Harry and Meghan Have "Different Expectations" of Post-Royal Life

Insiders say the prince wants out of the limelight, but the duchess is still after "A-list stardom."

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry attend The Lion King European Premiere, London, UK in 2019
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There is no question that in giving up their roles as senior members of the royal family, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's lives are about to become very different. While the duke and duchess agree they no longer want to be on display carrying out duties while living in the royal fishbowl, one Palace source says that, judging by the terms of the formal agreement announced by Buckingham Palace, the couple may "have different expectations" about their post-royal life. "It's no secret that Harry has struggled with royal life for a long time and blames the media for the death of his mother. He has longed to be a regular bloke out of the public eye for years," says the insider. "Meghan craves the limelight and shines when she's the center of attention. She isn't going to turn away from the A-list stardom she now has. Given that they are the biggest celebrity couple in the world right now, this could potentially be the source of major conflict between them."

In the immediate aftermath of the Queen's announcement on Jan. 18 that the couple would no longer being carrying out any official engagements representing the Crown (despite what first appeared on Harry and Meghan's official website), it was plainly apparent that Harry and Meghan reacted differently to the news. A beaming and casually dressed Meghan was photographed in Canada visiting two women's charities and was later caught on camera happily walking the couple's two dogs in the woods with baby Archie in tow. Meanwhile, Harry was in London giving an emotional speech about the events at a private dinner for Sentebale, a charity he co-founded in honor of his mother, Princess Diana.

The prince's speech stunned the crowd into silence. "The U.K. is my home and a place that I love. That will never change. I have grown up feeling support from so many of you, and I watched as you welcomed Meghan with open arms as you saw me find the love and happiness that I had hoped for all my life. Finally, the second son of Diana got hitched, hurray!" he told the crowd initially sounding upbeat.

But he went on to reveal the anguish he felt over having to relinquish all his official royal ties. "Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn't possible," he said. "I've accepted this, knowing that it doesn't change who I am or how committed I am. But I hope that helps you understand what it had to come to, that I would step my family back from all I have ever known, to take a step forward into what I hope can be a more peaceful life."

Arthur Edwards, a photographer for The Sun who has covered the royal family for decades and has accompanied them on more than 200 royal tours, appeared on ITV's This Morning the day after Harry delivered his surprisingly candid remarks, offering this assessment: "'From that speech last night, Harry's sadness came over. Harry's sad, the Queen's sad, Prince of Wales is sad, I'm sad, but they're still going ahead with it. The only person that doesn't seem to be sad and seems to be having a good time is Meghan, and I think she has driven this." Edwards said also he doesn't believe Harry "really wants to go," pointing out that, unlike Meghan, "he's not a showbiz person, he's not a media star like that."

My royal source concurs that "royal life is the only thing the prince has ever known and while it is restrictive, it also offered a protection from the outside world that being a celebrity in the States or Canada cannot." The insider continued: "The only way to maintain their high profile, which is so critical to their future success outside the royal family, is to embrace a celebrity lifestyle in North America. Harry will likely have to deal with the press more than ever before and he will become a bigger paparazzi target. That could be the source of great stress and unhappiness."

While Canada is their home for now, some royal watchers expect the Sussexes to wind up spending most of their time in California as their biggest potential opportunities lie within the entertainment industry. Earlier this month, video footage of Harry pitching his wife's talents to director Jon Favreau and Disney CEO Bob Iger while walking the red carpet during the European premiere of The Lion King in July was released. Now, Meghan has reportedly signed a voiceover deal with Disney in return for a donation to an elephant charity.

Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, said he would be interested in speaking to the Sussexes about working together. Speaking at an event in Los Angeles earlier this month, he told the Press Association: "Who wouldn't be interested? Yes, sure."

Harry is already working with Oprah Winfrey on a multi-part documentary series on mental health for Apple TV, set to debut later this year.

There is also the possibility that Meghan could return to acting. Royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith told Vanity Fair that Meghan "really regrets having had to give [her show business career] up" as a working royal, which "didn't compare" to her life as a television actress.

But the Hollywood lifestyle that Meghan loves would not suit Harry in the long run, says Stephen Bates, author of Royalty Inc: Britain's Best-Known Brand. "I can see a lot of parties with Harry standing in the corner and people saying: 'There's the bloke who used to be in the royal family,'" he told The Guardian. Bates says the duke and duchess won't stay hot properties forever. "All this stuff about huge marketing opportunities, and people talking up 'their brand' and how much it will earn them … Obviously their celebrity will carry them so far—but in a year or two's time, what are they going to do?'"

Ultimately, according to my source, the royal family is behind Harry and will do whatever they can to see him happy. "The Queen, the Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Cambridge understand why it is important for Harry to do this," the insider said. "He wants a different life for himself and his wife and child. They want it to work. Everyone is hoping it does not turn into a case of 'be careful what you wish for.'"

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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