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Lessons for Meghxit: How Europe's royals mix work and duties

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Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima wave from the balcony of royal palace Noordeinde in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019
Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima wave from the balcony of royal palace Noordeinde in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019   -  
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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's' decision to 'step away' from the royal family has raised eyebrows in the UK, but other European countries are no stranger to having working royals.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander, for example, is a pilot.

The Sussexes could look to Europe for examples of how princes and princesses have tried to carve out careers away from their royal duties -- with varying degrees of success.

From the Netherlands to Spain, here are some experiences that could offer them up a few lessons.

The Netherlands

Dutch King Willem-Alexander has a full-time job as his country's monarch, but he still finds time to fly KLM passenger jets to rack up enough hours in the cockpit to keep his pilot's license.

Willem-Alexander's wife Maxima, an Argentine by birth, has plenty of royal duties but also acts as the UN Secretary-General's Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, promoting microcredit and other initiatives around the world.

AP Photo/Jason DeCrow
Queen Maxima of the Netherlands is joined by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2019AP Photo/Jason DeCrowJason DeCrow

But even the rock-steady Dutch royal family has hit turbulence in the past over business dealings. Willem-Alexander's late grandfather, Prince Bernhard, resigned from official functions over his alleged role in a bribery scandal involving plane maker Lockheed.

Belgium

Prince Laurent, the brother of Belgium's King Philippe, has long struggled with his royal role and obligations that come with his annual taxpayer-funded endowment.

In an emotional 2018 letter, Laurent wrote that since his youth ''my existence was at the service of my brother, my family and the state. I could not work as I pleased or develop projects which could have given me some independence.''

The letter didn't prevent the Belgian House of Representatives docking his annual endowment of around 300,000 euros by 46,000 euros after he showed up at a Chinese diplomatic function in military uniform without the consent of the government.

Norway

Princess Martha Louise, the oldest of King Harald's children and fourth in line to the throne, gave up the ''Royal highness'' part of her title in 2002 when she married Norwegian writer Ari Behn.

Lise Aserud/NTB Scanpix via AP, File
Norway`s Princess Märtha Louise in the sulky during her exam race to become a lisenced trotting driver. The race took place in Oslo, 23 August, 2018.Lise Aserud/NTB Scanpix via AP, FileLise Aserud

Martha renounced the title saying she wanted the freedom to pursue private interests, including running a cultural and arts business and appearing on television and in the theatre.

After her divorce from her husband of 14 years, she and her new American boyfriend, Durek Verrett, organised seminars called The Princess and the Shaman.''

However, after hefty criticism, she apologised and said she would drop her royal title in future work endeavours.

Sweden

When Christopher O'Neill, a British-American, married Sweden's Princess Madeleine in 2013, he declined a royal title so he could continue to work as a financier.

Madeleine the youngest of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia's three children and fourth in line to the throne performs royal duties and works with non-profit foundations.

Anders Wiklund/TT News Agency via AP
In this Oct. 11, 2015 file photo, Sweden's Princess Madeleine and Christopher O'Neill pose with their son Prince NicolasAnders Wiklund/TT News Agency via AP

He appears alongside the royal family at major occasions. The couple and their three children, who all have royal titles and are in direct line to the throne, have since moved to Florida.

Spain

Members of Spain's royal family hold down many honorary jobs, but only Princess Cristina and her now-imprisoned husband were known to be active in the private sector.

Cristina has worked for Spain's Caixa bank foundation and the Aga Khan trust. But husband Inaki Urdangarin, King Felipe VI's brother-in-law, was convicted and sentenced in 2016 for using a non-profit institution he co-ran to embezzle about 6 million euros of public funds.

A court found that Urdangarin and his business partner exploited the duke's privileged status to obtain public contracts related to sports events. In the midst of it all, Cristina and Urdangarin were removed as official royal family members. Cristina was acquitted of any criminal responsibility but her summons was a first for the then King Juan Carlos' immediate family.

The probes seriously damaged the image of the king, especially as the investigations coincided with a severe economic crisis that widened the gap between rich and poor.

United Kingdom

Closer to home for Harry and Meghan, British royals have in the past tried to pursue professional careers with varying degrees of success.

Prince Edward, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II, launched in 1993 a TV production firm called Ardent that was eventually dissolved in September 2011 after years of mediocrity. Much of its output dealt with the royal family and its history.

His wife, Sophie, tried to keep her established public relations firm going after she married Edward in 1999, but she was embarrassed two years later by an undercover reporter pretending to be a wealthy sheikh interested in doing business with her firm. In response, she hinted that the prospective client would get greater publicity because of her royal status.

Edward and Sophie have both concentrated on full-time royal duties in recent years rather than pursue private business interests.

What do you think?

Euronews asked its readers across Europe what their take was about how much (or how little) work their royals should do outside of their official duties.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's' decision to 'step away' from the royal family has raised eyebrows in the UK, but other...

Publiée par Euronews English sur Mardi 14 janvier 2020

Some users argued that Harry and Meghan were free to do whatever they wanted as long as it didn't cost taxpayers money.

''If we can help them escaping their 'terrible life condition', why not. But asking middle-class hard working [people] to pay for the necessary security is not something they should accept if offered by the Canadian government,'' said Facebook user Frank Langsfeld.

''Royals DO work outside of official duties. There are lots of them in this family. And they make actual MONEY from working, like normal people too. There are lots of people in this family who work and also represent the Queen. You CAN have it both ways,'' wrote Amy Winstone.

Meanwhile, many other users said they didn't care how much their royals worked or not and criticised the level of media attention received by the so-called "Meghxit."

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