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Harry and Meghan begin new life after 'unprecedented' royal divorce

"This separation of powers, this divorce, if you like, from the royal family is unprecedented in the modern era," a royal expert said.
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LONDON — Buckingham Palace's announcement that Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, will no longer use their "royal highness" titles or receive public funds for royal duties appears to have split opinion in the U.K.

With the agreement of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince William, the pair will be allowed to step back from royal duties, and Prince Harry will no longer be required for official military appointments. The pair will also no longer be funded by the British taxpayer. However, the couple will be allowed to continue to maintain their private patronages and associations.

The agreement has polarized opinion among British commentators.

"Comparisons are being made to the abdication crisis of 1936, but, of course, Prince Harry was not a future king, necessarily," NBC News contributor Camilla Tominey, associate editor for politics and royals for the British newspaper The Telegraph, said Sunday, referring to the abdication of King Edward VIII to marry his American lover, Wallis Simpson.

"This separation of powers, this divorce, if you like, from the royal family is unprecedented in the modern era," she said, adding:

"In her statement last night, the queen, like her subjects, concluded that this was not a situation where Harry and Meghan would be able to have their cake and eat it, to be half in and half out. It was basically a case of all or nothing, and clearly the queen and the monarchy chose the latter."

She added: "It remains to be seen whether they can transcend their previous position and sort of become brand ambassadors for what it is that they are now selling — themselves."

The royals were forced to come up with a new arrangement for the pair after they announced this month that they are going to "step back" from their roles as senior members of the royal family and live a more independent life.

Some have dubbed it "Megxit," a play on "Brexit," which refers to the U.K.'s decision to leave the European Union.

Penny Junor, who has written numerous books about the royal family, told the British tabloid The Mail on Sunday that the agreement was "the best possible outcome and an outcome which will actually avoid a catastrophe" for the royal family.

'The country was so divided about this and so angry and so upset, so I think it was all a big mess, and it was getting nastier by the day," she said.

Praising the fact that the couple would keep hold of their patronages, she added that it was a "clean break for the pair," as they will no longer receive public funds.

"There are no blurred lines. They are starting afresh," she added.

A number of charities also pledged their support for the couple, saying they "felt confident" that they will still benefit from their links, even as the pair step back from royal duties.

Image: Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Queen Elizabeth II pose for a picture in London in 2018.Reuters

Elsewhere, Alistair Bruce, a royal commentator for the British broadcaster Sky News, called the agreement a "seismic announcement" from the queen, in which she "brought down the iron fist of monarchical leadership on a problem that needed to be solved."

He said that although her statement was full of warmth, it represented the queen's having drawn a final line and making it clear that no one can be a royal and a private individual at the same time.

"This is an abdication, in a sense, from the royal family," Bruce said, adding that Harry and Meghan "are now free, to a certain extent, to go and follow the dreams that they have to pursue very good works. But no longer part of the royal business."

Meanwhile, James Cleverly, chairman of the U.K.'s ruling Conservative Party, also told Sky News: "Harry did not choose the life that he was born into."

If the queen was happy, he said, then the public should be, too.

But others have taken the news less favorably.

The new arrangement means that Prince Harry will no longer carry out official military appointments, something that has been an important part of his life ever since he served two tours in Afghanistan.

As a result, he will stop being Captain General of the Royal Marines — the title he took from his grandfather Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, after he retired.

"The whole situation is extremely sad, and I think it is unfortunate after his splendid service in the military that he will now no longer be involved with the military in the U.K.," Lord Alan West, a former First Sea Lord, told the U.K. broadcaster ITV News.

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Meanwhile, the outspoken British TV presenter Piers Morgan, who has repeatedly attacked the couple, laid the blame squarely on Meghan, calling her "a ruthless, social climbing, fame-obsessed piece of work who's now forced Harry from his country" in a tweet.

Morgan has also commended the queen for her "right decision" to tell the Sussexes to "sling their part-time royal hook."

"Meghan/Harry wanted to have their cake and eat it, but the Queen just took the cake back to the royal kitchens," he tweeted.