Many questions remain about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s post-royal life, but this is what we know: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have stepped down as senior members of the Royal Family (with the Queen’s approval); they’re living in Canada part-time (Vancouver Island, to be exact); they’ve dropped their HRH titles; they will forgo public funds for royal duties; and they’re still working, albeit in a new capacity.
But one burning question we still have is: who will take over the senior royal duties Harry and Meghan have left behind?
While the couple have been stripped of their Commonwealth Youth Ambassador titles and Harry had to give up his three honorary military appointments, the Queen is letting them keep their private patronages and associations.
Prior to Harry and Meghan’s exit from the Royal Family, there were 15 top-working royals, including the Sussexes, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Edward, Prince Andrew (who was stripped of public duties last year after a disastrous TV interview about his friendship with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein), Sophie, Countess of Wessex, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the Queen.
Now that the Royal Family is out two working members, it would seem that they have more work cut out for them. So, what can we expect from the remaining royals and their work, and who will be taking over Harry and Meghan’s duties?
Fewer younger working royals
With Harry and Meghan’s transition out of the Royal Family to take effect in the spring, there will be fewer younger working royals, and as a result, “the family won’t be able to do as much,” royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told HuffPost Canada.
Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal historian and author of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting, agrees. She told HuffPost Canada in an email that since the Queen’s cousins are growing older, it is unlikely that they will increase their public engagements at this time.
Instead, she believes we will see more public engagements from Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as well as Princess Anne and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
“The existing full-time senior members of the Royal Family will likely see their workloads increase,” said Harris.
Royal work such as tours (Harry and Meghan did two: Australia and southern Africa), charity events, and attending royal receptions, will not be in the duke and duchess’ future, as they are not “working royals.”
And while the Queen stated her support for the duke and duchess’ decision, younger working royals would be an asset to the Royal Family, said Fitzwilliams, because, “baby boomers tend to disprove [of] them, millennials tend to like them.”
To make up for the loss of the Sussexes, the Royal Family could shift gears and focus on the inner core, said Fitzwilliams. This would include: Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the Cambridge’s three children when they are old enough. (Although the Queen makes up the inner core, as she gets older she is slowly stepping back from some of her duties and handing them off to her heir, Charles, and her grandchildren.) “But you will have other royals helping equally. We’ll have to see how that works out,” he said.
Harris said that the trend in Europe is smaller numbers of royals undertaking public engagements. For example, the King of Sweden recently removed the HRH titles from five of his grandchildren, ensuring that only the children of his heir, Crown Princess Victoria, would retain their HRH titles.
It has also been reported that Prince Charles wants a slimmed monarchy when he is King.
While much remains unclear about who will take over Harry and Meghan’s former duties, we may have an answer by the time the duke and duchess fully transition into their new roles in the spring.
The couple’s deal with the Royal Family will be reviewed a year after it goes into effect, at which time we will have a better idea of how their roles have been filled.
If Fitzwilliams had to guess, he said we can expect to see the Wessexes take on more roles in the future. Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and their two children, Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn, have done much royal work in the past.
The Countess of Wessex recently visited Sierra Leone for a quick, two-day tour. The Earl of Wessex, Harris said, has already assumed a number of Prince Philip’s patronages, including presenting the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.
As for other potential contenders, Fitzwilliams said it’s too tough to make a prediction, as some of the other royals who do a bulk of the work are not young. For example, Prince Charles, 71, and Princess Anne, 69, attended the most engagements compared to the rest of the family in 2019.
Fewer working royals, Fitzwilliams said, is not necessarily a good thing. A slimmed down monarchy with fewer working royals will mean that less “good work” gets done and fewer charities are supported.
Princesses up to the plate?
According to royal biographer Robert Lacey, who is also the historical consultant for the Netflix drama “The Crown,” Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie could be top contenders for filling in their cousins’ roles.
Each of the sisters work full-time and are not working members of the Royal Family. Beatrice, 31, works as the vice president of a data and software company and Eugenie, 29, works as an art gallery director. Despite holding down full-time jobs, the two still do make occasional appearances at important royal public events, such as the Royal Ascot and Trooping the Colour.
Though the sisters wouldn’t be made senior royals, Lacey told Hello magazine that if the sisters are willing to come forward, they will be assigned to step up to the plate and take on some of Harry and Meghan’s roles. “If two go out, two have got to come in, and those two have got to be Beatrice and Eugenie,” said Lacey. “I’m sure they will step forward and be greatly welcomed.”
Harris disagrees. “Beatrice and Eugenie are already pursuing their own careers and have discussed their experiences as the first generation of princesses pursuing careers,” she said. “I think it is unlikely that they will become full-time working members of the Royal Family.
Fitzwilliams also said he doesn’t think Eugenie and Beatrice would step up to fill in the gap Harry and Meghan have left behind. “That would be very controversial,” he said.
“They’re Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s daughters. They aren’t working royals. There’s very little chance of them becoming working royals,” he said.
Looking into the future
Given that Harry and Meghan are no longer working royals, they are not obligated to attend future royal events. However, it remains to be seen whether they will attend public events such as Trooping the Colour, Remembrance Day services, and Christmas Day services since they are still members of the Royal Family.
Currently, members of the Royal Family do over two thousand engagements a year. “Obviously if there are fewer [royals], they won’t be able to do quite that spread in the future,” said Fitzwilliams.
Members of the Royal Family will be in attendance during upcoming state visits from foreign leaders, including a state visit from the Emperor and Empress of Japan this spring. There is also the Queen’s birthday(s). Her actual birthday, on April 21, where she will be turning 94 (!!!), and Trooping the Colour, which usually takes place on the second Saturday in June.
The annual Christmas services at Sandringham are also an occasion that draw out the royal bunch.
Another event Harry and Meghan could attend (or skip) is the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee (70 years on the throne) in 2022. Harris said that for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, members of the Royal Family toured the Commonwealth while the Queen and Prince Philip remained in the United Kingdom.
“The Platinum Jubilee will also be an occasion for extensive Commonwealth tours by members of the Royal Family,” said Harris.
With files from Chloe Tejada
Also on HuffPost: