What Prince Harry's decision means for the British royal family

January 13, 2020 16:28
Prince Harry and his wife Meghan have caused a huge stir in Britain by announcing that they will step back from their royal duties. File photo: Pool via Reuters

Last Thursday, Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who hold the titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex, dropped a major bombshell by announcing that they have decided to step away from their senior royal roles.

In a statement posted on their Instagram page, the royal couple said: "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…”

The statement not only stunned the British public, it also came as a huge surprise to the royal family, as Harry and Meghan had neither co-ordinated with the Queen nor Prince Charles before they made their announcement, media reports have noted.

The British media has revealed that Queen Elizabeth II was infuriated by her grandson’s unilateral decision, and has ordered Buckingham Palace to work out a viable plan with Prince Harry and the UK government in order to defuse the situation as quickly as possible.

BBC has reported that the Queen will meet senior royals in Sandringham to discuss the future roles of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

"Among the issues likely to be discussed are what funding the duke and duchess will receive, whether they will keep their titles, and what royal duties they will continue to carry out,” the BBC report said.

There is little doubt that the ramifications of Prince Harry’s “resignation” are seen profound and far-reaching, as his move has not only gone against the royal traditions and norms, it may also harm the image of the royal family and its authority in the constitutional framework of the United Kingdom.

After all, despite being only a figurehead, the British monarch and the royal family are still very much a symbol of the sovereignty and traditions of the UK.

Given the Queen's age -- she is now 93 -- and the fact that her heir apparent, Prince Charles, has been rather unpopular among the British people, the issues of succession and the continuation of the royal family have become a focus of public attention in recent years.

Amid this situation, Prince Harry's decision to step back from royal duties could erode the standing of the royal family among the public and, in the worst-case scenario, even threaten the future of the British monarchy.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 11

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal