WORLD NEWS

The Firm: Britain’s Royal ‘Institution’ Explained

Mar 8, 2021, 9:03 AM
Sometimes referred to as "the Firm," the monarchy works like a public body or government department...
Sometimes referred to as "the Firm," the monarchy works like a public body or government department, albeit one that is completely independent.

Oprah Winfrey’s bombshell interview with Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex has caused shockwaves, with the couple accusing the royal “institution” of failing to protect them when they needed it most.

But what is this institution, and how does it operate?

Sometimes referred to as “the Firm,” the monarchy works like a public body or government department, albeit one that is completely independent.

At its head is the Queen, and below her comes a strict hierarchy based on the line of succession. At present that runs down from Prince Charles to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge; his children George, Charlotte and Louis; and then Prince Harry.

There are also thousands of people working behind the scenes to keep the royal household running smoothly. These employees are spread over five main departments, including the Private Secretary’s Office, which oversees constitutional matters, and the Privy Purse and Treasurer’s Office, which looks after finance, human resources and IT.

During the interview, Meghan herself drew a line between the members of the royal family and the household staff.

“So, there’s the family, and then there’s the people that are running the institution,” she told Oprah. “Those are two separate things. And it’s important to be able to compartmentalize that, because the Queen, for example, has always been wonderful to me.”

In one instance, Meghan said, she appealed to a senior staff member and the palace’s human resource department for support with her mental health. She was told that as a member of the royal family, rather than a paid employee of the institution, she wasn’t eligible for the department’s help.

While the senior royals aren’t on the household payroll, the Queen leans on them to represent her because she can’t do everything herself. In return, they can access public funds known as the sovereign grant, which is paid to the monarch for his or her role as head of state and head of nation.

Prior to their decision to “step down” the Sussexes were part of this group, but due to the hierarchy their role was essentially to support the Cambridges.

The hierarchy also meant their household office was smaller than that of the Cambridges or Prince Charles, offering less support.

But receiving any money from the sovereign grant means the royals have to be publicly accountable for public funds and can’t make money from their name.

They have to remain politically and commercially independent, avoiding any conflict of interest.

Taking a royal position means there are compromises on personal freedom, as members of the family represent the crown, not just themselves.

In a bid to enjoy greater freedom, Harry and Meghan wanted to become minor royals, who have no access to taxpayers’ money — but their plans raised serious issues.

The couple had a parallel, independent office in the US, where the palace had no oversight over the projects they were working on. This created tension with the “institution” referred to by the pair, who ultimately decided to end their royal duties entirely.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

World News

This court-sketch made on Monday shows defendant Salah Abdeslam (right) standing next to the 13 oth...
Xiaofei Xu, CNN and Reuters

Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam sentenced to life in prison without parole

Salah Abdeslam, who is believed to be only surviving member of the group that carried out a series of deadly gun-and-bomb attacks across Paris in November 2015, was found guilty on Wednesday and handed France's harshest sentence — life without the possibility of parole.
1 day ago
For the first time ever, economy class passengers are going to have the option of stretching out fo...
Karla Cripps, CNN

Airline reveals ‘Skynest’ bunk beds for economy class passengers

For the first time ever, economy class passengers are going to have the option of stretching out for some sleep on actual beds during their flights.
1 day ago
US President Joe Biden, speaks with Jens Stoltenberg (unseen) NATO Secretaty General at the NATO le...
DARLENE SUPERVILLE and ZEKE MILLER, Associated Press

US to boost military presence in Europe for Russia threat

President Joe Biden says the U.S. is enhancing its military presence in Europe for the long haul to bolster regional security after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
1 day ago
(Ukraine State Services/Twitter)...
YURAS KARMANAU and FRANCESCA EBEL, Associated Press

Ukrainian officials say at least 2 dead as missile hits mall

Ukrainian officials say scores of civilians are feared killed or injured after a Russian rocket strike hit a crowded shopping mall in the central city of Kremenchuk.
3 days ago
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds the closing press conference at NATO headquarters dur...
SAMUEL PETREQUIN, Associated Press

NATO to boost rapid reaction force, Ukraine military support

NATO chief says alliance aims to boost rapid reaction force numbers from the current 40,000 to over 300,000.
3 days ago
(Gustavo Petro/El Espinal via CNN)...
Associated Press

4 killed when stands collapse during Colombian bullfight

Part of the wooden stands have collapsed during a bullfight in central Colombia, sending spectators plunging to the ground and killing at least four people and injuring hundreds.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
The Firm: Britain’s Royal ‘Institution’ Explained