Prince Harry, Meghan Markle stepping back as senior members of royal family

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have announced they will take “a step back” as senior members of the royal family and instead work independently, splitting their time between the United Kingdom and North America.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex said their decision came "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 shared on Instagram Wednesday. “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.

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"We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honor our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages," they continued. "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 couple added they will continue to work with the reigning monarch, 93, as well as Harry’s father Prince Charles, as well as the 35-year-old’s older brother, Prince William.

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"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."

They will keep their royal titles.

Harry and Meghan made their first public appearance on Tuesday since returning to the U.K. from Canada, where they spent a six-week leave of absence away from royal duties. The couple vacationed in Canada with their 7-month-old son during the holiday season.

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Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during a walkabout with Britain's Prince Harry on the esplanade at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.

Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during a walkabout with Britain's Prince Harry on the esplanade at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.

Their announcement comes just months after the couple opened up to host Tom Bradby in ITV’s documentary “Harry & Meghan: An African Journey,” which aired in October 2019 in both the U.K. and U.S.

While the special aimed to give audiences a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the couple’s recent royal tour of southern African, the couple also spoke out about enduring ruthless tabloid rumors as new parents.

Markle, 38, and Harry, 35 welcomed a son named Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor in May 2019. The baby’s arrival came a year after the couple tied the knot in a televised royal ceremony in May 2018.

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Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and their baby son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor at a meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation during their royal tour of South Africa on September 25, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and their baby son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor at a meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation during their royal tour of South Africa on September 25, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa.

“I think the grass is always greener,” explained the former “Suits” actress. “You have no idea. It’s really hard to understand what it’s like. I know what it seems like it should be, but it’s a very different thing.”

Markle said she and her husband have had conversations about being in the spotlight and all the negativity that comes with it.

“I have said for a long time to H, that’s what I call him, ‘It’s not enough to just survive something,’” said Markle. “'That’s not the point of life. You have to thrive. You have got to feel happy.’ I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a ‘stiff upper life.’ I really tried, but I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging.”

The royal went on to tell Bradby she would be more understanding about the scrutiny if it were fair.

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In this Saturday, May 19, 2018 file photo Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle ride in an open-topped carriage after their wedding ceremony at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle in Windsor, near London, England. Buckingham Palace said Monday May 6, 2019, that Prince Harry's wife Meghan has gone into labor with their first child.

In this Saturday, May 19, 2018 file photo Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle ride in an open-topped carriage after their wedding ceremony at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle in Windsor, near London, England. Buckingham Palace said Monday May 6, 2019, that Prince Harry's wife Meghan has gone into labor with their first child. (Aaron Chown/pool photo via AP, File)

“I never thought that this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair,” said Markle. “And that’s the part that’s really hard to reconcile.”

Markle said before she tied the knot with Harry, some of her friends warned her that becoming a member of the royal family would mean being under the constant glare of the public spotlight and losing your privacy.

“In all fairness, I had no idea, which probably sounds difficult to understand and hear,” said Markle. “But when I first met my now-husband, my friends were really happy because I was so happy, but my British friends said to me, ‘I’m sure he’s great but you shouldn’t do it because the British tabloids will destroy your life.’”

“And I, very naively — I’m American,” continued Markle. “We don’t have that there — [I said], ‘What are you talking about? That doesn’t make any sense. I’m not in any tabloids.’ I didn’t get it. So it’s been, yeah, it’s been complicated.”

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Markle also pointed out it’s been frustrating to see her name — along with her family’s — in headlines concerning stories she stressed just aren’t true.

“If things are fair, that completely tracks for me if things are fair,” said Markle. “If I do something wrong I’d be the first one to go, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I would never do that,’ but when people are saying things that are just untrue and they’re being told they’re untrue but they’re allowed to still say them, I don’t know anybody in the world who would feel that that’s OK. And that’s different than just scrutiny. That’s, what would you call that? That’s a different beast. It’s really a different beast.”

Markle also got candid with Bradby about the negative attention she has received from the media during her pregnancy and first months with Archie.

“Any woman, especially when they’re pregnant, you’re really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging,” said the 38-year-old. “And then when you have a newborn, you know. ... and especially as a woman, it’s a lot.”

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“So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed,” continued Markle while holding back tears. “It’s um… yeah. I guess, also thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I’m OK. But it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.”

When Bradby asked if it “would be fair” to say that she’s “not really OK, as in it’s really been a struggle,” Markle responded, “Yes.”

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend "The Lion King" European Premiere at Leicester Square on July 14, 2019 in London, England. 

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend "The Lion King" European Premiere at Leicester Square on July 14, 2019 in London, England.  (Getty)

Still, Markle said Harry and their son have helped her get through tough times.

“It’s OK,” she said. “The good thing is that I’ve got my baby and I’ve got my husband and they’re the best.”

In the documentary, Harry also spoke out against the British tabloids for the “ruthless” treatment Markle has received “over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son.”

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“Look, part of this job and part of any job, like everybody, means putting on a brave face and turning a cheek to a lot of the stuff,” he explained. “But again, for me and my wife, of course, there’s a lot of stuff that hurts — especially when the majority of it is untrue.”

“All we need to do is focus on being real, focus on being the people we are and standing up for what we believe in,” said Harry. “I will not be bullied into carrying a game that killed my mom.”