After a week of wondering what exactly would happen after Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced they would be backing away from their senior royal roles, the world finally has some answers. For starters, Queen Elizabeth II shared an official statement explaining that she supports their desire to "create a new life as a young family." But whether that means Prince Harry and Markle will keep their royal titles as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remains a little less clear at the moment.
The couple dropped the bombshell heard around the world when they shared the news on Instagram that they planned to "step back" from their senior royal roles. Prince Harry and Markle explained via Instagram that they planned to "work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen," and went on to say that they planned to split their time between North America and the United Kingdom with their baby boy Archie.
The decision naturally caused a serious furor, with Queen Elizabeth calling a meeting to discuss the particulars with Prince Harry, his brother Prince William, and father Prince Charles at her country estate of Sandringham.
One of the particulars that would have presumably been up for discussion would be whether or not Markle and Prince Harry would continue to hold the royal titles of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex after their roles changed. And when the Queen released her official statement acknowledging that she would support their decision, she could have alluded to an answer to that question by referring to them as "Harry and Meghan."
"My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family," the Queen's statement read. "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. Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives."
It should be noted that the Queen did refer to the couple as "the Sussexes" at one point in the statement as well. "It has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK," the statement read.
Now, it's the custom of all royal houses to refer to any members of the royal family by their official titles — such as "Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex" — in official statements, so the Queen's decision to call the Duke and Duchess of Sussex by their first names could mean they may no longer hold their royal titles one day. Of course, it could also mean that she was making this statement as a family member as much as she was the reigning sovereign.
Queen Elizabeth certainly has the power to strip them of their royal titles, not that this is happening for sure or would necessarily be bad news for the couple. In the past, she has chosen to not take away the titles of people who have left their roles as senior royals, including Sarah Ferguson (who is still called the Duchess of York after divorcing Prince Andrew) and even the former King Edward VIII remained the Duke of Windsor until the day he died despite abdicating his throne. Additionally, as NBC News reported, following Princess Diana and Prince Charles' divorce, "she relinquished the title 'her royal highness'" and was then referred to as Diana, Princess of Wales.
As the royal family moves towards a new relationship with Prince Harry and Markle, they might be simply calling them "the Sussexes" rather than Duke and Duchess. Or perhaps not. I suspect that the newly liberated couple will be fine either way, so long as they're able to make their own mark and "carve out a progressive new role" they hope to create.