ARE Harry and Meghan too wee, too poor and too stupid to go it alone? With a combined height of 11 foot seven and a combined wealth of about £40 million, it’s clear they are doing fine in at least two of these respects. But it remains to be seen if their unilateral declaration of independence will prove to be a masterstroke or a miscalculation.

Wednesday night’s curt official response from Buckingham Palace – and a flurry of briefings from anonymous royal sources – have made clear that the Queen did not see this coming. It’s apparent that Harry and Meghan did not write to her requesting permission to vote on whether they should remain “senior” royals, and instead just went ahead and did it.

The National: The Queen in 2018

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Clearly it wasn’t worth the risk that Her Majesty would reply saying “now is not the time”, or that she was a bit busy with other things but would reply in due course to a 38-page document setting out the reasons why the couple should be free to choose their own path. It is believed the turnout was 100% (reports that Archie had a proxy vote are unconfirmed), the question on the ballot paper was “Would you like the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to be independent?” and the result was a resounding Yes. So that’s that.

Or is it?

The couple may have tendered their resignations, but it’s unlikely they’ll be able to make the clean break their breezy 200-word announcement suggests. It’s also unlikely they’ll manage to keep control of the narrative about what “financial independence” really means when you have inherited millions, are still accepting an allowance from dad well into your thirties, and are classified by the Home Office as internationally protected people who require six full-time bodyguards.

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That said, what is the alternative? Surely Harry has the right to quit this archaic institution, especially given that Prince Andrew “stepped back” from his own royal duties just weeks ago. Being a public prince is not technically a job, and surely the Queen cannot actually compel her grandson to serve her. It’s been less than five years since she gave royal assent to the Modern Slavery Act.

Yes, Harry has lived a life of material privilege and will continue to do so, but he didn’t ask to be born a prince and even geese that lay golden eggs are entitled to protection in the UK under animal welfare legislation. By now surely most of the British public are buying free-range, so can they really object to Harry spreading his wings? It seems some of those who are angriest at the couple view the royals not as human beings but as investments, who deserves a lavish lifestyle only if they provides a decent return for the rest of their lives and subject themselves to the full glare of press scrutiny.

The National: Prince Harry is expected to return to Africa

The Daily Mail yesterday quoted an “exasperated aide” as saying that staff had bent over backwards to give the couple everything. “They were given the wedding they wanted, the house they wanted, the office they wanted, the money they wanted, the staff they wanted, the tours they wanted and had the backing of their family. What more did they want?”

Hmm, I don’t know – freedom, perhaps? Control over their own lives? It’s perhaps easy for mere subjects to take that for granted, especially if, say, they fritter away much of their own free time reading streams of mindless drivel about how Meghan Markle is curtseying wrong, dressing wrong, touching her bump too much, talking too much, being “too much”, brainwashing Harry, destroying the monarchy and looking far too smug about it.

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Many believe the couple’s plan to earn their own income while still “honouring [their] duty to The Queen” amounts to having their cake and eating it, as this will necessitate them being funded to jet around the world attending banquets and suchlike. But perhaps that lifestyle isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and money doesn’t actually buy happiness. The official response from Buckingham Palace roughly translates as “not so fast, you two”: “Discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”

Harry and Meghan appear to believe they have already worked through all of the necessary details, as they have published full descriptions of their new lives on their official website. Talk about self-determination. Not for this pair the long, drawn-out process of negotiating a new relationship with the rest of the family. Not for them the mere promise of an oven-ready deal – they’d already cooked it and started eating it by the time Britain’s most repugnant columnists had the chance to start hammering at their keyboards in fury.

If this is Harry’s attempt to protect his young family from press intrusion (an understandable desire for anyone, but especially for him) it’s unlikely to be successful in the short term, at least. But any path to independence is bound to have a few bumps – that’s no reason to stay locked forever in a relationship that just isn’t working any more.