Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made a surprising announcement to step away as "senior" members of the British Royal Family (Credit: Mark Jones/ CC-BY- A 2.0,/ Commons.wikimedia.org)

In early January 2020, less than two years after their fairytale wedding, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle announced their intention to step away as "senior" members of the Royal Family. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who revealed the surprising news on their official Instagram account, @sussexroyal, said that though they planned to divide their time between North America and England, they fully expected to continue fulfilling their royal obligations.

What were Prince Harry's and Meghan's duties?

Similar to other immediate members of the British Royal Family, Prince Harry and Meghan had one "job" ‚ÄĒ to support Queen Elizabeth II in her role as Head of the 16 Commonwealth realms. This included representing the monarch at overseas functions to help maintain essential relationships with key political leaders and serving as patrons to several charities, including Rhino Conservation Botswana in Africa and the Royal National Theater in London. Prince Harry, who was in the front line of the war in Afghanistan twice ‚ÄĒ as Forward Air Controller (2007/2008) and as an Apache Pilot (2012/2013)‚ÄĒ was also bestowed the title of Captain General Royal Marines, a senior, ceremonial military rank.

All members of the Royal Family work for Queen Elizabeth II (Credit: Ralph_PH ?CC BY-SA- 2.0 /Creativecommons.org)

How will their duties evolve?

Although they had hoped to continue their royal duties, Prince Harry and Meghan's decision to step back and live abroad effectively meant they were quitting their "jobs." As a result, Prince Harry was asked to resign to the Queen, his grandmother, and relinquish his military title. While the couple will continue being the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, they will no longer be referred to as His/Her Royal Highness (HRH), a title reserved for the most senior members of the Royal Family. Prince Harry and Meghan are expected to be allowed to continue the private patronages and associations with charities and organizations they have previously worked with. However, given the unprecedented nature of the separation ‚ÄĒ the first in the 1200-year history of the British monarchy ‚ÄĒ their future royal duties, if any, remain unclear.

Where will they live?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be able to retain their current residence, Frogmore Cottage, in the UK (Credit: Karen Roe/ CC-BY-SA-2.0/ Creativecommons.org)

Prince Harry and Meghan are expected to split their time between North America and England. While the couple is currently seeking a home in Vancouver, Canada, they will be allowed to keep Frogmore Cottage ‚ÄĒ their UK home owned by the Queen. They have offered to repay the $3 million of public funds used to refurbish it and, going forward, may also have to pay market rent.

How will they make money?

Typically, "working" members of the Royal Family are funded through a range of sources. Prince Harry and Meghan were primarily financed by the Duchy of Cornwall. Established by King Edward III in 1337, the private estate's revenues are given to the HRH Prince of Wales ‚ÄĒ currently Prince Harry's father, Prince Charles ‚ÄĒ for his public, charitable and individual needs. The couple also obtained 5 percent of their income from the Sovereign Grant, which is funded by British taxpayers to cover the Royal Family‚Äôs official duties and the upkeep of royal palaces and buildings.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are expected to continue their work with charitable organizations (Credit: SussexRoyal/Twitter)

While the couple will no longer be eligible to receive taxpayer money, Prince Charles has agreed to continue funding some of their expenses from his personal income. Prince Harry and Meghan, who both have a sizeable net worth, also plan on becoming financially independent by accepting paid work ‚ÄĒ something that is forbidden to "working" royals. Since both have several charities, causes, and organizations about which they are passionate, it is assumed that their new "jobs" or projects will relate to these areas.

What led to this unprecedented decision?

The biggest question on everyone's mind is, why? Why would anyone want to relinquish what appears to be a fairy tale-like existence for a commoners' life?

On January 21, 2020, in his first public comments about the historic separation, Prince Harry said, "The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back, is not one I made lightly. It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven't always gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option."

Prince Harry and Meghan hope to provide their son Archie with a more normal life (Crediit: SussexRoyal/Twitter)

The challenges the 35-year-old is referring to is the incessant media scrutiny and intrusion the royal couple ‚ÄĒ Meghan especially ‚ÄĒ has experienced since their May 2018 wedding. The encroachment into their personal lives, which has included hacking their phones, has even compelled the couple to take legal action against some British tabloids. The young monarch's self-revealed battle with mental health, which he says takes ‚Äúconstant management‚ÄĚ to deal with the due to the pressure of his life and role, may also have factored into the decision.

Legendary primatologist Jane Goodall believes it may also be due to Prince Harry's desire to give his son Archie a normal life. In a recent interview with BBC Radio 4's Today Program, she said, "I know that Prince Harry really felt constrained, and he desperately wants little Archie to grow up away from all the pomp and royalty."

Regardless of the reason, we hope the young family can find the balance and privacy they covet and wish them the best in their new life.

Credit: Royal.UK, sussexroyal.com, www.theguardian.com, www.bbc.com