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Media coverage of messy celebrity splits is nothing new, but usually, the “divorce” is from a spouse rather than a family. Prince Harry’s official distancing from the British royal family is certainly headline-worthy.

While fans followed along for years as Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex struggled with cruel comments from the public and finding their place in the royal family’s structure, the public was still shocked to hear that the pair would be stepping away from royal duties entirely to live a life as private citizens. 

The actual details of that have taken quite some time to work out, and now sources say things are official. 

Meghan Markle faced harsh criticism  

Pretty much from the moment that the world found out Prince Harry would be marrying Meghan, there was a subsection of royal family fans who were not happy about it. Many suggested Meghan was too rooted in Hollywood ideals to fit into the prim and proper role of Duchess of Sussex. They saw her as entitled and spoiled, and they used her insistence on privacy as a sign that she was ungrateful to the British public that paid her royal salary

Fans pointed to everything from the clothes Meghan wore to the ways that she bucked tradition at her wedding to support their view that she did not belong and was destroying important royal norms. Things really started to ramp up once Meghan and Prince Harry welcomed their first child, a son named Archie.

When Meghan and Prince Harry continued to maintain standards of privacy that upset royal fans, the criticism increased. 

Some fans defended Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

This narrative of being spoiled, however, was also challenged by fans who saw the criticism about Meghan as patently racist. The thinly-veiled (and sometimes not-so-thinly-veiled) comments about Meghan often hinted at her “outsider” status, and many people saw this as aimed at her racial identity.

Furthermore, many recognized that Meghan was held to standards of decorum and tradition that was not evenly applied across the royal family. 

While headlines consistently tried to drum up some drama between Meghan and other royal family members — especially sister-in-law Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge — many believe that these were primarily false media narratives created to drive gossip rather than actual reports. This same kind of mean-spirited gossip and paparazzi fervor had surrounded Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, and even contributed to her death.

Many believe that Prince Harry’s shocking decision to step away from royal duties was shrouded in bitter memories of what happened to his mother and a desire to protect his own growing family. 

The split is final, sources say 

Prince Harry
Prince Harry | Victoria Jones – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Summer Plan Change Hints At Bigger Problems Within Royal Family

When news broke that Prince Harry and Meghan would be stepping away from their official royal duties and relocating, the public was shocked. Reports suggest that the couple was in a hurry to make the split final as fast as possible.

One condition of their move was to repay the public debt for the renovations on their Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage. According to BestLife, they had originally worked out a deal to repay it monthly over 11 years. Instead, the pair opted to pay it all in one lump sum with a source reporting the debt “weighed heavily” on Prince Harry. 

“For more than a year, it has been the millstone around Prince Harry’s neck, a gold‑plated slice of taxpayers’ largesse that reeked of privilege and entitlement,” wrote Richard Kate, Princess Diana’s former confidant, in a column for the Daily Mail. “To Harry and Meghan, the £2.4 million of public money—our money—that was lavished on renovating Frogmore Cottage, only for it to be shuttered and abandoned along with the rest of their royal lives, represented something far more intrinsic.”

Critics long held this debt up as evidence that Meghan and Prince Harry were not being attentive enough to the public and that they owed fans more access to their private lives. Repaying the money more quickly is evidence that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are truly done with their connection to the official royal duties. According to Kay, it’s a “signal that their divorce from Britain is permanent while removing any pretense that they might still have a future role in the royal family.”

As critics note, however, they will never fully escape their royal life. “While Harry may believe he is finally free and has escaped his increasingly vocal critics by being financially independent, he is still a member of the royal family, which remains the strongest tie there is to Her Majesty, the Queen, and this country,” a source told Best Life. “As such, his actions will always be viewed through that lens.”