Prince Harry, Meghan Markle fix March 31 for UK royal family exit

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LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 27: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during an official photocall to announce the engagement of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle at The Sunken Gardens at Kensington Palace on November 27, 2017 in London, England. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been a couple officially since November 2016 and are due to marry in Spring 2018. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

London: Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, are breaking free of the royal family starting March 31, the couple’s office said Wednesday.

The announcement comes as Buckingham Palace reviewed the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s use of the label “Sussex Royal” after their decision to step back from royal duties. Talks involving senior officials are ongoing about the issue and a decision will be announced alongside the launch of their new non-profit organisation.

The royal couple stunned Britain with an abrupt announcement in January that they wanted to step back from royal duties. Prince Harry said he was taking a “leap of faith” in the move in an attempt to build a more peaceful life — one free of the journalists who have filmed, photographed and written about him since the day he was born.

Harry and Meghan will no longer use the titles His Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness but will retain them, leaving the possibility that the couple might change their minds and return sometime in the future.

Harry’s late mother, Diana, was stripped of the Her Royal Highness title when she and Prince Charles divorced.

The prince and his wife will walk away from most royal duties, give up public funding and try to become financially independent. The couple, who were named the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their wedding day, are expected to spend most of their time in Canada while maintaining a home in England, near Windsor Castle.

The couple’s departure is a wrench for the royal family, and Queen Elizabeth II said at the time that she wished the couple had wanted to remain full-time royals.

Despite the unprecedented move, the couple will keep the themes of their public work — the Commonwealth, community, youth empowerment and mental health, collectively.

Harry’s priorities remain supporting the welfare of servicemen and women, conservation, sport for social development and HIV. Meghan’s focus remains women’s empowerment, gender equality and education.

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