Revealed: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will not be part of Queen’s procession in Westminster Abbey before Commonwealth Service today as they carry out last of their royal duties before Megxit
- Harry and Meghan join Queen and other key royals for Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey
- Couple gather with Charles, Camilla, William and Kate for last public royal duty before they leave monarchy
- From March 31 they will no longer use HRH styles as they pursue a new life of personal and financial freedom
- Final official appearance is poignant milestone as they prepare to embark on their future in North America
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will not be part of the Queen’s procession through Westminster Abbey at the start of the Commonwealth Service today as they make their final official appearance as senior royals.
Prince Harry and Meghan are joining the monarch, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as they carry out their last public royal duty before they walk away from the monarchy.
But, unlike last year, Harry and Meghan will be conducted to their seats, rather than waiting for the Queen’s arrival and walking through the church in London with the monarch and key royals as they did last year.
The Sussexes will this year arrive after the Earl and Countess of Wessex, who will also be escorted to their seats. The move signifies their impending exit from The Firm – dubbed Megxit.
From March 31, the monarch’s grandson and American former actress Meghan will no longer use their HRH styles as they pursue a new life of personal and financial freedom, mostly in North America.
Royal biographer Penny Junor said of today’s service: ‘It will be fascinating to see how it plays out. I imagine everybody will be on absolutely best behaviour. But goodness knows what they will all be thinking privately.’
Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Andrew, Prince Harry, Prince William, Meghan, Prince Charles, Kate and Camilla leave Westminster Abbey last year after attending the Commonwealth Day service at the church in London on March 11, 2019
Kate, Prince William, Prince Harry and Meghan at the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London in March 2019
William, Harry, Meghan and Prince Charles at the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London in March 2019
Prince Harry and Meghan will be conducted to their seats, according to the Order of Service (above) rather than waiting for the Queen’s arrival and walking through the church in London with the monarch and key royals as they did last year
The procession will include Charles and Camilla, William and Kate, clergy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Commonwealth Secretary General, among others, according to the Order of Service.
Last year, Harry and Meghan waited alongside William, Kate, Charles and Camilla for the Queen to arrive, before taking part in ‘The Procession of The Queen’.
The Sussexes will arrive after the Earl and Countess of Wessex, who will also be escorted to their seats.
Aides have said the couple, who are retaining Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, will be in the UK regularly. But this final official appearance is a poignant milestone as they prepare to embark on their future away from the royal family.
On March 31, Meghan will bow out of royal life just one year, 10 months and 12 days – or 682 days – after marrying into the family. She spent almost five years longer appearing on screen in the US drama Suits.
The duchess, then Meghan Markle, starred as paralegal Rachel Zane between June 23 2011 and April 25 2018, totalling six years, 10 months and three days, or 2,499 days.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex joined the Queen for a service at Royal Chapel of All Saints in Windsor Great Park yesterday
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex meet the Massed Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines at The Mountbatten Festival of Music at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Saturday
Meghan is greeted by pupils at the Robert Clack Upper School in Dagenham, East London, during a surprise visit last Friday
The Duke of Sussex (centre) and Lewis Hamilton during a visit to the Silverstone Experience in Northamptonshire on Friday
Harry and Meghan cheer at a marriage proposal at the Endeavour Fund Awards at Mansion House in London last Thursday
The televised service at the abbey is a key annual event in the calendar for the Queen who is head of the Commonwealth. But this year’s ceremony is likely to be remembered for being Harry and Meghan’s royal swansong.
Q&A: What is happening with Megxit and how will it work?
– What will happen on March 31?
‘Megxit Day’ is the day Harry and Meghan cease to be senior royals as they walk away from the monarchy. They will stop using their HRH styles.
No documents will be signed or laws passed and the decision will not be binding, but it marks a new phase in their life.
– Will they carry out any more royal duties?
No. The couple are quitting, not just as senior royals, but as working royals in general.
– Was this want they wanted?
Not quite. Harry and Meghan wanted to step down as senior royals but have dual role, supporting the Queen and earning their own money.
– But this was unworkable?
Yes. They effectively could not have their cake and eat it.
It was too controversial given their global profiles and would have led to accusations they were cashing in on their royal status.
– How did the Queen sort out the saga?
The monarch held a crisis summit at Sandringham with Harry, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge – and it was announced a few days later there would be no dual role for the Sussexes.
– Why did Harry and Meghan’s plans cause such shock waves?
Harry and Meghan issued a bombshell statement on January 8, without warning the Queen, and after being told by the monarch to discuss matters with the Prince of Wales first.
– Why did they want to step down as senior royals?
The couple spoke of their struggles dealing with royal life and the intense tabloid interest in a television documentary about their Africa tour.
Meghan said: ‘It’s not enough to just survive something, that’s not the point of life. You have got to thrive.’
Harry has since said he wanted his family to have a ‘more peaceful life’.
– What were the low points following their wedding?
Controversies included rows over privacy and use of private jets, a falling out between Harry and William, the launch of legal action and an attack on the press which overshadowed an official royal tour.
– Where will they live?
Harry and Meghan and their son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor will mostly be based in North America.
They are renting in Canada, so may buy a property there, or perhaps relocate to the US – Meghan’s mother lives in California.
– What about Frogmore Cottage?
Harry and Meghan will keep their Windsor home, start paying commercial rent, and pay back £2.4 million in taxpayers’ money spent on its renovations.
– What will they be called?
Initially the palace said they would be Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
But it was pointed out the titles mirrored those of a divorcee – the Princess of Wales became Diana, Princess of Wales following the end of her marriage to Charles.
They will be the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – but without their HRHs.
– Who had a similar title?
Wallis Simpson – the last American divorcee to marry a senior royal, for whom Edward VIII abdicated the throne.
Mrs Simpson became the Duchess of Windsor, but was never permitted to be an HRH.
– Have they been stripped of their HRHs like Diana?
No. Harry was born a prince and remains so. They will retain their HRHs but will not use them.
– How will they make money?
They are predicted to make millions from public speaking, lucrative contracts, book deals – or perhaps for Meghan, a return to acting.
– Will they be financially independent?
Not completely. The Prince of Wales will also continue to offer private financial support to the couple.
This is expected to come from his £21 million a year Duchy of Cornwall income.
– Will they launch their own charitable foundation?
Yes but they are not calling it a foundation. Harry and Meghan intend to ‘develop a new way to effect change’ with a non-profit organisation.
– Will they still be able to use Sussex Royal as their brand?
No. The Queen and her senior officials are said to have declared they must drop the use of the word ‘Royal’.
– Are Harry and Meghan happy about this?
They don’t appear to be. Their website states they will not use ‘Royal’ but argues that the monarchy has no jurisdiction over the use of the word ‘Royal’ overseas.
– What will their new brand name be?
It has not been announced. They will have to change their @SussexRoyal Instagram handle. Some options are already taken – H&M is already a major clothing retailer.
– Who will pay for their security?
It’s unclear which is causing controversy. It is feared the cost will fall to the taxpayer, but it could be the Sussexes themselves, the Queen or the Prince of Wales may have to pay.
Neither Buckingham Palace nor the Home Office will confirm details, but the bill is estimated to be as much as £20 million a year.
It won’t be Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said it will stop providing protection after Megxit.
– What do Harry and Meghan say?
Their website claims it is agreed they ‘require effective security to protect them’ because Harry was ‘born into the royal family’ and because Meghan has her ‘own independent profile’.
– What about their patronages?
They will keep their royal patronages as private patronages and associations.
But Harry’s military appointments will be put on hold for the next 12 months.
– What about their Commonwealth roles?
Harry is quitting his role as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador.
But he will remain president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, and Meghan will still be the Trust’s vice-president.
– Where will Archie go to school?
As Archie will be spending most of his time in North America, it it is likely he will not have a British education, but nothing has been confirmed.
– What about Meghan’s citizenship?
At the time of their engagement, it was announced that Meghan would be applying for British citizenship.
It is not known what stage the process was at or what will happen now.
– Will they been seen again in the UK?
Harry is expected – in a non-royal capacity – to be at the London Marathon in April if it goes ahead.
– Is this end of Harry and Meghan’s royal roles forever?
Possibly not. The situation will be reviewed by the monarchy in 12 months’ time, leaving the door open in case of a change of heart.
The Queen has told Harry the couple are much loved by the royals and would welcomed back if they wanted as working royals in the future.
– Is Harry still in the line of succession?
Yes, he remains sixth in line and Archie is seventh in line.
Their goodbye tour – a flurry of appearances in the UK – has including the Endeavour Fund Awards, a military musical festival at the Royal Albert Hall and Meghan’s secret visit to a school in Dagenham, east London, to celebrate International Women’s Day.
The Commonwealth Service will also be the first time the duke and duchess have appeared with the royal family since their bombshell ‘Megxit’ announcement in January.
Tradition dictates that Harry, who is not a future king, sits with Meghan in the second row of seats behind the Queen, Charles, Camilla, William and Kate during the service.
The duke and duchess were pictured standing alongside William and Kate in the gothic abbey last year when Meghan was pregnant with Archie. All eyes will be on how the couples interact at this year’s ceremony.
William and Harry have faced a turbulent time following a rift that began ahead of Harry’s wedding to Meghan.
Harry said in an ITV documentary filmed during his Africa tour that he and his brother are on ‘different paths’ and have good and bad days in their relationship.
The Duke of York was at the service in 2019, accompanying the Queen as she arrived.
But he will be absent this year, having stepped down from public life following his disastrous Newsnight appearance over his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Harry and Meghan last appeared alongside the royals four months ago on Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph in November.
Coverage of the service will be broadcast live on BBC One from 2.15pm, and across the BBC World Service.
The Queen in her Commonwealth Day message has praised the diversity of the family of nations whose blend of traditions ‘serves to make us stronger’.
In her annual message, the head of state highlighted how global connectivity makes people aware their ‘choices and actions’ can affect the ‘well-being of people and communities living far away’ – and inspires many to be more careful with natural resources.
International boxing champion and Olympic gold medallist Anthony Joshua will deliver a reflection, while singers Alexandra Burke and Craig David will perform.
Ahead of their wedding, Harry and Meghan highlighted the Commonwealth as a priority for their royal duties.
Harry said: ‘Both of us have passions for wanting to make change, change for good, and with lots of young people running around the Commonwealth, that’s where we’re going to spend most of our time hopefully.’
Stepping down as a working royal means Harry must leave his role as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador. But he will remain president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust and Meghan will still be the Trust’s vice-president.
Yesterday, the Duchess of Sussex met the Queen for the first time since she and Harry announced they are to quit as senior royals.
Meghan and Harry attended a church service in Windsor with Her Majesty as they prepare to leave the royal household in a little over three weeks.
He smiled and appeared relaxed as he drove Meghan to the Royal Chapel of All Saints in Windsor Great Park.
It was the first time that the duchess has seen the Queen since the couple dramatically announced on January 6 that they would be retiring from public life.
While Harry has sat down with the Queen on several occasions since, Meghan has stayed in Canada with their son Archie. But any hopes that she may have had of seeing her great-grandson were dashed because Archie remains on Vancouver Island.
On Saturday night, Harry appeared close to tears as he received a long round of applause during his final engagement as Captain General of the Royal Marines.
In a red ceremonial uniform, he seemed to bite his lip when he and Meghan received a standing ovation as they took their seats in the royal box at the Royal Albert Hall.
The couple were attending the Mountbatten Festival of Music, marking the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, as well as the 80th anniversary of the formation of Britain’s commandos.
The Sussexes are expected to return to Canada next week, and their new life away from royal duties will officially start on April 1. Harry will remain sixth in line to the throne, despite stepping down as a senior royal.
Meanwhile the 16-year-old schoolboy who got a hug from the Duchess of Sussex after telling a delighted audience ‘she’s really beautiful innit? said he was was ‘really embarrassed’ when he realised his cheeky comment had been recorded.
Meghan then told Aker Okoye he was ‘very brave’ and his comments were ‘very well said,’ he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain today.
The teenager, who has penned a handwritten note of apology to the Duke of Sussex for cuddling his wife, joked: ‘I did not want to cause any more controversy.’
He wrote the note after he was pictured hugging Meghan on stage at Robert Clack School in Dagenham on Friday.
Aker Okoye described Meghan as ‘really humble and down to earth’.
Saying he had been ‘flabbergasted’ by the situation, he told Good Morning Britain: ‘It was one of those moments I will cherish for the rest of my life – to see that she is more than a pretty face and that she is actually an amazing person who is strong, committed and inspirational.’
On what it meant as a black teenager to see the first person of mixed heritage marry into the royal family, he told the programme: ‘I think it shows that we are present.
‘I think it goes to show that us a caucus, as a group and a race, that we are present in this country so much so that we can come in from another place.
‘I feel as if that gives us hope and gives us a little bit of drive.’
Meghan made a surprise visit to the school to deliver an International Women’s Day message to men to ‘value the women in your lives’.
In one of her last solo engagements as a working royal Meghan, who also revealed that ten-month-old Archie is trying to walk, spoke with delighted pupils and met one of the women who fought an historic equal pay battle in the nearby Ford car plant.
In a speech addressing the school’s boys in particular, she urged them to ‘continue to value and appreciate the women in your lives and also set the example for some men who are not seeing it that same way.
‘You have your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, friends in your life, protect them.
‘Make sure that they are feeling valued and safe and let’s all just rally together to make International Women’s Day something that is not just on Sunday, but frankly feels like every day of the year.’
Later, the Duchess of Cambridge will host a gala dinner at Buckingham Palace to mark the 25th anniversary of youth mental health charity Place2Be.
The duchess has been a patron of the charity – which aims to provide emotional support to young children and works in 639 schools across the UK – since 2013.
Founded in 1994 by Dame Benny Refson, it has worked with more than 250,0000 children and families over the past 25 years.
Kate is due to meet two school choirs who will also perform, as well as many of Place2Be’s supporters, before giving a speech.
She has been a vocal advocate for children’s mental health since becoming a member of the royal family, as well as for adults’ addiction support and mental health services.
In January, Kate launched the ‘5 Big Questions on the Under-Fives’ survey aimed at starting a national conversation on early childhood. The Place2Be gala is due to commence at 7pm tonight.
Farewell Harry and Meghan: Key dates in the Megxit crisis over the past two months
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are preparing to walk away from the monarchy as Megxit officially begins on March 31. Here is a timeline of the crisis so far in 2020:
– January 7: Harry and Meghan return to the UK and visit Canada House in London to thank the country’s high commissioner for the hospitality they received during their six-week stay in Canada over the festive period.
– January 8: An exclusive by The Sun newspaper reveals Harry and Meghan plan to move to Canada for a time and are reviewing their royal roles. The duke and duchess announce they intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the royal family, become financially independent, still support the Queen but split their time between the UK and North America. The Queen is left hurt after the couple did not consult her about their statement. Buckingham Palace warns there are ‘complicated issues that will take time to work through’. Meghan returns to Canada where she has left Archie and their dogs had already been moved. The hashtag ‘Megxit’ starts trending on Twitter.
– January 9: It emerges Harry and Meghan ignored instructions from the Queen not to make any announcement and the duke had been told his grandmother would not discuss his proposals before he had talked them through with his father. The Queen directs all four royal households to find ‘workable solutions’ for the Sussexes within ‘days not weeks’, working with the Governments at home and abroad.
– January 11: The Queen calls a meeting with Harry, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge at Sandringham to discuss the crisis in two days’ time. Video footage emerges of Harry highlighting his wife’s interest in doing voiceover work to a Disney boss while on an official engagement at the Lion King premiere.
– January 13: Harry faces his grandmother, father and brother at the crisis summit at Sandringham. The Queen issues a statement sanctioning Harry and Meghan’s wishes but expressing her regret at their decision. She calls the couple Harry and Meghan rather than the duke and duchess and says there will be a period of transition as they spend time in Canada and the UK. The Queen says she has asked for final decisions on the complex matters to be made in the coming days.
– January 14: It is confirmed Meghan, who was planning to take part in the talks via conference call, did not dial in as it was decided it ‘wasn’t necessary’.
– January 15: Court documents from the duchess’ lawsuit against Associated Newspapers accuse Meghan of being more worried about the unflattering effect of the story about the letter she wrote to her father Thomas Markle than a breach of her data protection rights. Meghan visits a women’s centre in Vancouver, and then Justice for Girls, a charity helping girls in poverty.
– January 16: Harry makes his first official appearance since announcing he is quitting as a senior royal, at Buckingham Palace for the Rugby League World Cup 2021 draw. Smiling but ignoring a question from a reporter about his future, he tells children playing rugby on the palace lawn: ‘Look after the grass though, yeah? Otherwise I’ll get in trouble.’
– January 17: Staff at Frogmore Cottage, Harry and Meghan’s home in Windsor Great Park, are to be deployed elsewhere while they are in Canada.
– January 18: The summit decisions are revealed – a hard Megxit: The dual role they wanted as working royals is deemed unworkable. Buckingham Palace issues a statement saying from spring 2020, Harry and Meghan will no longer be carrying out royals duties and they will not use their HRH styles. Harry will lose his military appointments and they will spend the majority of their time in North America and repay the taxpayers’ millions spent on their Berkshire home. The deal will be reviewed in 12 months. The Queen says Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved members of her family and she recognises the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny.
– January 19: Harry makes an emotional speech at a Sentebale dinner, telling of his ‘great sadness’ but saying there was ‘no other option’.
– January 21: Harry arrives back in Canada to be reunited with Meghan and Archie. The couple issue a legal warning over the publication of paparazzi shots of Meghan walking her dogs on Vancouver Island with Archie in a sling.
– January 27: Thomas Markle says he is willing to testify against his daughter as part of her legal action against Associated Newspapers.
– February 4: More than three-quarters of Canadians think their country should not foot the Sussexes’ security bill, a survey for the CTV network reveals.
– February 6: Harry, accompanied by Meghan, gives a speech at a JP Morgan event in Miami, Florida, and talks about the years of therapy he has had over the death of his mother. Reports suggest Harry could have received a fee worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
– February 14 : It emerges Harry and Meghan are closing their Buckingham Palace office, with up to 15 job losses. Meghan releases a video of herself chatting to Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful and putting on party hats in celebration of her guest editing of the magazine last year.
February 19: The Daily Mail reports Harry and Meghan have been banned from using the Sussex Royal brand. The Palace issues an update with further details, saying the date of Megxit will be March 31. It confirms the couple will be known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, not Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, as previously announced in error, and they will later launch a non-profit organisation. Harry’s military appointments will be put on hold. But Harry and Meghan add their own statement to their website, leading commentators to accuse them of taking a swipe at the Queen and other royals. The couple claim the monarchy has no ‘jurisdiction’ over the word Royal overseas, that they are being treated differently from other working royals and they will ‘continue to require effective security to protect them and their son’.
– February 25: The duke tells a tourism conference host in Edinburgh ‘just call me Harry’ as he returns to the UK for his final round of official royal engagements.
– February 27: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirms it will stop providing security for the Sussexes once they cease to be senior royals.
– February 28: Harry recreates The Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover with Jon Bon Jovi as he joins the rock star for the recording of a charity single.
– March 3: The Sun reports the Queen has told Harry that he and Meghan would be welcomed back as senior royals if they changed their mind, during a four-hour chat at Windsor Castle.
– March 5: Meghan carries out her first public royal duty since the Megxit crisis by attending the Endeavour Fund Awards with Harry. The duke tells how he was ‘proud to serve Queen and country’.
– March 6: Harry joins six-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton at the official opening of the Silverstone Experience.
– March 6: Images of Meghan’s secret private trip to the National Theatre are released on the couple’s Instagram account – on the same day the Duchess of Cornwall is delivering a key speech on domestic violence.
– March 7: Harry, in his last official duty as Captain General of the Royal Marines, and Meghan are given a standing ovation at Mountbatten Music Festival at the Royal Albert Hall.
– March 8: The duchess marks International Women’s Day, having earlier visited a school in Dagenham, east London, where she told schoolboys to protect the women in their lives and urged pupils to ‘stand for what is right’.
– March 8: The Sussexes join the Queen at church in Windsor.
– March 9: Harry and Meghan gather with the Queen, Charles, Camilla, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey – their last official engagement as senior royals.
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