Meghan Markle and Prince Harry effectively offered their resignation as "senior royals" last week, in a detailed statement shared to the official Sussex Royal Instagram account. The Duke and Duchess announced their decision to split their time between the UK and North America, whilst "continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen," in the hopes of becoming financially independent from the royal family.
Last night, Buckingham Palace issued a statement following talks between the Queen and Prince Harry, wherein a "period of transition was agreed" for the Duke and Duchess to start dividing their time between Canada and the UK. The Queen also noted that these were "complex matters" that her and the remaining senior royals were working through, and that a final decision was expected to be reached "in the coming days."
But who exactly are the 'senior' members of the royal family - and how will Meghan and Harry's absence change the grouping?
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“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. 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.” - The Duke and Duchess of Sussex For more information, please visit sussexroyal.com (link in bio) Image © PA
What defines a "senior member" of the royal family?
In their official statetment, Harry and Meghan noted: "We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent." Unfortunately, the actual definition of a 'senior' royal is very much subjective and is frequently prone to intensive debate.
One possible way of defining a 'senior' royal would be to consider those members who are actively involved in carrying out their duties to the crown. Per Royal Central, perhaps the simplest definition of a 'senior' member of the royal family is "any member... who continually carries out duties in their own right and on behalf of the crown."
Considering the closest proximity to the throne, or those members who do the most amount of work on behalf of the crown, are other ways of measuring one's seniority.
However, because each measure is problematic in its own right (for example, measuring the closest proximity to the throne would exclude spouses of royal members who still exert a high level of influence, such as Kate Middleton), it is perhaps best to define a 'senior royal' by an amalgamation of all three loose definitions.
Who are the remaining 'senior' members?
Going by the loose definitions mentioned above, the remaining 'senior' members of the royal family, excluding Harry and Meghan, are usually understood to be:
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Queen of England and current British monarch
Duke of Edinburgh, husband to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Prince of Wales, first heir to the throne
Camila, Duchess of Cornwall
Duchess of Cornwall, wife to Prince Charles
Duke of Cambridge, second heir to the throne
Duchess of Cambridge, wife to Prince William
Princess Royal, only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
With such an abundance of 'senior' royals, it is unlikely that Harry and Meghan's departure is going to hugely affect the day-to-day responsibilities and duties of the royal family. Though it would appear that they "do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives," it is still unclear as to how their new role within (or without) the British monarchy is going to take shape.
Needless to say, we'll be watching this space very closely.
Images: Getty, Instagram/KensingtonRoyal, Instagram/TheRoyalFamily