Life post-Megxit: What happens to royals who cut ties with the crown

Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson both stepped away from some duties. [Photo: Getty]

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s bombshell announcement that they’ll be stepping down as ‘senior’ royals has left many (their own family included) wondering what’s going to happen next.

The couple’s shock news - which they reportedly kept secret even from the Queen - has raised “complicated issues which will take time to work through” according to a brief and hastily-released statement from Buckingham Palace.

While we’ll have to wait for the dust to settle to find out exactly what the Sussex’s future will look like, they’re not the first member of ‘The Firm’ to opt-out of royal life in some way.

Here’s what happened when the likes of Princess Diana, Sarah Ferguson and Prince Edward chose to cut ties and, like Harry and Meghan, live their lives outside the shadow of the Palace.

Princess Diana

Princess Diana stepped away from Royal duties in a similar way. [Photo: Getty]

Princess Diana’s divorce from Prince Charles in 1996 left her without an official title - she was known as Diana, Princess of Wales instead of Her Royal Highness - and without some of the royal jewels she’d amassed during her marriage.

With a move that echoes her son Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle’s, Princess Diana was allowed to keep her apartment at Kensington Palace but is rumoured to have spent Christmas alone post-divorce.

During a 2007 inquest into her death, Deputy Coroner of the Queen's Household Baroness Butler-Sloss said, “I am satisfied that at her death, Diana Princess of Wales continued to be considered as a member of the Royal Household.”

Diana continued to dedicate her life to charity work with a focus on Africa, footsteps in which both Harry and Prince William have followed.

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess Of York

Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew were divorced in 1996. [Photo: Getty]

Within the space of a year, both Prince Charles and his younger brother Prince Andrew announced they were splitting from their wives Princess Diana and the Duchess of York respectively.

In an interview with Harpers Bazaar, Sarah Ferguson said that although they separated in 1992, they didn’t get a divorce until 1996 because she “wanted to go and get a job”.

As is the case with Harry and Meghan, members of the royal family aren’t permitted to have careers outside of their royal duties.

Fergie went on to stay close friends with Prince Andrew as they raised daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, and in July 2019 she revealed she was back living with her ex almost four years after moving out of his royal residence.

Now, Sarah runs numerous businesses, supports charities - with a particular focus on children’s charities - and business events and has even written books.

She still dips in and out of royal events - and is expected to appear at Beatrice’s upcoming wedding - but without the pressure of official duties.

The Duke Of York Prince Andrew

The Duke Of York stepped away from duties in late 2019. [Photo: Getty]

The Duke Of York decided to step away from royal duties in November 2019 after his involvement in the scandal surrounding sex offender Jeffrey Epstein became a “major disruption” for the family.

The 59-year-old asked his mother the Queen for permission to withdraw for the “foreseeable future” which she granted, however, the monarch is said to be ‘deeply upset’.

His life post-royal duties has been unlike those of his peers who have also stepped away, mainly because of the allegations of sexual misconduct made against him and his subsequent ‘disastrous’ interview with the BBC.

Since his decision, telecoms giant BT, UK bank Barclays and at least three Australian universities who had previous links to him have distanced themselves and Andrew himself has been keeping a very low profile.

King Edward VIII

King Edward VIII wanted to marry Wallis Simpson. [Photo: Getty]

King Edward VIII’s decision to abdicate the British throne in 1936 in order to be with the woman he loved set in motion a chain of events that shaped the royal family as we know it.

When faced with the choice between being king and marrying a divorced American actress, Wallis Simpson, Edward gave up the crown and relocated with his new bride to France.

Henceforth he became known as Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor and continued to live a life of luxury with an allowance from the royal family until he died in 1972.

His younger brother, George VI, took over the throne immediately after his abdication and in turn, his daughter, Princess Elizabeth, became Queen.

Additional reporting by Caroline Allen.

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