LONDON (AP) — Buckingham Palace confirmed Friday that Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, will not be returning to royal duties, and Harry will give up his honorary military titles — a decision that makes formal, and final, the couple’s split from the royal family.
When Harry and Meghan stepped away from full-time royal life in March 2020, unhappy at media scrutiny and the strictures of their roles, it was agreed the situation would be reviewed after a year.
Now it has, and the palace said in a statement that the couple, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have verified “they will not be returning as working members of the Royal Family. “
It said Queen Elizabeth II had spoken to 36-year-old Harry and confirmed “that in stepping away from the work of the Royal Family, it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service.”
The palace said Harry’s appointment as captain general of the Royal Marines and titles with other military groups would revert to the queen before being distributed to other members of the family.
Harry served in the British army for a decade, including on the front line in Afghanistan, and retains a close bond with the military. He founded the Invictus Games competition for wounded troops, which first was held in 2014 at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The Invictus Games Foundation said Harry would remain its patron. But he is relinquishing positions as patron of the Rugby Football Union, the Rugby Football League and the London Marathon Charitable Trust.
Meghan, 39, will be stripped of her role as patron of Britain’s National Theatre and the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
“While all are saddened by their decision, the Duke and Duchess remain much loved members of the family,” the palace statement said.
American actress Meghan Markle, a former star of the TV legal drama “Suits,” married the queen’s grandson Harry at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born a year later.
In early 2020, Meghan and Harry announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media toward the duchess, who identifies as biracial.
The couple agreed to no longer use the title “royal highness” or receive public funds for their work, although it was unclear at the time if those decisions would stand.
They retain their titles of duke and duchess, and Harry is still sixth in line to the British throne. Harry and Meghan now live in Santa Barbara, California and are expecting their second child. The couple recently announced they would speak to Oprah Winfrey for a TV special to be broadcast next month.
Angela Levin, who has written a biography of Prince Harry, said the queen’s anxiety about what the Winfrey interview might disclose may have prompted the royal family to announce the split with Harry and Meghan sooner than planned.
“They’re out on their own,” she said. “They’ve got the freedom that they longed for.”
They continue to have a tense relationship with sections of the British media. Earlier this month, Meghan won a legal victory in a lawsuit against the publisher of the Mail on Sunday, when a British judge ruled the newspaper invaded her privacy by publishing part of a letter she wrote to her estranged father.
News of their break with the palace comes as Harry’s grandfather, 99-year-old Prince Philip, is in a London hospital, where he was admitted on Tuesday after feeling unwell.
A spokesperson for the couple hit back at suggestions that Meghan and Harry were not devoted to duty.
“As evidenced by their work over the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the U.K. and around the world, and have offered their continued support to the organizations they have represented regardless of official role,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”
Hilary Fox contributed to this story.