. Harry and Meghan could more easily influence what these organizations and people write since they are being given access to one of the worlds most famous couples, a career making moment (pessimistic, I know).

When people who aren't established and are eager for a big story are given access, they tend to write only what those that granted them access want. They want the opportunity and connections that can come with writing bigger stories. Comparatively, larger organizations with established writers aren't as easily influenced or swayed to write a certain story. They don't need to worry about losing access or missing a career-making opportunity because they've already "made it". They can write what they like with no worries about it ending a career if it isn't viewed favorably.

"In 2020, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have made the choice to transition into a new working model. As they step back as senior members of the Royal Family and no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant, they will become members of the Royal Family with financial independence"

-Sussex Royal

Next up would be Financial Independence. As mentioned above, working members of the Royal Family cannot make a separate income because it can too easily lend itself to corruption. The Sussex's mention on their website that there are current members of the Royal Family who make a separate income, though they do not say who they are referring to. Most likely it would be Prince Charles of the York Sisters but these cases are very different to what Harry and Meghan are proposing.

Prince Charles, as the next in line, receives income from the Duchy of Cornwall. The Duchy is run by the Prince of Wales (the heir apparent) and has been passed down through the generations. It includes land and resources that the Prince of Wales essentially acts as a landlord to. The finances of the Duchy are supervised by the treasury and is presented to both houses of Parliament to ensure there is no corruption and the estate is being managed according to the laws of the United Kingdom. The income derived from the land is what pays for most of the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Duke and Duchess of Sussex's charitable work.

Both Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie also have titles and an income since they are members of the royal family but they are not working royals. They come to official events such as Trooping the Colour and Royal Ascot, however they are not supported by the sovereign grant, the Duchy of Cornwall or the Duchy of Lancaster (land the reigning Monarch owns). Any charity visits or work they do on behalf of the Crown has been paid for by their father since 2011 at which point they became "modern working women". They no longer have a security detail provided by the crown and they both work full time. Princess Beatrice works as Vice President of Partnerships & Strategy at the software company, Affiniti while Princess Eugenie works as a Director at the London Gallery, Hauser & Wirth.

In their announcement, it seems they are framing their 'financial independence' as only being independent from the sovereign grant. They would continue to take money from the Duchy of Cornwall in addition to making their own income. I do not see any way that this can work for a few reasons. The working royals who earn an income do so through property that has been passed down for generations and is monitored by the government to ensure it is operating lawfully or through 9 to 5 jobs, since they receive no money from the sovereign grant or the duchies and they are not classified as "working royals". Proposing a scheme for creating income in addition to receiving money from the Prince of Wales's Duchy of Cornwall is not a model that any working royal exists on today because it is not a model that lends itself to the rules and regulations the Monarchy must exist by in order to continue to exist in modern society.

Secondly, the most likely source of income for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would be through brand partnerships, documentary or film deals and merchandising. This is a perfectly acceptable way for celebrities or influencers to make money but the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are not proposing a transition into either one of those spheres. They state repeatedly that they will be members of the Royal Family with financial independence. Members of the Royal Family cannot make money this way because it lends itself too easily to corruption not to mention how these types of deals would affect the Royal Family brand.

"As working members of the Royal Family, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain dedicated to maximising Her Majesty’s legacy both in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth."

-Sussex Royal

Finally, financial independence from the royal family while remaining members of the royal family doesn't work from a business standpoint. The monarchy is a business in a lot of ways, the Queen being the CEO with Prince Charles and Vice President and Prince William as an executive. Prince Harry plays an important role in promoting the company both domestically and abroad and he's done a great job at this in his time as a working royal.

That being said, an employee cannot create a rival company while still employed by the original company. While that may seem like a harsh analogy to draw, being financially independent would mean operating autonomously, apart from The Firm thus creating a rival company. The Sussex Royal brand (as they have named themselves) would be using the connections and influence created by The Royal Family through centuries of work to launch their own brand independent of the rules and regulations of the Monarchy.

Which leads me to my biggest disappointment about this announcement. While I do not believe for a moment this was their intention or their aim, the Sussex's announcement has harmed the institution of the Monarchy. Having a high level and incredibly popular couple, like the Sussex's, announce they want to distance themselves from the British Royal Family calls into question the practices and place of such an institution moving forward. If they are successful in this proposal, what is to stop others from following suit? Why then should the public fund such an institution?

I am a massive fan of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex but I am a bigger fan of the Crown. No matter how you feel personally, in order for the monarchy to survive, the Crown must come first.

The Queen has given her entire life to the Crown. At 93 she has given over 7 decades of service and I truly believe she has always served to the best of her ability. This doesn't mean she has always gotten it right and I believe the Crown could have found a way to better support the Duke and Duchess of Sussex but that does not mean that Harry and Meghan are able to dictate their own rules for being in the family as they have proposed. Like many others, I don't believe they can have it both ways.

The entire situation is entirely unfair and I sympathize with the struggles Harry and Meghan have gone through, but there has to be a decision. Setting the precedent for Royal Family Members to be involved where they want to be and to opt out of the things they find difficult is not an option if the Monarchy is going to survive. If they want to leave the Firm, I fully support them and will continue to follow any news or updates they choose to give us. However, if they want to stay then they need to commit to all parts of Royal life. It is an impossible choice, and one I am incredibly sorry they will have to make, but the decision must be made one way or another.

Reporters have said that the Queen instructed the family to work with governments and the Sussex's to find a workable solution in days, rather than weeks. So, unfortunately, this drama will continue on for a while longer and I will update my original post when more official information is available.

What is your opinion on the Sussex announcement? Leave your thoughts below.

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