The House of Sussex dropped a bombshell on Thursday, announcing that they would step down as senior royals and take up part-time residence in North America.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have termed it a “progressive new role” in which they will still perform a modicum of royal duties, along with the launch of a new charity, but will eventually become financially independent from the Crown. The primary reason appears to be a need for “space” for themselves – and their eight-month old son, Archie.
The Queen is reportedly deeply hurt about this, not least because Harry was long rumoured to be one of her favourites and this has come as a shock to everyone within the Royal household.
But according to those closest to them, Meghan and Harry are struggling with feelings of isolation from the rest of the family, with William barely speaking to his brother.
The royal family is probably feeling blindsided. It’s not just a betrayal of a grandson, but of the Queen’s staunchest values. If there is one principle our longest reigning monarch holds dear it is that one does not shirk one’s responsibilities. On the surface this announcement looks a little spoiled. Ungrateful. Weak.
Is it though? Is it weak? Are they enacting a performance of public self-pity by flying the white flag, and leaving, presumably for Canada, with their royal tales betwixt their legs? You can bet that great swathes of the British press will say so.
We might re-frame this “stepping back” as the ultimate act of self-care.
But anyone who has dared to push back against family dysfunction might see it differently. Anyone who has drawn a line in the sand on problematic family relatives and traditions and married outside of them because they know what’s best for themselves will get it.
Harry’s friend Tom Bradby who interviewed the couple for their documentary has described them as “bruised and vulnerable.” Meghan, in that same documentary, held back tears while talking about the toll her new life has taken on her. Even Prince William said he was “worried”.
Perhaps he should be. Meghan has been admonished by her own staff for sending emails “too early in the morning” and for having "new ideas". She can't even allow a friend to take a photo of her only child without the press suggesting she doctored it to make herself look better.
The onslaught is relentless and racially-tinged. Anyone who has held a lucrative job in a toxic company will relate. Any woman who has tried to put her own stamp on a new role only to be told “that’s not how we do things here” will most certainly relate.
In 2020 we know that that maintaining a stiff upper lip is often the most damaging thing you can do.
In this context, we might re-frame this “stepping back” as the ultimate act of self-care. The Queen's uncle, Prince Edward gave up the throne for love, so the narrative goes, in choosing his wife, Wallis Simpson, over the monarchy. But Meghan and Harry are stepping back to preserve not just their sanity, but their child's future as well. Is this not an equally admirable decision? How well can anyone parent when they are living in a defensive, anxious space?
A generation ago, you 'stuck it out' - no matter how dysfunctional your family, or how toxic your job. It's what our grandparents called 'resilience'. But in 2020 we know that that maintaining a stiff upper lip is often the most damaging thing you can do to your mental and physical health.
Those who are psychologically evolved; who care less about what others think and more about the impact on their wellbeing, will know that while in the short-term boundary setting can sting, in the long-term whether in the context of work or family, it is ultimately beneficial to everyone.
Natalie Reilly is a freelance writer. You can follow Natalie on Twitter @ThatNatReilly.