Buckingham Palace announced Friday that Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, will not be returning to royal duties, and Harry will give up his honorary military titles — a move that makes formal, and final, the couple’s separation from the royal family.
When Harry and Meghan stepped away from full-time royal life in March 2020, upset at media attention and the strictures of their positions, it was decided the situation would be reviewed after a year.
Now it has, and the palace said in a statement that the pair, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have verified “they will not be returning as working members of the Royal Family. “
It said Queen Elizabeth II had spoken to 36-year-old Harry and agreed “that in stepping away from the work of the Royal Family, it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service.”
The palace said Harry’s appointment as captain general of the Royal Marines and titles with other military groups will return to the queen before being allocated to other members of the family.
Harry served in the British army for a decade, including on the front line in Afghanistan, and maintains a strong relationship with the military. He created the Invictus Games competition for wounded soldiers, which first was held in 2014 at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium.
The Invictus Games Foundation said Harry will remain its patron. But he is relinquishing roles as patron of the Rugby Football Union, the Rugby Football League and the London Marathon Charitable Trust.
Meghan, 39, will be deprived of her position as patron of Britain’s National Theatre and the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
“While all are saddened by their decision, the Duke and Duchess remain much loved members of the family,” the palace statement said.
American actress Meghan Markle, a former star of the TV legal drama “Suits,” married the queen’s grandson Harry at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born a year later.
In early 2020, Meghan and Harry revealed they were leaving royal duties and heading to North America, citing what they said were the intolerable intrusions and biassed attitudes of the British media against the duchess, who identifies as biracial.
The pair decided to no longer use the title “royal highness” or accept public funds for their work, although it was uncertain at the time whether those decisions would stand.
They maintain their titles of duke and duchess, and Harry is now sixth in line to the British throne. Harry and Meghan now live in Santa Barbara, California and are expecting their second child. The couple recently revealed they would talk to Oprah Winfrey for a TV special to be broadcast next month.
Angela Levin, who has written a biography of Prince Harry, said the queen’s concern over what the Winfrey interview would reveal might have caused the royal family to announce the split with Harry and Meghan earlier than expected.
“They’re out on their own,” she said. “They’ve got the freedom that they longed for.”
They continue to have a strained relationship with parts of the British media. Earlier this month, Meghan secured a legal win in a case against the publisher of the Mail on Sunday, after a British judge ruled the newspaper violated her privacy by publishing part of a letter she sent to her estranged father.
News of their split with the palace comes as Harry’s grandfather, 99-year-old Prince Philip, is in a London hospital, where he was admitted on Tuesday after feeling unwell.
A spokeswoman for the couple hit back at reports that Meghan and Harry were not committed to service.
“As evidenced by their work over the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the U.K. and around the world, and have given their continued support to the organisations they have served regardless of official role,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”