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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Announce Decision to ‘Step Back’ From Royal Family

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  • Meghan Markle and Prince Harry posted to Instagram on Wednesday announcing their choice to “step back” from their roles as senior members of the British royal family. 
  • The Duke and Duchess of Sussex mentioned plans of becoming financially independent and splitting their time between the United Kingdom and North America.
  • Buckingham Palace released a statement following the announcement, saying its conversations with the couple are “at an early stage.”
  • There are reports that the royal family was not consulted before Meghan and Harry made their post.

The Announcement

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced on Wednesday that they are stepping back from their roles in the royal family. 

In a lengthy caption posted on their official Instagram page, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex explained that they came to this decision “after many months of reflection and internal discussions.” 

“We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen,” they wrote.

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“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.” – The Duke and Duchess of Sussex For more information, please visit sussexroyal.com (link in bio) Image © PA

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It’s not yet entirely clear how the pair’s “progressive new role” will play out, as nothing like this has ever been seen. Never before have any senior royals voluntarily expressed wanting to remain members of the royal family, while also somehow existing outside of it.

At the end of the caption was a link to their official website that includes details on how exactly they hope to function financially, with a breakdown of the funding they receive. 

In their Instagram post, Harry and Meghan also mentioned their intention to split their time between the United Kingdom and North America, though it was not specified where exactly they plan to make their second home.

“This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born,” they said, “while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity.”

Rocky Road as Royal Couple

Harry and Meghan’s desire to take space from the life of British royals does not exactly come as a shock. Both have been transparent about their unhappiness with some of the elements that come with this world.

In a documentary released last year, Meghan opened up about the struggles she has faced and the added pressure of remaining composed throughout them.

“That’s not the point of life. You’ve got to thrive, you’ve got to feel happy,” she said. “I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip. I tried, I really tried. But I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging.”

Meghan has had an especially hard time with the British tabloids, who from the beginning have repeatedly criticized her status as a divorcée and written about her in discriminatory ways. 

Shortly after Harry’s relationship with Meghan became public in 2016, Kensington Palace released a statement on his behalf, condemning the discrimination his now-wife was facing. 

“His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment,” it said. “Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”  

Harry has reiterated his dislike of the press for hounding his spouse, a matter that is very personal to him after his mother, Princess Diana of Wales, died in a car crash in 1997 after being pursued by paparazzi. 

“I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person,” he said in a statement last year. “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”

“For these select media this is a game, and one that we have been unwilling to play from the start,” he also wrote. “I have been a silent witness to [Meghan’s] private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in.”

The official Sussex Royal website states that Harry and Meghan will no longer participate in the “Royal Rota,” a system established decades ago to allow U.K. press and broadcast media exclusive access to official affairs of the royal family.

Royal Family’s Reaction 

Shortly after Meghan and Harry’s announcement to withdraw, Buckingham Palace released a statement addressing the news. 

“Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage,” the Palace said. “We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”

But according to BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond, there’s more to the story—he said that the rest of the royal family was “blindsided” by Meghan and Harry’s news. 

“BBC Understands that no other member of the Royal Family was consulted before Harry and Meghan issued their personal statement tonight,” he wrote on Twitter. “The Palace is understood to be ‘disappointed.’

See what others are saying: (Vice) (New York Times) (NBC)

International

U.K. Court Rules Julian Assange Can Be Extradited to U.S.

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The judgment overrules a lower court decision that blocked the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition on the grounds that his mental health was not stable enough to weather harsh conditions in the American prison system if convicted.


New Developments in Assange Extradition Battle

A British court ruled Friday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States to face charges of violating the Espionage Act that could land him in prison for decades.

Prosecutors in the U.S. have accused Assange of conspiring with former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 to hack into a Department of Defense computer network and access thousands of military and diplomatic records on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The information obtained in the hack was later published by WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011, a move U.S. authorities allege put lives in danger.

In addition to a charge of computer misuse, Assange has also been indicted on 17 espionage charges. Collectively, the charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 175 years.

The Friday decision from the High Court overturns a lower court ruling in January, which found that Assange’s mental health was too fragile for the harsh environment he could face in the U.S. prison system if convicted.

Notably, the January ruling did not determine whether or not Assange was guilty. In fact, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser explicitly rejected the defense’s arguments that the charges against him were politically motivated and that he should be protected under freedom of press.

However, she agreed that the defense had provided compelling evidence that Assange suffers from severe depression and that the conditions he could face in the U.S. prison system were “such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.”

The U.S. appealed the ruling, arguing that Assange’s mental health should not be a barrier to extradition and that the psychiatrist who examined him had been biased. 

In October, the Biden administration vowed that if Assange were to be convicted, he would not be placed in the highest-security U.S. prison or immediately sent to solitary confinement. Officials also said that the native Australian would be eligible to serve his sentence in his home country.

High Court Ruling

The High Court agreed with the administration’s arguments in its ruling, arguing that the American’s assurances regarding the conditions of Assange’s potential incarceration were “sufficient.” 

“There is no reason why this court should not accept the assurances as meaning what they say,” the ruling stated. “There is no basis for assuming that the USA has not given the assurances in good faith.”

Assange’s fiancé, Stella Moris, said in a statement that his legal team would appeal the decision to the British Supreme Court at the “earliest possible moment,” referring to the judgment as a “grave miscarriage of justice.”

The Supreme Court will now decide whether or not to hear the case based on if it believes the matter involves a point of law “of general public importance.” That decision may take weeks or even months.

If the U.K. Supreme Court court objects to hearing Assange’s appeal, he could ask the European Court of Human Rights to stay the extradition — a move that could set in motion another lengthy legal battle in the already drawn-out process.

Assange and his supporters claim he was acting as an investigative journalist when he published the classified military cables. They argue that the possibility of his extradition and prosecution represent serious threats to press freedoms in the U.S.

U.S. prosecutors dispute that Assange acted as a journalist, claiming that he encouraged illegal hacking for personal reasons.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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International

Early Data Indicates Omicron is More Transmissible But Less Severe

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The studies come as Pfizer and BioNTech claim that preliminary research shows a third shot of their COVID vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the new variant, but two doses alone may not.


More Information About Omicron

Several preliminary studies published in recent days appear to show that the new omicron COVID-19 variant may be more transmissible but less severe than previous strains.

One recent, un-peer-reviewed study by a Japanese scientist who advises the country’s health ministry found that omicron is four times more transmissible in its initial stage than delta was.

Preliminary information in countries hit hard by omicron also indicates high transmissibility. In South Africa —  where the variant was first detected and is already the dominant strain — new COVID cases have more than doubled over the last week.

Health officials in the U.K. said omicron cases are doubling every two or three days, and they expect the strain to become dominant in the country in a matter of weeks.

In a statement Wednesday, World Health Organization Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while early data does seem to show high transmissibility, it also indicates that omicron causes more mild cases than delta.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevent Director Rochelle Walensky echoed that sentiment, telling reporters that of the 40 known omicron cases in the U.S. as of Wednesday, nearly all of them were mild. One person has been hospitalized so far and none have died.

Studies on Vaccine Efficacy 

Other recent studies have shown that current COVID vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness and death in omicron patients, and boosters provide at least some added protection.

On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that laboratory tests have shown a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the omicron variant, though two doses may not.

According to the companies, researchers saw a 25-fold reduction in neutralizing antibodies for omicron compared to other strains of the virus for people who had just two Pfizer doses. 

By contrast, samples from people one month after they had received a Pfizer booster presented neutralizing antibodies against omicron that were comparable to those seen against previous variants after two doses.

Still, Pfizer’s chief executive also told reporters later in the day that omicron could increase the likelihood that people might need a fourth dose earlier than previously expected, which he had initially said was 12 months after the third shot.

Notably, the Pfizer research has not yet been peer-reviewed, and it remains unclear how omicron will operate outside a lab, but other studies have had similar findings.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Bloomberg) (NBC News)

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International

40 Camels Disqualified From Beauty Contest After Breeders Inject Their Faces With Botox

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The animals were barred from competing for $66 million in prizes at this year’s King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia.


Camels Booted From Beauty Contest

More than 40 camels were disqualified from a beauty contest in Saudi Arabia this week after judges found artificial enhancements in their faces, marking the biggest crackdown on contestants in the competition to date.

The animals were competing for $66 million in prizes at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, a month-long event that is estimated to include around 33,000 camels.

However, according to The Guardian, they were forced out of the contest when authorities found that breeders had “stretched out the lips and noses of the camels, used hormones to boost the animals’ muscles, injected heads and lips with Botox to make them bigger, inflated body parts with rubber bands, and used fillers to relax their faces.”

Those types of alterations are banned since judges look at the contestant’s heads, necks, humps, posture, and other features when evaluating them.

An announcement from the state-linked Saudi Press Agency said officials used “specialized and advanced” technology to detect tampering.

“The club is keen to halt all acts of tampering and deception in the beautification of camels,” the SPA report added before warning that organizers would “impose strict penalties on manipulators.”

While it’s unclear what that actually entails, this isn’t the first time people have tried to cheat in this way.

In 2018, 12 camels were similarly disqualified from the competition for injections in their noses, lips, and jaw.

See what others are saying: (Insider) (The Guardian) (ABC News)

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