How Harry And Meghan Could Become Financially Independent Of The Royal Family

Jan 13, 2020
Originally published on January 13, 2020 8:10 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Her majesty the queen has put out a public statement after an emergency family meeting of the British royals. She says she would have preferred for Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, to remain full-time working members of the royal family, but she respects and understands their wish to live a more independent life. The queen goes on to say that the couple has, quote, "made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives." So a period of transition is in order.

Well, here to talk about how that might take shape is Anne McElvoy of The Economist. She joins me now. Hey there.

ANNE MCELVOY: Hello there.

KELLY: All right. What have we learned about what this period of transition might look like? What have we learned from this gathering of the royals today?

MCELVOY: Well, we've learned that they've held peace talks. This is a sort of Camp David for the royal family after a week of quite extraordinary bad temper and the exchange of communications, which had very bitter undertone. And I think what the queen is trying to do - and also by being so personally involved in on the front foot - is to show that she has an understanding of the wishes of the Sussexes - of Meghan and Harry - to separate themselves to an extent from the family but that she wants a negotiated settlement rather than a continuation of a tug of war.

KELLY: Right. Has she given her blessing to this plan that they will live splitting their time between the U.K. and Canada?

MCELVOY: Yes, I think she has. And in fact, talks are already underway between officials to figure out how that might work even in the early stages. I have to say I think Canada is a bit of an easier option, as far as the palace is concerned, than America, which was on the table because Canada is in the Commonwealth. You could see a role being constructed that is useful to the queen as head of state but is - also allows that kind of freedom in distance.

KELLY: So let's talk about who foots the bill for this new lifestyle. We should explain that right now, they live mostly on money from a family trust fund and also some taxpayer money. If they do step away from these duties as working royals, senior royals, do they give up all that money?

MCELVOY: It depends on how much they are still working royals. It is there to be worked out, isn't it? I mean, one of the problems that arose in the abdication crisis in 1936 - as you know, we have long memories in Britain - is the financial settlement was very unclear. They then had to go around the world, and they had a very high standard of living and wanted to maintain that. And you ended up in a position where they were having to take money - or felt that they had to take money - from sources that sometimes looked embarrassing to the royals.

So I think that memory, although it is several decades ago, is very lively in the minds of those trying to do this settlement. They would still be taking money from the royal family. There's no way round that unless they really cut themselves loose and become a commercial entity.

KELLY: It does prompt questions in terms of how independent they can ever truly be when, inevitably, they will be tied to the family name.

MCELVOY: Well, I think in a way, the problem might be a different one. The problem might be that they remain tied to the family name but don't observe the rules or what are perceived as the new rules. So that's why trying to get this transition - it's a bit like trying to do a massive contract between different parties to a huge deal. You know what everyone says when they leave the room, but you don't really know what they'll do in six months' time, nine months' time, two years' time. That, I think, is at the back of everybody's minds. How much can they be tied in while they say they want their freedom?

KELLY: That is Anne McElvoy, senior editor at The Economist, filling us in on all the latest about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Anne McElvoy, thanks very much.

MCELVOY: Thanks so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.