Megxit

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Markle and Prince Harry on Christmas Day, 2017

Megxit (/ˈmɛɡzɪt/;[1] a portmanteau of "Meghan exit", influenced by Brexit) is an informal noun which refers to the 2020 withdrawal of Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and his American wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, from British royal family duties.[1]

On 8 January 2020, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, announced on Instagram[2][3][4][5][6] their decision to "step back as 'senior' members" of the royal family,[7] split their time between the United Kingdom and North America, and become financially independent.[8] The event was dubbed 'Megxit',[9] and adopted globally on mainstream and social media,[10][11] spawning various Internet memes[12] and "Megxit" merchandising.[13][14][15]

Megxit led to a meeting of the royal family on 13 January, dubbed the "Sandringham Summit" and described as "unprecedented".[16][17][18] Queen Elizabeth II issued a rare personal statement on her family,[19][20][21] and was praised for her rapid handling of the matter.[21][22][16] On 18 January, an agreement was announced whereby the couple would "no longer be working members of Britain's royal family", and would not use their "Royal Highness" styles.[23] The outcome was described as a "hard Megxit".[24][25][26] Collins English Dictionary added "Megxit" to its online edition as a top-ten Word of 2020.[27] A twelve-month review period was allowed in case the couple changed their minds; however, they did not. On 19 February 2021, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the Duke and Duchess would relinquish their royal patronages, as they were not returning as working members of the royal family.[28][29][30] Megxit came to signify the break by the couple from the royal family and its protocol,[31] and their plans for independence under their new brand, then tentatively named Sussex Royal.[32][2][3]

Etymology[edit]

Megxit is a play on the term 'Brexit' and refers to Prince Harry and his wife Meghan stepping back as members of the British royal family. It derives from Meg(han), Duchess of Sussex + (e)xit; influenced by Brexit,[1] which was the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community at the end of January 2020. Collins English Dictionary included 'Megxit' as one of their ten "Words of 2020", and listed it in the online edition of their dictionary:[27] Collins told The Times: "It immediately caught on due to its echoes of 'Brexit'. The use of Meghan's name has been taken in some quarters as identifying her as the instigator of the withdrawal.[33][34]

Naming[edit]

British tabloid newspaper The Sun is credited with the first headline use of 'Megxit' on 9 January 2020.[31][35][36][37][38][39][40] BBC News commented that "Sussexit" was trending on social media, but it did not reach the level of use as Megxit in mainstream media.[41][10][42] Alternative terms appeared but did not catch on to the same degree either.[10][43][44][45][46][32][7] By 15 January, the term had become so widespread that The Times reported: "Megxit turns into a moneyspinner" for merchandisers who had made clothing and souvenirs using the term.[13] The New York Times wrote that the parallels between "Megxit" and "Brexit" were greater than just "clever wordplay", and that the two terms involved the same divisions in British public opinion from "young liberals" (who supported the couple, and who supported staying in the EU), and "older conservatives" (who supported the Queen, and who supported leaving the EU).[14]

On 19 January, in reviewing the final agreement, The Guardian argued that "stepping back" was no longer appropriate, however, the couple had also still not "resigned" nor "abdicated" from the royal family.[47] When reviewing the media reaction to the final agreement, BBC News said "there are no winners as a result of what many of the front pages are calling "Megxit" - the exit of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as front-line royals".[25] BBC News, and other British news media, called the final agreement a "hard Megxit", in a further word-play on political term, hard Brexit.[25][24][26] On 28 January, the term had become sufficiently pervasive, that the Financial Times in their FT Advisor supplement ran a piece for taxation professionals titled, "What if your client wants to do a 'Megxit'?",[48] while Vanity Fair reported on actor Brad Pitt's "Megxit joke", at the 73rd British Academy Film Awards.[49]

Motivations[edit]

Immediately after the announcement in January 2020, journalist Tom Bradby[50] claimed that the Sussexes were told during their six-week Christmas break (which turned into a four-month stay) at Vancouver Island in Canada that they would not be part of a proposed "slimmed down monarchy".[51][52][53][54] Other concerns raised included perceived ongoing hostile treatment by some in the British tabloid press[43][31] and alleged issues of racism towards Meghan.[55][56][57][58][59][60][61][62][63] The Guardian reported that Prince Harry appeared to "lay the blame at the feet of the press".[60] In a March 2021 television interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan and Harry said Megxit was caused by them not getting the help they sought from the royal establishment.[64] Prince Harry also indicated members of his family closest to the royal institution are trapped ― British constitutional scholar Robert Hazell agrees, and argues that the institution requires a very significant loss of human rights from some of its members.[65]

Megxit agreement[edit]

The Times speculated as to whether the "Sandringham Summit" would result in a "Hard Megxit" or a "Soft Megxit".[16][5][35][66][17][18] After the meeting, the Queen issued a first-person statement,[19][67][20] concluding that there was agreement to "a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK".[67][19][20][21][22] After just under four months in Canada, Harry and Meghan moved to the United States with their son.

Final agreement[edit]

The 'Megxit' statement gave a "Spring 2020" deadline for completion of the agreement, specific known details are as follows: [47][68][23][24]

Main details
  • The couple will no longer represent the Queen. This was in contrast to the couple's earlier statement on their sussexroyal.com website that they would carry out future duties for the Queen.[47][69]
  • They will retain the Royal Highness style but will not use it, and will be called Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.[47][69]
  • They will be financially independent of the British taxpayer/exchequer (and will repay the £2.4 million renovation costs of Frogmore Cottage);[47]
  • Prince Harry would cease duties for all British military appointments (including Captain General Royal Marines), and would no longer officially represent the royal family at military ceremonies.[23][70][71]
Other details
  • The couple will spend most of their time in North America.[23][71]
  • Frogmore Cottage would continue to function as their British home, but they would pay a "commercial rent" for it.[69]
  • The couple would retain their private patronages and associations (e.g. Invictus Games), but not royal ones (e.g. Commonwealth Youth Ambassador).[67][71]
  • Prince Charles would continue to provide financial support.[23]
Items not included
  • The couple's security arrangements were unclear, with the Queen's statement commenting only that "There are well established independent processes to determine the need for publicly-funded security."[68]
  • It was not clear whether the "Sussex Royal" brand could be used.[23][71]

Further developments[edit]

The Times reported Meghan had signed a voiceover deal with Disney, saying that "The arrangement offers a hint of the couple's future life, using their celebrity status to benefit their chosen causes".[72] Business Insider, speaking to various brand experts, reported: "Megxit, how Harry and Meghan could build a billion-dollar brand".[73]

On 19 January 2020, it was reported that Prince Charles would provide the couple with "private financial support" (but not funds from the Duchy of Cornwall), for a full year in order to give the couple time to establish themselves, and to address fears of the increased costs of their proposed new lifestyle.[74] Later, Harry claimed that they had been "cut off financially" after moving to the US and he was able to provide for the family through the money he inherited from his mother. She left him £6.5 million which was invested and gathered substantial interest, and an estimated £10 million was given to Harry on his 30th birthday.[75]

On 21 January 2020, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau again refused to say who would be picking up the security cost tab upon Harry's reported return to Canada that same day.[76] Separately, The Canadian Press confirmed that Harry, Meghan, and son Archie were staying at a mansion north of Victoria, British Columbia.[76]

On 14 February 2020, it was reported that the couple had decided to close their office at Buckingham Palace, leading to the suspension of at least 15 employees.[77]

On 19 February 2020, the announcement was made that the couple would continue undertaking royal duties until 31 March, after which they would step back and no longer undertake engagements on behalf of the Queen. The couple would continue engagements on behalf of organisations they were involved with, including the 2020 London Marathon in April and the Invictus Games in May (although the latter two events were postponed for October 2020 and 2021 respectively due to the COVID-19 pandemic). They would cease using their HRH titles, while the Duke would retain his military ranks, but see the honorary military positions he holds suspended. The situation would then be reviewed after twelve months, in March 2021. Additionally, the couple's attempt to make use of the word "Royal" as part of their planned "Sussex Royal" brand venture was put under review, with an announcement to be made at the planned organisation's official launch.[78]

On 21 February 2020, the couple confirmed they would not use the "Sussex Royal" brand "in any territory" following their withdrawal from public life in spring 2020 and all applications filed for trademarking the name were removed. A spokesperson for the couple added that they would continue to work with their existing patronages in addition to establishing a non-profit organisation.[79]

On 27 February 2020, Bill Blair, the Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness announced they would cease providing security for the couple on 31 March, "in keeping with their change in status."[80] In the same announcement, it was confirmed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had provided security for the couple on an as-needed basis, since their arrival to Canada in November 2019.[80]

In late March 2020, it was reported that the couple had relocated to the United States. In response to the US President Donald Trump's comments that the U.S. government would not pay for the couple's security, a representative of the couple said they had "no plans to ask the U.S. government for security resources".[81][82] During the couple's initial months in California, Tyler Perry provided them with a secure house (in Beverly Hills), until they were able to make an alternative plan.[83] The American-based private security firm, Gavin de Becker and Associates, was eventually contracted to provide security arrangements for the couple.[84]

On 30 March 2020, the couple announced that they would no longer use either their "SussexRoyal" Instagram account or website. Furthermore, it was reported that after closing their office at Buckingham Palace a new team would manage the couple's public image and philanthropic interests in the U.S. with Sunshine Sachs hired to manage their image and Catherine St. Laurent, a former Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation employee, to serve as their chief of staff and run their non-profit organisation.[85]

On 6 April 2020, it was reported the couple started the paperwork in the U.S. for a new non-profit organisation, which will be called Archewell (named for their son Archie and from the Greek word archē).[86]

On 20 April 2020, the Duke and Duchess announced that they would no longer cooperate with the British tabloids, including Daily Mail, The Sun, Daily Mirror, and Daily Express, as well as the Sunday and online editions of those publications.[87][88]

In July 2020, the Duke and Duchess bought a mansion in Montecito, California, with the intention to make it their family home.[89] In September 2020, the Duke paid back the refurbishment costs of Frogmore Cottage in full, an estimated £2.4m.[90] In November and December 2020, it was reported that his cousin Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank had moved in and out Frogmore Cottage at Home Park, Windsor, after six weeks' stay.[91][92][93]

On 15 February 2021, CBS revealed the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would be giving an interview to Oprah Winfrey. Meghan would discuss "stepping into life as a royal, marriage, motherhood, philanthropic work (and) how she is handling life under intense public pressure," with Winfrey. Prince Harry would join them to "speak about their move to the United States and their future hopes and dreams for their expanding family".[94]

In April 2021, data obtained after the submission of a request under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office had dealt with "calls recorded as phone requests, alarm activations and property crimes" between July 2020 and February 2021, all of which were related to the couple's security issues at their residence in Montecito.[95]

Patronages and appointments[edit]

On 19 February 2021, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the couple would not return as working members of the royal family. They further added that the couple would not "continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service". As a result, the Duke and Duchess were required to give up several military, honorary and charitable appointments.[96] Among the patronages and appointments that were given up by the Duke were:[96]

Similarly the Duchess gave up her roles as:[96]

Harry will keep his patronages of the Invictus Games Foundation, Sentebale, WellChild, and Walking With The Wounded, while Meghan will remain patron of Smart Works and Mayhew.[96][97] A spokesperson for the couple stated that Harry and Meghan "have offered their continued support to organisations ... regardless of official role", and asserted that "service is universal".[98]

Reactions[edit]

In Britain[edit]

Waxwork figures of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were subsequently moved away from the Royal Family display at Madame Tussauds London.

The initial British reactions to the 8 January announcement was of surprise, and concern whether the decision was properly thought through;[99][100] the story dominated the British news cycle.[35] The Washington Post noted several British polls that showed general support for the couple's desire to move, but with concern over the future exposure of the British exchequer to the couple (and issues of the renovation costs of Frogmore Cottage), and with unhappiness that the Queen's approval had not been sought for their announcement.[54][5]

British prime minister Boris Johnson distanced himself from the news, stating: "The royal family is one of the great, great assets of this country. I'm sure they are going to sort it out and I don't think it's necessarily helped by commentary from me."[101] NBC News reported on analysis implying that the impact to the British economy from the loss of the couple could be material.[102][103] Madame Tussauds immediately moved its waxwork figures of Harry and Meghan away from the display including the other members of the British royal family to a separate area.[104][105]

On 19 January, The Daily Telegraph described the final agreement between the couple and the royal family as "the hardest possible Megxit",[24] a view shared by many other British news sources;[25][26][106] and that "Royal history was made".[106] The Guardian reported that the "outcome is, perhaps, not the half-in, half-out role the couple appear to have anticipated".[47] On 20 January 2020, royal biographer Penny Junor also told The New York Times that "The family is trying to prevent a half-in, half-out arrangement, which doesn't work".[107] On 22 January, The Guardian published a cartoon by illustrator Andrzej Krauze, titled "Brexit and Megxit", saying "The rest of the EU is mesmerised as the UK prepares for Brexit – and Harry and Meghan begin their transition to exiting the royal family".[108]

In Canada[edit]

The initial news was for the most part positively received in Canada, where the Duchess of Sussex had based herself with her son, Archie.[109] The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, publicly welcomed the couple,[110] and indicated that Canada would fund security protection for the couple while they were resident there.[111] The Wall Street Journal reported: "'Megxit' Causes Global Uproar. Canada Shrugs".[11]

An opinion poll by National Post found that 61 per cent of 1,515 Canadians polled wanted Prince Harry to become Governor General of Canada.[112] Chris Selley of the National Post was cynical of the national response and the poll, writing: "The prospect of the Sussexes decamping to Canada seems to have activated a sort of dormant monarchism in many of us, or at least an appreciation for the "modern-day fairy tale" – and that in turn has utterly incensed those who think monarchies are a grotesque anachronism and can't understand why everyone else doesn't agree with them".[113] The Globe and Mail published an editorial that rejected the idea of the couple moving to Canada, stating that it broke an "unspoken constitutional taboo" about Canada maintaining distance from the monarchy, expected to rule from afar, stating: "They reign from a distance. Close to our hearts, far from our hearths." The editorial also called for the Canadian government to reject the moving plans.[114][115][116][117] However, the chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada commented that it "doesn't change the constitutional status of the Queen or the vice-regals" in the country".[118]

In a poll released on 15 January by the Angus Reid Institute, 70 per cent of Canadians surveyed followed the developments of Megxit.[119] In the same poll, half of Canadians surveyed stated they do not care if the couple spent significant time in Canada, while 39 per cent of respondents were in favour of it, and 11 per cent found it upsetting.[119] Support for the couple spending significant time in Canada was strongest in Atlantic Canada, and Ontario, and was weakest in Quebec.[119] However, 73 per cent of those surveyed by Angus Reid say that the security costs should be covered by the couple themselves.[119][120] An online petition from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation garnered more than 90,000 signatures by 23 January 2020, demanding that the couple pay out of their own pocket for their security,[121] which according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation came to C$56,384 in overtime and expenses for the November 2019 to January 2020 portion of their stay that ended in mid-March 2020. Aaron Wudrick, Federal Director of the CTF, said, "We're proud to have given voice to the vast majority of Canadians who felt subsidizing the Sussexes’ lifestyle choices was an outrageous use of tax dollars."[122] As of February 2021, the total for security costs, as well as reimbursements made by the Sussexes, if any, have not been disclosed by the RCMP.[122][123]

Elsewhere[edit]

  • On 20 January, American public broadcasting news program PBS NewsHour had a piece entitled, "Why Harry and Meghan's 'Megxit' is a crossroads for the UK on race", saying that: "Megxit shows where the UK falls short on reckoning with race", and questioning the "myth of 'post-racial' societies".[124]
  • On 21 January, the South China Morning Post ran an opinion by Melissa Stevens: "Why Megxit is a win for women and girls: there's a lot more to real life than being a princess", and asking the question "what woman, especially a self-proclaimed feminist, would really be satisfied with living a life where she can't speak out or act without royal clearance?"[125]
  • On 22 January, Armstrong Williams wrote an opinion in The Hill titled: "Megxit, Trump and the generational divide", that concluded, "If one paid attention to only Obama's or Markle's race, one might see the social evolution one is seeking. But if one looks at the social and economic divides they also inhabit, one could also see why the reaction against them, among the working class, has been so stark".[126]
  • On 23 January, journalist Michael Barbaro hosted a podcast for the New York Times, "Harry and Meghan. (And Why Their Saga Matters.)" with the tagline: "They were expected to modernize a former empire in a moment of political transition. Instead, Harry and Meghan walked away", and how themes in modern Britain, such as race, diversity, and Brexit, might have shaped the couple's decision.[15]
  • On 27 January, political science university professor Eileen Hunt Botting wrote an opinion in the Washington Post titled "'Megxit' wouldn't have surprised 18th-century political thinkers", that noted, "While Brexit stages the exit of Britain from the European Union after a contentious popular referendum, Megxit dramatizes a different and in some ways deeper form of democratization".[127]
  • On 18 March, Caitlin Flanagan writing in The Atlantic said that "Meghan and Harry overplayed their hand", and that "Megxit is the most complicated, self-involved, grandiose, shortsighted, letter of partial, fingers-crossed resignation in history".[128]

Sussex Royal[edit]

On 1st July 2019, documents were filed at Companies House registering the incorporation of Sussex Royal The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex [129] listing the Duke and the Duchess as Directors. During August through to October 2019 they appointed broadcaster and former Desert Island Discs presenter Kirsty Young,[130] financier and philanthropist Stefan Allesch-Taylor,[131] business leader and media executive Karen Blackett[132] and banker Steven Cooper to serve as Directors of their Foundation.

On 8 January 2020, the couple provided further back-up statements to their Instagram post,[133] via a link on their Instagram post to a new website, sussexroyal.com, a brand platform that was initially expected to form an important part of their plans for financial independence, and which posted follow up statements on their announcement.[134][32] The website was designed by the same Canadian team who built The Tig for Meghan in 2017, and was completed over the Christmas holidays when the couple were in Canada.[133][135]

By 10 January, newspapers were reporting that the couple filed for a trademark for "Sussex Royal" on a range of items including clothing and printed items,[136][137] though it also emerged that an Italian applicant had registered an EU application to trademark products using a "Sussex Royal" brand.[137] The word "Royal" and images of royal crowns have special protection under UK intellectual property law.[137][138]

On 11 January, The Daily Telegraph reported that couple would launch their "Sussex Royal Foundation" in April modelled along the lines of Obama Foundation, Clinton Foundation, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.[139] Follow-up reports showed the couple had filed World Intellectual Property Organization trademarks for: "Sussex Royal the Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex".[140] In 2019, the couple stepped back from The Royal Foundation, which they had led jointly with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Later reports indicated that the couple would not establish a foundation of their own.[141]

It was not clear from the final agreement on 18 January, how the "Sussex Royal" brand would be affected, or whether it could be used by the couple in the manner anticipated.[23] The Guardian reported Palace sources saying, "The prospect of the Sussexes cutting commercial deals, while still at times representing the monarch, was too great a risk to the reputation of the House of Windsor and the monarchy".[47] The Guardian noted that a previous attempt by Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, to gain financial independence from the British royal family had failed.[60]

On 21 February 2020, it was confirmed that "Sussex Royal" would not be used as a brand name for the couple. Harry and Meghan were expected to establish a non-profit organisation later in 2020.[79][142] Meanwhile, Sussex Royal Foundation was renamed MWX Foundation on 5 August 2020 and dissolved the same day.[143] In March 2021, it was reported that the Charity Commission for England and Wales was conducting a review of the organisation in a "regulatory and compliance case" regarding its conduct under charity law during dissolution.[144] Representatives for the couple claimed that Sussex Royal was "managed by a board of trustees" and that "suggestion of mismanagement" directed exclusively at the Duke and Duchess would be incorrect.[144]

Finding Freedom and controversy[edit]

In May 2020, two months after the couple's exit, HarperCollins announced the publication of Finding Freedom: Harry, Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, a biography of the Duke and Duchess authored by royal reporters Carolyn Durand and Omid Scobie.[145] The book was reported to detail the events leading up to Megxit and reveal "unknown details about the couple's life together" with "participation of those closest to the couple".[145] Media outlets reported that the Sussexes gave an interview to the book's authors before their royal departure, which representatives for the couple denied.[146]

Extracts of the book were serialised in The Times and The Sunday Times in the weeks prior to its release.[147] Finding Freedom was released on 11 August 2020.[148] The book subsequently topped bestseller lists in the United Kingdom and the United States.[149][150] Finding Freedom received mixed reviews from critics.[151] [148][152][153] The New York Times wrote that while the book made "it easier to understand why the couple felt the need to exit the Firm" by laying out the media policy and competitive bureaucracy of the British royal family, "too much space" was dedicated in an effort to provide details for "record-correcting context".[153] The book was noted for specifying intimate details such as "the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's text messages", a description of the Queen's private sitting room at Buckingham Palace, and providing conflicting details of the private relationship between the couple and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.[154][155] Finding Freedom was also criticized for its timing of release, with The Guardian stating that "It is not Harry and Meghan’s fault that their book has come out in the middle of a global pandemic, but it does underscore their occasional tone deafness in the latter half of the book."[151]

After the book's release, a spokesperson reiterated that the couple "were not interviewed and did not contribute to ‘Finding Freedom'."[156] In November 2020, Meghan's legal team admitted that she had permitted a close friend to communicate with Durand and Scobie, “so the true position... could be communicated to the authors to prevent any further misrepresentation", confirming the Duchess's participation in the book.[157]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]