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Harry and Meghan to step back as senior royals

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have announced they will step back as "senior" royals and work to become financially independent.

In a statement released by Buckingham Palace, Prince Harry and Meghan also said they plan to split their time between the UK and North America.

The couple said they will continue to "fully support" the Queen.

Last October, Prince Harry and Meghan publicly revealed their struggles under the media spotlight.

In their statement on Wednesday, also posted on their Instagram page, the couple said they made the decision "after many months of reflection and internal discussions".

"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."

They said they plan to balance their time between the UK and North America while "continuing to honour 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."

Over Christmas, the couple took a six-week break from royal duties to spend some time in Canada with their son, Archie, who was born in May.

After returning to the UK on Tuesday, Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, visited Canada's High Commission in London to thank the country for hosting them and said the warmth and hospitality they received was "unbelievable".

During the visit, Meghan said it was "incredible time" to enjoy the "beauty of Canada".

"To see Archie go 'ah' when you walk by, and just see how stunning it is – so it meant a lot to us."

Former actress Meghan lived and worked in Toronto during her time starring in the popular US drama Suits.

Close up, it was painfully clear that there were great chunks of the job they simply could not stand.

Both of them appeared to come alive with the crowds. But Harry hated the cameras and was visibly bored by the ceremonial.

And though Meghan was often the consummate professional, at times her impatience with the everyday slog of the role sometimes broke through.

She said she didn't want to become a voiceless figurehead; but when she raised her voice, she found criticism waiting for her.

They both made their feelings known in the 2019 interview with ITV's Tom Bradby.

But beyond the detail, what was so shocking was how unhappy they both seemed. The sun-drenched wedding of the year before seemed like a dream; here were two people visibly struggling with their lives and positions.

There are far more questions than answers; what will their new role be? Where will they live, and who will pay for it? What relationship will they have with the rest of the Royal Family?

And there's the institutional question. What does this mean for the Royal Family?

It comes just a few months after Prince Andrew stepped back from his duties. Some might see this as the slimmed-down monarchy that the 21st century needs.

But Harry and Meghan reached people that other royals didn't.

They were part of the reinvention and refreshing of the institution. This was not the way anyone would have planned its future.

Former Buckingham Palace press officer Dickie Arbiter suggested the decision showed Prince Harry's "heart ruling his head".

He told the BBC the "massive press onslaught" when their son Archie was born may have played a part in the decision.

And he compared the move to Edward VIII's abdication in 1936 in order to marry twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson.

"That is the only other precedent, but there's been nothing like this in modern times," Mr Arbiter said.

Asked how being a "part-time" member of the Royal Family might work, Mr Arbiter said he did not know.

"If they're going to be based in the UK, it means they are going to be doing a lot of flying [with] a big carbon footprint," he said, adding that this may "raise eyebrows".

He also questioned how the couple would become financially independent.

"I mean, Harry is not a poor man, but to settle yourself in two different continents, to raise a family, to continue to do your work – how's the work going to be funded?

"How is their security going to be funded?

"Because they're still going to have to have security – who's going to have to pay for this? Where's the security coming from? Is the Metropolitan Police going to be providing it and if so whether there's going to be any contribution in covering the security cost?"

Mr Arbiter also suggested questions would be raised over why £2.4m of taxpayer's money was spent on renovating the couple's home, Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, if they will now be living elsewhere for some of the year.

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