The surprise announcement comes after Harry and Meghan denounced intrusive and inaccurate reporting in the British and international press, as well as vitriol directed toward them on social media including racist attacks against US-born Meghan.
“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,” the couple wrote on Instagram.
“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,” they said.
Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, said splitting their time between the UK and North America would enable them to “raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter”.
Harry is the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II and second son of her heir, Prince Charles.
He married Meghan, who until her engagement was best known for her role in the TV drama Suits, in a spectacular wedding at Windsor Castle in May 2018.
The statement did not say where they would live in North America. Meghan was raised in Los Angeles and went to school at Northwestern University in Illinois.
The couple returned this week from a Christmas trip to Canada, a member of the Commonwealth, with their eight-month-old son Archie.
They said the encouragement of supporters had helped them “feel prepared to make this adjustment”.
“We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth and our patronages,” the couple wrote.
They said they plan to launch a “new charitable entity” while continuing to collaborate with the queen, Charles, Harry’s elder brother Prince William and other royals.
Britain’s Press Association reported that a spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said discussions with the duke and duchess were “at an early stage”.
“We understand their desire to take a different approach but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through,” she said.
Harry has complained since 2016 of abuse and harassment against his wife Meghan in British newspapers and social media and late last year went so far as to take legal action against a tabloid.
He wrote in a scathing statement in October that Meghan was “one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences”.
He compared Meghan’s treatment to that of his late mother, Princess Diana: “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
That same month, Meghan phoned British lawmaker Holly Lynch to thank her for organising an open letter of support for her stand against intense media scrutiny.
More than 70 female members of parliament signed the document to express solidarity against the “often distasteful and misleading nature of the stories printed in a number of our national newspapers concerning you, your character and your family”.
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