LONDON (Reuters) - Prince Harry and his wife Meghan have announced they will step back from senior roles in the royal family - a move that raises questions about how they will earn an income, who will pay for their security, and what their new positions will involve.
Exactly how they will combine private work and royal duties remains unclear. The couple in an initial statement said they hoped to become financially independent and set up a new charity, while continuing some royal duties.
Harry and Meghan said in a question-and-answer section of their new website that they are seeking financial independence from the monarchy’s funding, known as the “Sovereign Grant”. This is a government handout that covers the running costs of the royal household and travel expenses.
The couple said the grant was equivalent to 5% of their income towards running their official office. They did not say if they will give up the remaining 95 percent which comes from Prince Charles’s centuries-old private estate.
By foregoing money from the taxpayer, the couple indicated they will seek some form of private income.
“They value the ability to earn a professional income, which in the current structure they are prohibited from doing,” the statement said. “For this reason they have made the choice to become members of the Royal Family with financial independence.”
They said they now plan to divide their time between the United Kingdom and North America.
They will continue to base themselves at Frogmore Cottage in the grounds of the queen’s Windsor Castle when in the United Kingdom. The property was recently renovated at a cost of 2.4 million pounds ($3.13 million) by taxpayers.
Meghan was born in Los Angeles and she grew up in Hollywood. Harry and Meghan spent the last six weeks of 2019 in Canada and their first official appearance of 2020 was a trip to Canada House in London, home of Canada’s diplomatic mission to Britain.
The couple made clear that they expected the government to continue to finance their security costs as mandated by the Home Office, which is responsible for the security of the royal family. The cost of the security is never made public, but it is estimated to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.
The couple’s new website Sussex Royal does not outline how they intend to fund themselves in future. Some of the Queen’s other grandchildren work, including Prince Andrew’s daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, who work in business and the arts.
Last year, it was reported that Harry would be executive producer of a documentary on mental health with U.S. television mogul Oprah Winfrey for Apple’s video streaming service.
Royal biographer Penny Junor suggested Meghan, who starred in TV legal drama “Suits”, might revive her acting career, given the demand and fees she could command.
Six months ago Harry and Meghan applied to the UK Intellectual Property Office to trademark the phrases Sussex Royal and Sussex Royal Foundation for use on books, stationery, clothing such as pyjamas and socks, charity campaigns and the provision of training, sport and social care.
The couple announced they are to radically change media access to their official engagements, and will no longer participate in the traditional “royal rota” system, which is an agreement providing access for royal correspondents.
The royal rota system allows access to their engagements by accredited correspondents, who pool photographs and video, to ensure minimum interference with the engagement itself.
Now the couple said their intention is to speak directly to the public through social media, and they would deny automatic access to some royal correspondents.
This means that they could be the target of more paparazzi photographers, who will no longer worry about losing access to official events if they are already excluded.
The couple made no mention of giving up their royal titles. Instead, they stated on their website that other royal family members retain their titles while earning an income.
“There is precedent for this structure and it applies to other current members of the Royal Family who support the monarch and also have full time jobs external to their commitment to the monarchy,” the statement said.
Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Alexandra Hudson