On Wednesday, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who are The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced to the world that they would be leaving their positions as senior members of the royal family in order to become part-time pseudo royals bouncing between the U.K., North America and going on the occasional royal tour. For many in the U.K. and abroad, it was a stunning display of disrespect to the family and institution that have given them so much.
In part, Prince Harry and Meghan’s statement read, “After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family, and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.”
The decision for the couple to step back wasn’t necessarily a surprise, though the timing did catch many off guard. The couple, who have faced a fair amount of scrutiny from the press over excessive spending, hypocrisy and being the source of family squabbles, had just returned from a self-described six-week “break” in Canada where they spent the holidays. Many were hoping that this time would allow the couple to reflect, relax and slip back into their royal roles. But that clearly wasn’t the case.
According to reports, the couple instead were plotting a royal revolt by both releasing the statement and putting forth a website that explained their plans to both the royal family and the world.
The BBC was among the first to report that not a single royal family member, nor their taxpayer-funded royal communications team, were aware of the statement before it was made public. In fact, The Queen, who was willing to discuss this royal role change with Prince Harry and Meghan, had specifically asked the couple to hold off making any sort of public announcement until the details could be finalized.
As has been reported by multiple sources, Prince Charles and Prince William, Prince Harry’s father and older brother, learned about the decision from the television and were apparently “incandescent with rage.” The Queen, who is currently on holiday at Sandringham, is “deeply disappointed.”
Personal emotions rarely factor into any royal statements, though reports are now that cooler heads are prevailing. The family is now in talks about how to manage the situation, while Meghan has fled back to Canada to reunite with her and Harry’s son, Archie.
All this is quite historic. But at the heart of this situation is a family, although an incredibly unique one, that’s now had its personal drama put on display for the world to see. No family wants that.
There is nothing wrong with Prince Harry and Meghan making the decision to take a step back. Actually, many in the media and the public welcomed it and other royals have successfully managed having private lives and careers away from the spotlight. The problem is that they’ve done it in a way that disrespects the authority of the monarchy and the royal family.
Imagine this, you are a mid- to upper range employee at a company and you decide that you want to make a change. Instead of looking for another position at a different company, you send a companywide email stating that you will still continue to earn your salary with a slight cut, keep representing the company publicly, keep your benefits while using your position and title to make money part time, and live in another city half the year where you essentially don’t work at all.
That’s in effect what Prince Harry and Meghan told the world on their website about how they would do things in the future, without actually getting confirmation from the royal family nor the taxpayer.
Prince Harry and Meghan did a poor job honoring their family and the public, and as Christians we are called to respect both our parents and our elders. This leads us to an important lesson that we non-royals can take from the fallout of this situation: that there are people in authority over us, family and bosses, and we need to respect them and their position in our lives.
Of course, every family has their squabbles, but the God calls us to respect both our parents and our elders. Prince Harry and Meghan did neither.
The royals were willing to negotiate and discuss what the couple wanted and come to a compromise that could benefit everyone, but the couple jumped the gun and pressed what many are calling the “nuclear option.”
Even if Prince Harry and Meghan didn’t like what decision The Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William made about their future, they are in authority over them as the ruler and heirs, and as Prince Harry’s parent and grandparent. Their job is to help stabilize and modernize the monarchy in a way that keeps it going for the next 1,000 years. Though it may be antiquated, and it is perhaps unfair that birth order determines their power within the family, but that’s life. There will be times when things are unfair but that’s just how it is.
Part of our calling as Christians is to respect the men and women in authority over us. That could be government officials, bosses, parents, grandparents and even the President of the United States. At times we may feel like we need to rebel or break away, or that the leader is too harsh or we just don’t like them, but I think it’s important to remember that we are called to respect.
Romans 13:1-4a (ESV), “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear from the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good.”
It’s a message that all of us can take to heart.