Because the perks of being a royal are so public—throngs of well-wishers, an extensive family jewelry collection, and if you’re lucky, a home and title gifted by Queen Elizabeth herself—it came as a surprise to many that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were willing to give it all up when they announced their royal exit in January 2020.
But to Robert Hazell, a constitutional scholar at University College London and the coeditor of The Role of Monarchy in Modern Democracy, the move made plenty of sense. Near the end of 2019, he had just finished writing a chapter of his book exploring how the restrictions placed upon members of the European royal family could be interpreted as violations of their human rights. “I wrote that it’s very surprising, given the loss of freedom, that none of the minor royals has opted out,” he said in a recent phone interview. “At the time I wrote that chapter, it was towards the end of 2019, and you know what happened three months later.”
Even when Harry told Oprah Winfrey that his brother Prince William and father Prince Charles are “trapped” within the monarchy, Hazell was not surprised. “Royals have no freedom of speech, and the others accept that,” he said. “Harry was quite right when he described the other members of the royal family as trapped. They’re trapped in a system which allows them very, very little freedom.”
It makes sense that the monarch, who works closely with prime ministers of various parties, might…