Lead data journalist

Public attitudes towards the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have worsened as a result of their attempt to step back from royal duties

In a news event to rival a potential war between America and Iran – according to the level of coverage in the British media at least – the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced last week that they would be “stepping back” from their roles in the Royal Family.

New YouGov data commissioned by The Sun on Sunday uncovers the public’s take on the whole affair.

While the public tend to support the couple’s decision – approaching half of Britons (46%) back it compared to only 27% who oppose it – this does not seem to indicate support for the couple themselves, with attitudes towards them becoming more hostile in recent days.

The number of Brits with a favourable opinion of Prince Harry has fallen from 71% at the beginning of October last year to 55% now. Attitudes towards Meghan, always less favourable than those of her royal contemporaries, have fallen as well. In October Britons liked her by 55% to 35% - now she is disliked by 49% to 38%.

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By way of comparison, Prince William and his wife Catherine are liked by 79% and 70% of the public respectively, figures largely unchanged over the same time period.

Part of the press outrage over the story was the couple’s decision not to give the Queen advance warning of their intentions. The Queen certainly does appear to be the real victim of the saga according to the British public. Fully 57% say the Sussexes have not treated Her Majesty fairly, while 62% express “a lot” or “a fair amount” of sympathy with her over her plight. (By contrast, only 33% expressed the same level of sympathy with Harry and Meghan for their decision).

No more perks for Sussexes, say Brits

While the couple have expressed their desire to step back from their royal duties, many have complained that they seem unwilling to relinquish the benefits of being members of Britain’s monarchy – most notably Frogmore Cottage, a large royal property near Windsor that was recently renovated at a cost of £2.4million.

The public are distinctly unwilling to allow this:

  • 81% think Harry and Meghan should not receive any more financial support from public money;
  • 67% think they should not continue to receive an income from the Duchy of Cornwall;
  • 66% think the government should no longer fund the cost of the Sussex family’s security;
  • 56% say they should no longer be allowed to live at Frogmore Cottage;
  • 46% say they should even be stripped of their royal titles (a figure 12 points higher than the 34% who think they should be allowed to keep them).

Many Brits feel the press treat Harry and Meghan unfairly

The hostility of the British press to the Sussexes’ decision will come as no surprise to many Britons.

In a survey conducted in August last year, 44% of Britons said that the press’s treatment of Harry and Meghan is overly critical. Only 23% believe it to be fair and balanced, with a further 9% considering it overly favourable.

That it is Meghan coming in for such critical treatment too will be unsurprising – a further survey found that 39% think she is the royal treated least favourably by the media, a score far higher than any other royal (Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall came a distant second on 8%).

Photo: Getty

See the full results here and here

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