Here’s what being a senior royal actually means

In the rather turbulent wake of the Instagram announcement by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle that they would be “stepping back” from their roles as senior members of the British royal family, many of us are left wondering: What the heck does that even mean, and how is it possible?

According to Town and Country, the term “senior royal” is “something of a nebulous descriptor, and one that has not been officially defined by the British royal family.” Typically, though, senior royals are considered to be those adult members of the royal family, along with their spouses, who are closest to the throne according to the line of succession.

Currently, the list of senior royals includes Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles, Prince William, Kate Middleton, and yes, despite the announcement, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Prince Harry hasn’t removed himself from the line of succession and is still sixth in line to the throne (via Town and Country). As The New York Times puts it, “Announcing a plan to ‘step back’ from being a senior royal is sort of like declaring an intention to recuse oneself from being famous.”

What are senior royal duties?

Senior royals are expected to make public appearances on behalf of the crown, including visits to public officials abroad and welcoming foreign dignitaries at home. During 2019, the hardest-working royal was Princess Anne (perhaps considered a semi-senior royal, as she’s only 14th in line to the throne) — she logged 167 days of repping the royal fam. Okay, when you compare this to the average 253 days of the ordinary British working stiff, maybe it’s not such a slog, but still, it’s not like she’s getting a completely free ride (via The Washington Post).

The royal who logged the least amount of time in 2019 on royal duties? Meghan Markle, with just 31 hours on the clock due to her maternity leave. Still, once Archie was a few months old she did return to making public appearances such as attending a London summit of global youth leaders and accompanying her husband on a royal tour of Africa. According to USA Today, though, the couple were hinting at plans to step back from their royal roles as early as October of last year.

The financial perks of being a senior royal

The Sovereign Grant is a fund that supports the British royals in pursuit of their public duties. It is this funding that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, according to a statement on their website, propose to reject in favor of “financial independence.” What Harry and Meghan do not disclose is the fact that, according to USA Today, 95 percent of their expenses are covered by Prince Charles, and there’s evidently no plan to reject those daddy donations. Nor will they renounce the Sovereign Grant-funded, Crown-owned Frogmore Cottage, which they’re going to keep as their UK pied-à-terre.

Even if Harry and Meghan were really determined to do without funding from any royal sources, they wouldn’t be short a pound or two. Harry inherited quite a bit from both his mom and his great-grandmother, and Meghan didn’t do too badly out of her starring role in the USA Network series Suits. Whatever financial independence looks like to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, it’s unlikely that standing in the dole queue is going to be necessary, nor will they need a GoFundMe to buy baby Archie a new pair of shoes.

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