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The Potential Upside of Meghan Markle’s Self-Imposed Exile

January 9, 2020, 1:18 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Women are the leads in more movies than ever, McDonald’s gets sued, and Meghan and Harry embark on a self-imposed exile. Have a terrific Thursday. 

EVERYONE'S TALKING

- Meghxit. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shook up the House of Windsor yesterday by announcing they would step back from their roles as ‘senior’ members of the royal family. They plan to split their time between the U.K. and North America, the place of Meghan’s birth. 

The announcement caps a tumultuous period for the couple, who welcomed their first child Archie eight months ago and have engaged in battle with the U.K. tabloid press.

“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year to carve out a progressive new role within this institution,” the couple said in a post on Instagram. “It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment.”

The self-imposed exile is considered unprecedented for the royal family, but it’s not wholly surprising given the rumors of rising tension between the couple and their closest relatives. Reports suggest the Duke and Duchess didn't give other members of the royal family a head's up. Buckingham Palace issued a frosty statement calling the decision "early stage" and saying that there are still a lot of details to figure out.

An especially interesting tidbit from the couple’s statement is their aim to become financially independent. In that regard, I, for one, am looking forward to the relaunch of The Tig, Meghan’s defunct lifestyle blog, which was likely ahead of its time.

Putting aside the jokes and can’t-look-away family drama, the announcement further cements Meghan’s status as an independent force within an institution defined by protocol. Of course, her background—an American, raised in California by her black mother—sets her apart from the rest of the monarchy, but so too has her emotional, open demeanor and subtle nods to female empowerment. She’s reportedly hugged the guards at Buckingham Palace despite being told not to; "I’m American. I hug,” she said. She described herself as a feminist in her official royal biography. She’s talked frankly about taboo topics like menstruation, and then there was The Wedding. The question now is whether the distance from Buckingham Palace will further embolden her public persona. Her enormous platform is unlikely to shrink, but perhaps the restraints of ‘senior’ royal life will.

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

Today's Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Pelosi's vote on power. The House of Representatives is set to vote today on a war powers resolution to limit President Trump's military actions in Iran. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, the freshman Democrat and former CIA analyst, authored the resolution. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted in her statement announcing the vote that Trump ordered the Iran strike without consulting Congress. NBC News

- Leading ladies. More movies than ever—40%—featured female lead characters last year. The milestone for female protagonists can likely be credited to an increase in women working as writers and directors; films with women in those behind-the-scenes roles were far more likely to feature female protagonists. Sixty-eight percent of female lead characters, however, were white. Guardian

- Short-form details. Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg revealed more details about their shortform video platform Quibi at the Consumer Electronics Show. The service will launch April 6, offer more than 175 original shows in its first year, release new content every weekday, and cost $4.99 a month with ads or $7.99 a month without. CNBC

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: McDonald's named SVP, corporate strategy and business development Lucy Brady to the new role of chief digital customer engagement officer. Lululemon named Uber's Nikki Neuburger chief brand officer. NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker will become co-anchor of Weekend TODAY, replacing Sheinelle Jones. Healthcare investment bank SVB Leerink hired Stephanie Davis Demko of Citibank as managing director and senior research analyst to cover healthcare technology and distribution. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Spon con.Teen Vogue story featuring female employees at Facebook ignited a controversy yesterday. The laudatory piece was headlined "How Facebook Is Helping Ensure the Integrity of the 2020 Election"—despite ongoing concerns about effects of the social network on elections. Some suspected the story was a piece of sponsored content paid for by Facebook; it was eventually labeled as such, then had that label removed, then was taken down. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg shared (then deleted) the story on her own Facebook page, praising the "five incredible women protecting elections on Facebook." Teen Vogue parent Condé Nast, apologized for the "confusion" but did not elaborate. Business Insider  

- Une fête gone wrong. A new focus of the Carlos Ghosn story: his wife Carole Ghosn's 50th birthday party at Versailles in 2016. Ghosn's use of the palace is under investigation in France because the venue receives financial support from his former employer, Renault SA. Ghosn defended throwing the party there in his press conference yesterday. Bloomberg

- Discriminatory demotions? McDonald's Dallas-based senior directors Vicki Guster-Hines and Domineca Neal sued the company this week, alleging that they were demoted because of "discrimination and an allegedly hostile climate for black executives and franchisees." They say racial discrimination intensified in 2015 after new executives, including recently ousted CEO Steve Easterbrook, joined the company. McDonald's reduced the number of officer-level positions in an overall restructuring, and a spokesperson told the WSJ that "45% of the company’s corporate officers are people of color, along with all of its 10 U.S. field vice presidents." Wall Street Journal 

- Complicated romance. The Romance Writers of America trade group is in chaos after a writer criticized a 1999 romance novel as racist, prompting that book's author to file a complaint. Many other writers then objected to how the RWA handled the situation, dropping out of the group's annual awards in protest. Romance publishing is a billion-dollar industry; this story has a good rundown of the complicated situation with many players: Washington Post

ON MY RADAR

Inside the Miami wedding of soccer stars Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris Vogue

Lizzo makes history as the first woman to headline Bonnaroo Teen Vogue 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg declares she’s ‘cancer free’ Washington Post

QUOTE

"I feel like I was supposed to go through everything I’ve gone through."

-Selena Gomez in a WSJ. Magazine profile