COMMENT

In 2014 the woman then known as Meghan Markle wrote on her website The Tig: "Raise a glass to yourself today – to the right to freedom, to the empowerment of the women (and men) who struggle to have it … On this day, and beyond, celebrate your independence."

More than five years later, her words could not be more apt this week with the Queen and Buckingham Palace announcing yesterday morning that Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would be quitting as working royals entirely.

The statement put the couple's new arrangement bluntly, saying that the duo "can no longer formally represent The Queen".

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Their new-found autonomy comes at a cost.

They will no longer be allowed to style themselves as His/Her Royal Highness, will repay the $4 million or so of Sovereign Grant money that was used to renovate their Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage and potentially face having to fork out an estimated $680,000 annually in rent for the property.

There is no getting away from the fact that money, specifically where it comes from, has been central to the tumultuous and historic events of the last 10 days.

Last week, when the Sussexes dramatically announced they were stepping down as "senior" royals they also said they wanted to "work to become financially independent".

Cue much consternation over the fact that their version of "financial independence" seemingly involved still accepting the $3.7 million Prince Charles annually shells out to them.


Still, you could nearly hear the sound of American marketing gurus and Hollywood honchos smacking their lips in anticipation. The Sussexes were on the market!

Vast numbers were soon being thrown around with wide-eyed estimates that the couple could make upwards of $1 billion in the coming years.

Meghan's earning potential is now seemingly limitless. Photo / AP
Meghan's earning potential is now seemingly limitless. Photo / AP

Yesterday's announcement makes that sort of astronomical figure even more likely given that now that Harry and Meghan are unequivocally not working members of the royal family, they face less restrictions on possible business ventures.

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See, if the Queen had accepted "progressive new role" they had initially proposed, which would have seen them selectively undertake some work on behalf of Her Majesty, they would have faced firm guardrails about what paying work they could and could not do.

Clucking courtiers and a miffed public would have been quick to criticise anything that looked too much like they were crassly profiting from their royal status.

But removing those three little letters – HRH – from before their names, has removed all these limits.

Yesterday's announcement means they won't face being weighed down by having to deal with accusations they were cashing in. Instead, they are free to leverage the Sussex brand however they see fit.

Estimates for how much they could pull in vary but the consensus is they are going to make some serious coin and that prospect has only gotten a boost this weekend.

Book and TV deals seem the most likely and immediate opportunities with comparisons drawn to Barack and Michelle Obama's $87 million pay cheque for their memoirs.

Big TV companies such as Netflix, which also has an estimated $435 million deal with former President and his wife, will surely come calling, chequebooks in hand.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and their baby son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. Photo / Getty Images
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and their baby son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. Photo / Getty Images

Things might not stop there. Last year the couple applied to trademark "Sussex Royal" for a hundred items, covering everything from stationery to PJs.

Pre-Harry, Meghan proved herself to be a highly savvy businesswoman so it is highly unlikely we could see them slap their name on a tawdry series of pens or flannelette jammies. That said, the possibilities are nearly endless.

The spectre of Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, looms large, with her questionable forays into the commercial world post-royal life having seen her do everything from become the face of Weight Watchers and to flogging a $60 juice on the home shopping network.

That is not to say that this is not still a huge gamble for Harry and Meghan.

To start, there could be a distinct downside to the fact they will no longer be His and Her Royal Highness.

While the couple will retain their titles, without being able to style themselves as HRHs. The question now is, will this dull their commercial lustre? Have they forfeited that which lent them a certain – highly valuable – stardust?

The Queen bluntly rejected Harry and Meghan's 'half in, half out' approach to royal life. Photo / AP
The Queen bluntly rejected Harry and Meghan's 'half in, half out' approach to royal life. Photo / AP

They face other looming issues. There is no certainty that they will be able to continue to use the "Sussex Royal" brand. A senior Buckingham Palace source has told the Daily Beast that the "Sussex Royal" branding was "one of the issues to be worked through." Without the "royal" in their name, does its value diminish?

Yesterday's Palace statement also said "the Sussexes have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty".

How they define, and if anyone actually polices, such a lofty and nebulous aim remains to be seen.

Still, the couple is already said to be worth around $60 million. I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief that they will never be forced to spruik a juicer on morning tele.