Are they quitting, or are they getting pushed out? Only their servant’s hairdressers know for sure. Earlier today, the reality show known as The Windsors offered up a new plot twist, in which a prince and princess make their dreams of commonerhood come true.

Well, pretend commonerhood, anyway:

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“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.” – The Duke and Duchess of Sussex For more information, please visit sussexroyal.com (link in bio) Image © PA

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Even those with little interest in monarchical drama have heard enough to suspect that this might not be entirely voluntary. Rumors of a rift between Harry and his older brother William have only gotten louder, and Harry’s public remarks have appeared to confirm it. The Queen neglected to include a picture of the couple on her desk in her video Christmas message to the kingdom, which also prompted talk of a rift within the House of Windsor.

All of this seems rather contrived anyway, or perhaps better put, more contrived than the usual pomp and drama surrounding the family. What in the world does it mean to stop being “senior members” of the family? Elizabeth, Philip, and Charles are the “senior members,” followed by Charles’ siblings, and William is a step behind that as the heir presumptive. Technically, William’s children are more “senior” than Harry or especially Meghan. One might well wonder if that’s not one reason why the Sussexes are Suss-exiting.

It certainly seems to be their initiative, though:

The Sun reported that Harry’s father and his brother — the heirs apparent and presumptive, respectively — are “incandescent with rage” over the announcement:

A senior source said: “Their statement was not cleared with anyone. It breaks all protocol. This is a declaration of war on the family.

“There is fury over how they’ve done this without any thought for the implications for the institution. The Queen is deeply upset. The Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge are incandescent with rage.

“Courtiers can’t believe it. There are so many unanswered questions but they’ve just up and done it without a thought for anyone else.

“The plan was for there to discuss it and work out a way that works for everyone in the family.”

Supposedly this is “civil war,” only without all that “my kingdom for a horse” stuff and crowns left in the thornbushes. What this monarchy really needs is a Lancaster/York/Tudor vibe. Or at least a better publicist.

Regardless, this changes very little. Even if the pair do decamp for “North America” (Canada, most likely), they will still be members of the royal family. The media will still camp out at their doorstep, with the only change likely to be more engagement rather than less. After all, what precisely are the skills they will employ to make themselves more “financially independent”? Meghan was an actor, and Harry was … a royal. Not a whole lotta market value in that, as it’s a very niche business. Unless Harry plans on becoming a full-time traffic helicopter pilot (his task in the British military), “financially independent” is probably going to mean either media-related projects that trade on their royal status or some financial investment from Grandmama. And at the moment, Grandmama doesn’t seem to be in the mood.

To be fair, though, this isn’t a bad time to get some distance from the “senior members” of the family. His uncle Andrew was pushed out after embarrassing the family in attempting to explain away his connection to Jeffrey Epstein, an association that won’t help Harry’s commercial prospects here in the New World. The Sussexes were already on the Queen’s we-are-not-amused list anyway, and perhaps an absence will make the monarchical heart grow fonder. After this stunt, they only have one way to go on that score, it seems.