Here’s Exactly What It Means to “Step Back” from Royal Duties

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have a long road ahead of them.

Update, March 2021: In February of 2021, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s step back from royal life was made permanent. They now reside in California and will be working on various projects through their new organization, Archewell. 


The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, recently made the stunning announcement that they will be stepping back from being senior members of the British royal family. The news comes after the couple spent an extended sabbatical of six weeks in Canada over the holidays.

“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 couple said on their official Instagram account, @sussexroyal. “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.”

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex wrote that they would divide their time between the United Kingdom and North America. “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,” the royal pair said in the statement. This is why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s baby boy, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, didn’t get a royal title to begin with.

What does “stepping back” mean for their royal future?

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex launched a new website explaining their future endeavors, which include three key initiatives: helping the community, serving the monarchy, and strengthening the commonwealth.

The royal couple also explain at length how they plan to become “financially independent” as they mention in their initial announcement. Currently, like other senior working members of the royal family, they do receive some funding through the Sovereign Grant, which is funding from the monarchy to cover official expenses, like residences and workspaces. Under their new arrangement, the couple plans to give up their share of the Sovereign Grant, which they state only covers 5 percent of their costs and is only used for official office expenses. Instead, they are choosing a “new working model” that would allow them to have financial independence from the Monarchy (thus, allowing them “future financial autonomy to work externally”) as well as earn their own income, which until this moment, they’ve been prohibited from doing so, due to “the current structure and financing arrangements.”

Prince Harry and Meghan have also updated their media policy, which will “ensure diverse and open access to their work” by the Spring of 2020. They plan to change things like no longer participating in the “Royal Rota” a press pool dedicated to providing exclusive access to the official engagements of the royal family, but also sharing more information directly with the public via their own communications channels. If you still want more details on the ordeal, this is what could happen to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal titles.

Who else from the royal family has “stepped back”?

Prince Harry and Meghan aren’t the first royals to step back. After more than 70 years next to the Queen, Prince Philip relinquished his royal duties in May 2017 at the age of 96. And, their son, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, recently stepped back from public duties in November 2019 after backlash from a BBC interview over his friendship with the late convicted sex offender and American financier Jeffrey Epstein.

What will happen to the rest of the royal family?

Rumors of a rift between brothers Prince William and Prince Harry have been circulating the past few months. Following the U.K. release of ITV’s documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey in late 2019, Harry opened up about the feudThe couple’s Instagram announcement alludes to the fact that they will continue to work with the Queen, Harry’s father, Prince Charles, and his brother, Prince William, in the coming months, however, stating: “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.”

Not long after this shocking statement from Prince Harry and Meghan, Buckingham Palace issued a response: “Discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.” Now, find out 13 other ways Prince Harry has changed since marrying Meghan Markle.

Madeline Wahl
Madeline Wahl is a former associate editor and writer at whose work has appeared on HuffPost, Red Magazine, McSweeney's, Pink Pangea, The Mighty, Golf Channel and Yahoo Lifestyle, among others. More of her writing can be found on her website,