Power Players

What happens now that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle want better work-life balance

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex leave Windsor Castle in the Ascot Landau carriage during a procession after getting married at St Georges Chapel on May 19, 2018 in Windsor, England.
Mark R. Milan | GC Images | Getty Images

Millennials demand boundaries and flexibility at work, and that apparently includes the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

On Wednesday, the couple announced plans to step back from the British Royal Family to "carve out a progressive new role" while working "to become financially independent," as they posted in a statement on social media.

"What it seems to me what they're planning to do is give themselves more freedom, more flexibility, outside of what is certainly known as 'the firm' within royal circles," says British royals commentator Eloise Parker, referring to the Royal Family. "They're saying, 'OK, we're not quitting, but we want to do our own thing too.'"

What that will actually look like is "really anyone's guess at the moment," says Parker. "I am not even sure that they've figured out exactly how this new role is going to play out."

On Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's website, the two lay out their "new working model," which includes continuing to carry out duties for the Queen, while also having the "future financial autonomy to work externally." The two were prohibited from earning a professional income as senior members of the Royal Family and want to do so.

The couple will no longer accept the Sovereign Grant – money paid by taxpayers to support senior royals' official duties – according to their website statement. Prince Harry and Markle received 5% of the Grant, which was specifically used for their "official office expense."

Despite stepping away from their senior roles, the couple hopes to keep their residence, Frogmore Cottage, with the permission of the Queen. This way, their family will "always have a place to call home in the United Kingdom," they say on their website.

These changes will also mean "increased royal duties" for William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Charles and Camilla, says royal historian and commentator Carolyn Harris.

As for money, "Harry and Meghan have some money of their own," says Harris.

Prince Harry served in the British Army for 10 years, and as a helicopter pilot for the Army Air Corps, he received around $50,000 a year, according to Forbes. He also received an inheritance of $10 million after taxes from his mother, Princess Diana, after her tragic death.

Meghan Markle worked as an actress before becoming a duchess, being most famous for her role on the USA show "Suits."

Still, "the couple's financial decisions going forward will be complicated, as there has been criticism of junior members of the royal family who were seen as cashing in on their connections to the royal family," she says. Prince Harry and Meghan could potentially be viewed this way too.

"The most famous example is the Duchess of York [Sarah Ferguson], who was criticized for receiving income for endorsements, such as her work with Weight Watchers." A year after her divorce from Prince Andrew in 1996, Ferguson was named the new spokesperson for Weight Watchers.

"There are other examples, however, in Harry's generation of the royal family," says Harris. Harry's cousin Peter Phillips (son of Princess Anne) sold his wedding photos to Hello! magazine and gave an interview when he married Autumn Kelly. There was some controversy surrounding this decision, as it is a break from tradition and can be viewed as selling out for commercial gain.

"It is possible that Harry might return to his past work as a helicopter pilot and Meghan might assume some kind of media role related to her past career," says historian Harris.

Though most literary agents declined to comment on what the couple could make in terms of book deals and speaking engagements, American "royalty" like Barack and Michelle Obama reportedly sold the rights to their joint memoir for over $60 million, according to the Financial Times.

Though the move is big news, Markle bucked tradition from the moment she came on the scene in 2016.

At the announcement of Prince Harry and Markle's royal engagement in 2017, the future duchess was not wearing tights or pantyhose, and "royal ladies should wear tights," Grant Harrold, the former royal butler to Prince Charles, William and Harry, told CNBC Make It in 2018.

As a Duchess, she has had a penchant for hugging fans (which Harry has done too) and is known to wear black clothes and dark manicures, all of which are against royal protocol. (Royal women are usually expected to wear natural makeup and nails. "[Wearing dark colors] tends to be something they wear only when a member of the royal family or someone close to them has passed," according to Harrold.)

The couple had their baby at the Portland Hospital in London, as opposed to the traditional choice of the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital. They also spent Christmas with Markle's mother, Doria Ragland, in Canada, instead of with the Queen.

And "on the monarchy website… there's actually a quote and it's actually [the Duchess] saying she's a feminist," Garrold told CNBC Make It in 2018. "Now that's a huge thing for a member of the royal family to say that. But it shows that it's the modern, royal family."

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