Harry and Meghan’s plan to live part of the time in the United Kingdom and part in North America, as their statement said, seems even more jarring.
And while the other royals who have left the family’s viselike embrace have done so reluctantly, unwilling to give up the trappings and remunerations of royalty, Harry — at least judging by his and Meghan’s Instagram statement — appears to be enthusiastic about the prospect.
Not only does the couple want a new role within the monarchy, the statement said, but they want to “work to become financially independent.” That’s a radical notion indeed, in a family whose members have long enjoyed public financing.
It is significant that even as Meghan and Harry went to great lengths in their statement to praise the royal family and pledge fealty to Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, and to the monarchy in general, the response from the Queen’s camp was on the icy end of the temperature spectrum. Buckingham Palace does not like to be taken by surprise.
“Discussions with the Duke and Duchess are at an early stage,” the palace said in its own statement — meaning, possibly, that discussions, such as they are, started very recently. “We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”
Meghan and Harry’s desire to break free from royal traditions and renounce the usual menu of royal obligations speaks directly to the challenges facing the monarchy as the reign of the queen, now 93, enters its final years.
As the second son of Prince Charles, who has spent his whole life waiting to become king and is himself now a formidable 71, Harry has virtually no chance of ever becoming king himself. While Prince William, as the elder brother, has been tethered to the notion that he will succeed his father on the throne, Harry has had to find another path.