A centuries-old institution survives not only through the accumulated weight of tradition, but through the ability to make sharp adjustments to its course when it finally realises it must. The British monarchy, by temperament a tortoise, has just put on a turn of speed again. Saturday’s statements from the Queen and the Sussexes will not halt the storm surrounding the couple, but are designed to let the worst of the tempest abate.
Less than two weeks before, Prince Harry and Meghan had announced their untenable desire to partially step back, operating half-in and half-out of the institution. Instead, they will effectively stand down, giving up royal duties and relinquishing their share of the sovereign grant from the Treasury. They will also repay the £2.4m public funds used to refurbish their Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage. In a classic establishment compromise, they will keep the right to be styled HRH on the understanding that they will not exercise it. In theory, this retention would allow them to return as working royals should they change their minds. But while the arrangements are due for review in a year, the deal looks more like a decree nisi than a trial separation.