LONDON: In this file photo, Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrive to attend the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London. President Donald Trump said that the United States would not pay security costs for Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, appearing to confirm that the royal couple have moved to live in California.- AFP

LONDON: Prince Harry and his wife Meghan formally step down as senior members of the British royal family yesterday, as they start a controversial new life in the United States. The couple has already relocated to California, according to reports, after announcing in January that they intended to quit royal life and “work to become financially independent”.

The decision means they will no longer carry out duties on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II and are giving up their office within the monarchy in Britain. It follows reports Meghan was deeply unhappy with life inside the centuries-old institution and increasing complaints from the couple about media intrusion. Their shock announcement rocked the royal family, appearing to blindside the queen and other senior family members. It led the 93-year-old monarch to call an emergency summit with her eldest son and heir Prince Charles, and his two sons Princes William and Harry, to thrash out the terms of their departure.

The family eventually agreed the couple, who have an 11-month-old son Archie, will relinquish their His or Her Royal Highness titles, and no longer use the “Sussex Royal” label. They currently use the name for their popular Instagram account and website, and had also made dozens of trademark applications with it for various products. However, they will continue to be known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, their official titles, and Harry remains sixth in line to the throne, with no change in the line of succession.

Dream soured
Harry and Meghan’s departure-dubbed “Megxit” by the British press-is a far cry from 2018, when they married in a fairytale wedding at Windsor Castle watched around the world. Meghan, 38, a former TV actress who is of mixed race, was seen as a breath of fresh air for the royal family, which is often characterized as overly stuffy. But relations with the media soon soured, with some newspapers accused of peddling offensive racial stereotypes and dishing out unfair criticism.

There were also reports of splits within the family, and a growing rift between Harry and William. Since revealing their plans, the couple had been living in a luxury mansion on Canada’s Pacific west coast, visiting Britain only briefly this month. It had been thought they would continue to base themselves in Canada. But the pair are said to have relocated to California by private jet earlier this month before the United States closed its northern border because of the coronavirus outbreak. Meghan grew up in Los Angeles and her mother, Doria Ragland, still lives there. She also has a network of friends and work contacts in the city.

Security bill
The couple’s initial announcement to quit Britain divided opinion and their move to California comes after Harry’s father was last week diagnosed as having COVID-19. He has now left self-isolation, Clarence House said on Monday. British royals have been showing solidarity with health workers fighting the outbreak, while the queen released a message saying her family stood ready to play its part in the national effort.

“Harry and Meghan have chosen celebrity over duty,” The Times said in an opinion piece on Monday. “Making the move to California, and making it now, only inflames the irritation many feel over the couple’s actions in recent months,” it added. Meanwhile, the couple failed to get a warm welcome from US President Donald Trump, whom Harry recently criticized for his stance on climate change in a hoax phone call.

Trump said he was “a great friend and admirer of the Queen and the United Kingdom” but insisted US taxpayers would not pick up their security bill. “They must pay!” he wrote on Twitter on Sunday. The president’s warning prompted a rare public response from the couple’s spokeswoman, who said they had “no plans to ask the US government for security resources”. “Privately-funded security arrangements have been made.”

Royal Instagram account
Meanwhile, Prince Harry and wife are to take a break from their royal Instagram account, they announced Monday as they prepare for life outside the royal inner circle. “While you may not see us here, the work continues… We look forward to reconnecting with you soon. You’ve been great!” the couple wrote on their “sussexroyal” Instagram account, signing off informally as Harry and Meghan. The couple are due to leave the royal frontline on Tuesday, having told Queen Elizabeth II they wanted to pursue more independent lives.

“What’s most important right now is the health and wellbeing of everyone,” they wrote, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. “As we can all feel, the world at this moment seems extraordinarily fragile.” Harry and Meghan rocked the royal family when they announced in January they will no longer represent the monarchy. They will no longer use the titles His and Her Royal Highness, while the queen and senior officials were said to have ordered them to stop using the word “royal” in their branding.

It had been thought they would base themselves in Canada, but The Sun said a move to California “had been planned for some time” and that the couple had “realised Canada would not work out for various reasons”. “They want to be based in the Los Angeles area,” a source told the tabloid. Meghan grew up in LA and her mother, Doria Ragland, still lives there. Disney announced on Thursday that Meghan would narrate a new film about a family of African elephants, set for release on Friday.- Agencies