"We have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution," the Duke and Duchess of Sussex wrote on Instagram

By Andrea Wurzburger
January 08, 2020 05:20 PM

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are stepping back as “senior members” of the royal family, the pair announced on Wednesday in an unprecedented move in modern royal history.

“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution,” the Duke and Duchess of Sussex wrote on Instagram. “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.”

“We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, 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. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.”

They signed the statement as “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex” — but does that mean that they’re keeping their royal titles?

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty

The couple attempted to answer any outstanding questions on their website, SussexRoyal.com, but there are a few that remain unanswered.

Are Meghan and Harry Giving Up Their Titles?

It would seem that the answer to that question is no. Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, were named the Duke and Duchess of Sussex by the Queen on their wedding day. Even though they’ve decided to “step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent,” the couple signed their correspondence as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, so it is not likely that they are getting rid of their titles. But the decision ultimately would come down to the Queen — the monarch gave them their titles, and she’s the only one who can take them away.

The royal parents chose not to give their son Archie a “courtesy title” upon his birth in May. It is traditional for the eldest son of a duke to eventually inherit his father’s title. Down the line, Archie could be given the secondary Sussex title, before inheriting the dukedom.

Additionally, in one question on their website, they reference other members of the royal family who have kept their titles and earned their own income. Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, for example, both hold full-time jobs outside of the royal family.

When asked whether or not there are “any other members of the Royal Family who hold a title and earn income,” the response was: “Yes, there is precedent for this structure and 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.”

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/POOL/AFP via Getty

Are Meghan and Harry Leaving the Royal Family?

One of the questions that they answer on their website is whether or not becoming financially independent means that Harry and Meghan will “be cutting ties with the monarchy.” It would seem that no, they are not cutting ties at this time.

“As working members of the Royal Family, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain dedicated to maximizing Her Majesty’s legacy both in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth. They will continue to proudly do so by supporting their patronages and carrying out works for The Monarchy within the UK or abroad, as called upon.”

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The announcement, made on the couple’s official Instagram, comes after the pair spent their first holiday season as a family of three with son Archie, 8 months, on Vancouver Island. The palace confirmed that the family was “spending private family time in Canada” ahead of Christmas.

Meghan and Harry are also currently embroiled in several lawsuits with the U.K. press and acknowledged feeling under strain earlier this fall amid tabloid pressure and ongoing family tensions.

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