The decision by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to permanently step down as working royals comes as no surprise.
When they first announced their wish to no longer perform royal duties, and to become financially independent – blindsiding Buckingham Palace by making their intentions public before matters had been negotiated with the Queen – it was hard to see how they could return.
It caused surprise, hurt and disappointment among the rest of the family. At the time the Queen gave her reluctant blessing to their ambition for a new “progressive role” and stressed they would remain “a valued part of my family”. But at a historic crisis summit at Sandringham, attended by the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry, a transition period of 12 months was agreed.
It appears now this was less to facilitate their eventual return to the royal fold, more for the couple to establish if they could make enough money to become self-funding.
They have proved that in spades. Lucrative contracts have been struck with streaming giants Netflix and Spotify, the former for a series of documentaries, the latter for podcasts to promote their Archwell brand.
Their profile in the United States is set to be further enhanced with their planned interview with Oprah Winfrey, billed as an “intimate” and “wide-ranging” interview, which it is thought will be recorded this week. It will primarily focus on Meghan, exploring her experience of joining the royal family, before Harry then joins her to discuss their future plans.
None of this exposure will have been welcomed by the rest of the royals. Neither will it have done anything to heal strained relations between Harry and brother William. The two are separated by much more than the Atlantic.
Initially, the couple hoped for a “half-in, half-out” deal, whereby they could be based abroad, but still fly the flag.
However Buckingham Palace played hard ball, mindful that any financial enterprises could compromise the Queen. The couple were ordered to give up the Sussex Royal brand they had fashioned.
Dismantling the Sussex Royal website and social media platform the couple had built would have been a bitter blow. They were also forced to repay taxpayer money used to refurbish their Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage.
For Harry, who has now given up everything, it has undoubtedly been an emotional rollercoaster. He allowed a glimpse of his inner turmoil when, in a speech at a private London dinner last year for his charity Sentebale – which he retains his patronage of – he said: “Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth and my military associations without public funding. Unfortunately that wasn’t possible.” It was not a decision he had taken lightly, but there was “no other option”. Speaking “not as a prince, or a duke, but as Harry,” he said he had found the “love and happiness I had hoped for all my life” with Meghan. It had brought him “great sadness,” he said, that it had come to this.
Now, expecting their second child and living in an £11m mansion in Montecito, California, the world rather than the UK is their chosen stage. That much has been evident from the moment they selected South Africa, and a meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to properly show off their baby son, Archie.
Throughout this year of transition they have taken on – time and again – a critical UK media, including in the courts. They have been outspoken in their condemnation of the way they have been treated by some UK publications, making any return to Britain as working royals extremely difficult. They appear to see the UK press as an aggravation, preferring the less critical US media.
Today their fate is sealed. There is no turning back. Though as the grandson of a sovereign, and the son and brother of future sovereigns, Harry will always be indelibly royal by blood. All but his familial links are, however, severed once and for all.