Meghan and Prince Harry: Could Duke and Duchess of Sussex be welcomed back into the royal fold if they wanted?

Sabrina Barr
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On Tuesday 31 March the Duke and Duchess of Sussex embark on a new chapter of their lives, during which they will no longer serve as senior, working members of the royal family.

In January, the couple announced they wished to step down from their roles, later outlining their plans to transition away from royal life and become financially independent.

In the detailed statement they released in February, Meghan and Prince Harry said that the royal family “respect and understand” their wish to live a more independent life, which will see them become “privately funded members of the royal family with permission to earn their own income and the ability to pursue their own private charitable interests”.

However, the duke and duchess’s move away from the royal family isn’t necessarily set in stone. From today, a review is to be undertaken over the next 12 months to assess how the couple fares in this “revised role”.

So, if Meghan and Prince Harry come to the decision they wished to return to the royal fold, would they be able to?

Royal biographer Penny Junor, who penned books including Prince Harry: Brother, Soldier, Son and The Firm: The Troubled Life of the House of Windsor, believes it could be a possibility in future.

“I think the Queen has left the door sufficiently ajar for the Sussexes to return, if things don’t work out for them in America,” Junor tells The Independent, referencing the reports that Meghan and Prince Harry have moved from Canada to California. “So yes, I think it is possible but probably not very likely.”

Junor adds that in the “current climate” of the world amid the coronavirus pandemic, the question of whether Meghan and Prince Harry would choose to return “is feeling increasingly irrelevant”.

In late January, the Queen released a statement regarding the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision to step down from their senior royals, stating that a “constructive and supportive way forward” had been found “following many months of conversations and more recent discussions”.

“Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,” Queen Elizabeth II said.

“I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.”

Charles Anson, former press secretary to the Queen, tells The Independent that the 93-year-old’s “clear statement” was “both firm and compassionate — sad that the Sussexes had decided to step down from royal duties but also giving them a year, and some space, to decide and then review matters”.

“Very much the Queen’s way — eminently calm and reasonable,” he says.

A statement released by Buckingham Palace added that while the Sussexes “can no longer formally represent The Queen”, they “have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty”.

Earlier this month, it was reported that the Queen held a private meeting with Prince Harry, during which she informed him that he and his family “will always be welcomed back” if they ever decided to return.

While the meeting between the monarch and her grandson was not confirmed by the Palace, with a spokesperson saying that they “wouldn’t comment on how members of the royal family spend their time”, it has been apparent over the years that the Queen has a close relationship with Prince Harry.

If Meghan and Prince Harry were to return to the royal fold, it wouldn’t be the first time a situation of this ilk has occurred within the British royal family.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Prince Edward, the youngest of the Queen’s four children, and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, were both pursuing careers alongside their royal duties. The countess was working in public relations, while Prince Edward launched a television production company Ardent Productions in 1993.

While the couple attempted to balance their non-royal professions and their royal positions, in 2002 they became full-time working members of the royal family. The move came following a controversy in the media, in which the countess was reportedly tricked into saying unfavourable remarks about the royal family.

“That summer, new guidelines were issued for royals who wanted to do commercial work and be working royals,” said royal expert Marlene Koenig.

Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams remarked that while the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision to step away from royal life with their son Archie “seems completely clear at the moment”, the direction their lives may lead is unforeseeable. “No one can predict the future with any certainty,” he said, adding that the Queen “wisely allowed for a reassessment of the situation” following a 12-month period.

While Meghan and Prince Harry are no longer senior, working members of the royal family, they are still members of the family nonetheless.

They may still attend events such as the Trooping the Colour in honour of the Queen’s birthday, or be invited to celebrate Christmas with their relatives at Sandringham. Although, of course, in light of the Covid-19 outbreak, it is uncertain whether events such as these will take place in the near future.

On Monday 30 March, the duke and duchess shared their final Instagram post on their Sussex Royal account. The couple took the opportunity to thank their 11.3m followers for their support while commenting on the “extraordinarily fragile” state of the world.

“What’s most important right now is the health and wellbeing of everyone across the globe and finding solutions for the many issues that have presented themselves as a result of this pandemic,” they said.

“We are focusing this new chapter to understand how we can best contribute. While you may not see us here, the work continues.”

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