Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are stepping back from the royal family

When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced last fall that they planned to take an "extended break" from their royal duties around the holidays, no one had any idea just how extended that break might prove to be. A recent announcement by the royal couple may well be the most shocking news since Harry's Great-granduncle Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson: Prince Harry and his bride will "step back as 'senior members' of the royal family" (via People).

It's been no secret that Meghan Markle (herself a divorcee, and a Yank) has had her difficulties fitting in with the sometimes stuffy British royals. Still, no one expected a move of such magnitude that it has now earned its own name in the British press: Megxit (via The Washington Post).

What might have led Harry and Megan to distance themselves

The rift among the royals — perhaps most prominently, tension between Princes William and Harry — began even before Harry's engagement, when his big brother cautioned him not to move so fast with Meghan. While their son Archie, now 8 months old, was welcomed into the royal family with all due pomp and circumstance, Meghan later told ITV journalist Tom Bradby that giving birth under the glaring spotlight cast by royal-watchers everywhere was "really challenging," especially when "add[ed] on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed."

In light of her postpartum stress and tension, Meghan, along with Harry, decided to spend baby Archie's first Christmas away from the hubbub of Sandringham Palace. Instead, the threesome opted for "private family time" at a mansion on Vancouver Island in Canada. While Meghan described the holiday as "beautiful... such an incredible time," the fact remains that this getaway was likely prompted by the growing rift between Harry and his brother who are reported, as Harry told a TV interviewer last fall, to be "on different paths," (according to The Sun via Page Six).

The royal reaction to Prince Harry's and Meghan Markle's announcement

An official spokesperson for Buckingham Palace has released a statement characterizing Prince Harry's plans as being still "at an early stage", clarifying, "We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.” While the queen herself has not spoken publicly regarding the latest blot on the royal family escutcheon, the British tabloid press is claiming she's "sad" while Prince Charles is "furious." The scandal-mongering Sun goes so far as to suggest civil war looms on the horizon.

It's worth nothing that the statement released on the Sussex Royal Instagram account does promise that Prince Harry and Meghan will continue "to fully support Her Majesty The Queen" and continue "to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages." That's something, right?

Meghan and Harry's move is being called a 'major breach of protocol'

While nobody else seems to be rushing to take up arms in a literal sense in defense of the crown, British journalist and author Sarah Gristwood told The Independent it was a very bad sign, indeed, that neither Harry nor Meghan had consulted with the queen before broadcasting their plans on Instagram. She characterized their failure to give a heads-up as "a major breach of protocol." Royal commentator Sally Baker agrees, saying, "It looks like the royal family is in trouble" — but since when is that not the case? The royal family's been better than a soap opera since the days of King Arthur.

What are Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's plans now?

The couple's statement also spoke of Harry and Meghan's desire to "establish financial independence," and to found a new charitable entity. Although the Instagram post didn't provide further details about this venture, Town and Country reported last week that the planned foundation, called Sussex Royal, has been in the works since last year. Its focus, according to Meghan, will be on "really strong, community-based projects," though as yet unspecified in nature.

Perhaps the biggest break with tradition is the wannabe-slightly-less-royal couple's plans to base their family, at least part of the time, away from Shakespeare's sceptered isle. Although they didn't supply a location more specific than "North America", The New York Times speculates they'll either return to Canada or take up residence in Meghan's hometown of Los Angeles. "This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born," the statement reads. 

Of course, if they're wanting to balance out the British royal tradition with an All-American one, Bravo host Andy Cohen has issued, via Instagram comment, an "open invite for The Duchess to join #RHOBH !!!" (via People). Now that would be must-see TV on both sides of the pond.

Wherever their next destination may be, we wish the duke and duchess (and their little baby dukelet? Dukeling? Duckling?) all the luck and happiness in their life outside of the royal fishbowl.