What would happen if Harry and Meghan leave the royal family? explore the possibilities

The pair have confessed that they're unhappy with the amount of attention on their private lives.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
(Image credit: Getty)

They're one of the country's most popular royal couples, but what would happen if the Meghan and Harry decide to leave 'the firm'?

Recently, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, took part in an ITV documentary where they spoke about their unhappiness within the royal family.

While documenting their royal tour in the programme, An African Journey, host Tom Bradby had a rare opportunity to interview the royal couple, where they both revealed how they're struggling with the realities of a life lived very much in the spotlight. In the interview, the Duchess confessed that she wasn't 'okay', explaining that she's struggled to adopt the 'stiff upper lip' Brits are so well known for. She said, "I was telling H, that's what I call him [Harry], it isn't enough to just survive something. You’ve got to thrive, you’ve got to feel happy. And I think I really tried to adopt the British sensibility of a stiff upper lip. I’ve tried but I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging."

Meghan continued, “I never thought this would be easy. But I thought it would be fair. And that’s the part that’s really hard to reconcile."

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

The Duke of Sussex echoed thoughts similar to his wife, sharing that they both struggle with the negative press they face on a daily basis.

He said, "Part of this job is putting on a brave face but, for me and my wife, there is a lot of stuff that hurts, especially when the majority of it is untrue. I will always protect my family, and now I have a family to protect. So everything that she [Diana] went through, and what happened to her, is incredibly important every single day. And that is not me being paranoid, that is just me not wanting a repeat of the past."

The landmark interview prompted many to speculate on whether Meghan and Harry may one day choose to 'leave' the royal family - but would they actually be able to take an official step back?

Could Prince Harry and Meghan Markle actually leave the royal family?

Of course, it would be a huge moment if the Duke and Duchess really did decide to step away from their roles within the family.But it doesn't seem like it would be impossible at all.

The former King Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, is one famous member of the family who turned his back on royal life.

Edward - or David, as he was known to his loved ones (Edward was his ruling name) - abdicated from the throne from the throne in 1936, after it became evident that he could not marry his sweetheart, Wallis Simpson, and remain monarch. Wallis was a divorced American and Catholic beliefs about remarriage prevented the union. As the Church's Head of State, it was considered impossible that Edward marry a divorcee and remain in his position. He had been King for just under a year when he abdicated.

However, of course, Prince Harry is unlikely to ever be the ruling monarch, meaning his leaving would have far fewer ramifications for the royal family. He is currently sixth-in-line to the throne, behind his dad, Prince Charles, brother, Prince William, and Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. So if he and Meghan did want to leave the royal family, it wouldn't be an abdication - and would be a lot less complicated than the Duke of Windsor's departure.

If they did leave the royal world behind, it would also change the line of succession. At the moment, Prince Andrew is eighth in line, behind Harry and his son Archie, but he would be pushed up to sixth-in-line, and his daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie to seventh and eighth.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Of course, if Harry and Meghan did announce their desire to leave, it would likely involve many long conversations with both the Queen and Harry's father, Prince Charles.

What would happen if Prince Harry and Meghan Markle did leave the royal family?

Royal correspondent Victoria Arbiter told New Zealand talk show, Breakfast, that any decision to leave the royal family would be possible, but would mean that the couple would have to immediately renounce all of the trappings of royal life.

She said, "That’s just not going to be OK unless, of course, they renounce all of their royal privileges, their royal titles, everything to do with their life as a member of the royal family. I don’t see that happening, either."

That could mean having to give up their grace and favour property, Frogmore Cottage, in Windsor Park, all their royal duties, and their Royal Highness stylings. As Sarah Ferguson and Princess Diana did, after divorcing their former husbands, they'd likely still be able to keep their titles though, as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Equally, they'd also no longer complete official working duties on behalf of the Queen - but would probably still attend those events considered to be family occasions, such as Trooping the Colour.

MORE:Where is Nottingham Cottage, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's first home?

It's likely that the Duke and Duchess would also cease to receive an allowance from the Crown, which is normally used to pay for their public life - security, transport, clothing for royal duties, etc. It's not clear how much the couple receive, but it's reported that Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Harry got a joint £3 million in 2017.

Harry and Meghan are independently wealthy, aside from their royal fortune, so wouldn't struggle for money outside of the family. Before marrying, Meghan had an estimated fortune of over £3 million from her acting career, lifestyle website, and various other endorsement deals. Prince Harry has also inherited a fortune of around £30 million, from both his late great-grandmother the Queen Mother, and his mother, Princess Diana.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Queen, William, Kate

Although they've got a fair fortune to rely on for a while, leaving the royal family would free Harry and Meghan up to work on other projects, such as endorsement deals that could earn them money.In the same way that Sarah Ferguson took up deals with Weight Watchers and QVC, the couple could do similar work if they desired.

There's every chance as well that the Duchess of Sussex could return to her former acting career, and perhaps resurrect her lifestyle website, The Tig, which focused on social issues, food, travel, and beauty, among other things. Like Fergie, there's the possibility as well that Meghan would resurrect her old social media accounts too, which she shut down before marrying Prince Harry, due to royal protocol.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have already made clear their desire to live a normal life. For example, their seven-month-old son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, does not have any royal titles, and will be brought up as a private citizen, unlike his parents.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

This means that Archie will not have to complete public royal duties when he is older, apart from annual family occasions such as official birthday celebrations. However, he is currently seventh-in-line to the throne - but as the Cambridge children grow up and start families of their own, he will likely fall further down the line of succession.

Of course, at the moment, there is no real indication that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are planning to retreat from royal life at all. Although it has been confirmed that they will be taking an extended Christmas break, spending the holidays with Meghan's mum, Doria Ragland, before returning to royal duties in January.

We suppose only time will tell for the Duke and Duchess...

Amy Hunt

Amy Hunt is an experienced digital journalist specialising in homes, interiors and hobbies. She began her career working as the features assistant at woman&home magazine, before moving over to the digital side of the brand where she eventually became the Lifestyle Editor up until January 2022. Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards in 2019 for her work on womanandhome.com.