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Queen Elizabeth has agreed to let Prince Harry and Meghan Markle leave their senior royal status in the family and embark on a life a bit further from the spotlight, but what will their ties to the royal family be moving forward? There are still “complex” things to sort out, the queen says, but one royal expert believes the hybrid “flexi-royal model” could modernize the monarchy.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle plan
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry | DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s announcement was shocking

After a six-week break from their royal duties during the holidays, Prince Harry and Markle ushered in 2020 with a big announcement — they want to “step back” from their roles and split their time between the UK and North America.

They announced their plans to leave their royal duties in an Instagram post that shared: “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 Sussexes continued, sharing their plan to “balance” their time: “It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages.”

“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,” their post noted. “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.”

Queen Elizabeth signed off on Prince Harry and Markle’s exit

Following a special meeting with Prince Harry, Prince William, and Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth released a statement in support of the Sussexes’ decision to “step back” from their duties.

The queen’s statement shared: “Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family. My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family.”

“Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family,” the statement continued.

The queen also explained one of the next steps: “Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives. It has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK.”

The queen added: “These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days.”

The Sussexes’ “flexi-royal plan” could modernize the monarchy

Their arrangement isn’t typical but it could usher in a new modern element for the monarchy, according to one royal expert. In a report for The Observer, Kate Williams explained how “this is an unprecedented move in the British royal family.”

She noted: “So many commentators are saying that ‘half-in, half-out’ is not going to work. I couldn’t disagree more. We’ve never tried the ‘flexi-royal’ plan and I think it has huge potential.”

Williams further noted: “I expect the Sussexes to set up their own charitable foundation and support the Queen with overseas work and visits, particularly in the Commonwealth. Managed well, it would be the beginning of a real modernization of the monarchy.”

In a piece for Express, Williams addressed the far-reaching impacts of the Sussexes’ hybrid approach, sharing: “And, if it works, it frees up future royals, both their own son, Archie, and other junior royals, such as Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, for a future in which they can both support the monarchy — and have some degree of living their own life. We pay for the royals, yes. But that doesn’t mean that we own them.”