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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will not return as working members of the royal family, Buckingham Palace has said.
Prince Harry and Meghan are also giving up their royal patronages. The announcement follows weeks of speculation about their future as the one-year review of their position, announced at the time they moved away from the UK, neared.
The palace said in a statement: “Following conversations with the duke, the Queen has written confirming that in stepping away from the work of the royal family it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service.
“The honorary military appointments and royal patronages held by the duke and duchess will therefore be returned to Her Majesty, before being redistributed among working members of the royal family.
“While all are saddened by their decision, the duke and duchess remain much-loved members of the family.”
A spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said: “As evidenced by their work over the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the UK and around the world, and have offered their continued support to the organisations they have represented regardless of official role. We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”
The decision followed the 12-month review of the couple’s position, which was thrashed out at a Sandringham summit last year when Harry and Meghan indicated they wished to become financially independent. They have since signed lucrative contracts with Netflix and Spotify.
A much-publicised “intimate” interview with Oprah Winfrey is due to be broadcast by CBS on 7 March.
Sources said the decision was made after conversations between the couple and other members of the royal family.
The patronages to be surrendered will be the Royal Marines, RAF Honington, Royal Navy Small Ships and Diving, the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, the Rugby Football Union, the Rugby Football League, the Royal National Theatre and the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
Harry will retain some private patronages, including his Invictus Games.
Meghan loses both patronages that were handed on to her by the Queen – the National Theatre and the Association of Commonwealth Universities. She has also had to give up her role as vice-president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.
The couple will retain their HRH titles but will not use them, sources said. They remain the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, titles bestowed on them by the Queen.
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) confirmed that Harry would be stepping down from his role as a patron. It said in a post on the England Rugby Twitter account: “We would like to thank Prince Harry for his time and commitment to the RFU both in his position as patron and vice-patron. The RFU has greatly valued his contribution to promoting and supporting the game.”
The Rugby Football League, of which Harry was also a patron, tweeted: “The
Rugby Football League thanks the Duke of Sussex for his time, care and commitment in supporting rugby league at all levels in recent years – from the children’s game to the Challenge Cup, the England teams and RLWC2021.”
The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, which supports young people around the world, thanked the couple. It said: “They have enabled us to make fast progress and have helped us to take the organisation to readiness for its next phase. We are glad that they remain in our circle of supporters.”
The National Theatre said it was very grateful for the support Meghan had offered. “The duchess championed our work with communities and young people across the UK, and our mission to make theatre accessible to all.” The process of appointing a new patron was ongoing, it said.
The loss of the patronages, particularly the military roles, will be bitterly disappointing for Harry, who spent a decade serving in the armed forces. He had previously signalled his intention to fight to retain them.
Such was his dedication to the honorary military positions that he recently sued the publisher of the Mail on Sunday and Mail Online for libel and won over false claims he had snubbed the Royal Marines after stepping down as a senior royal.
A source close to the couple indicated they had wanted to retain their royal patronages , and that they had been fully committed to their organisations. “They do respect the decision but they always made clear they were committed to doing those roles,” said the source.