UK's divided royals can fix problems, PM Johnson says

Tuesday January 14 2020

Boris Johnson

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The PM has expressed confidence that the divided royals would overcome their problems. PHOTO | ISABEL INFANTES | AFP 

REUTERS
By REUTERS
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed confidence on Tuesday that the divided royals would overcome their problems after the queen reluctantly gave her blessing for Prince Harry and his wife Meghan to step back from duties.

Following a family meeting over the future of her grandson and his American wife, Queen Elizabeth issued a rare, highly personal statement agreeing to the change and saying final decisions should be worked out soon.

“I am a massive fan certainly of the queen and of the royal family as a fantastic asset for our country,” Johnson told BBC television.

“I am absolutely confident that they are going to sort this out, and you know what I think they are probably going to be able to sort it out easier without any particular commentary from me about this.”

The royal crisis was triggered when Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, publicly announced last week that they wished to reduce royal appointments and spend more time in North America.

The 93-year-old queen said the couple would now begin a “period of transition” splitting time between Britain and Canada as they sought a more independent lifestyle and an end to reliance on public funding.

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That was agreed following the family summit on Monday at her Sandringham estate attended by Harry, his elder brother Prince William and his father and heir to the British throne, Prince Charles.

“Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family,” Elizabeth said.

Echoes of Diana

Harry and Meghan have said they want a “progressive” new role for themselves and financial independence—a model closer to other European royal families who have more down-to-earth lifestyles than their British counterparts.

As one of the world’s most glamorous couples, they have chafed at intense media scrutiny, with Harry describing some coverage of Meghan as bullying, akin to treatment his mother Princess Diana endured before her death in a 1997 car crash.

Some observers have criticized British media for racism in its coverage of Meghan, whose mother is African-American and father is white. However, British interior minister Priti Patel said on Monday she disagreed that papers had been racist.

Meghan is currently in Canada with the couple’s baby son Archie and Harry is expected to rejoin her later this week.

Details of how they intended to fund themselves, what royal roles they would still perform, and who would pay for and provide future security arrangements are still up in the air.

Campaign group Republic, which wants the monarchy abolished, estimates that it costs more than 100 million pounds ($130 million) a year to protect the royals. Monarchists respond that the royals bring more in via extra tourism to Britain.

Currently, Harry and Meghan are mainly funded by his father’s Duchy of Cornwall private estate as they are prohibited from earning income themselves.

“These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days,” Elizabeth said.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said most Canadians were supportive of having the royals there.

“But how that looks and what kind of costs is involved, there is still lots of discussions to have,” he told Global News in a television interview.

The furore over the couple, who married in May 2018 in a glittering ceremony watched by millions round the world, comes after a tough 2019 for the royal family.

Prince Andrew’s friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein came under uncomfortable scrutiny while the queen’s husband, Prince Philip, 98, received a police warning over a car crash.