Yesterday’s P45 from Buckingham Palace may have made it very clear where the future of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex lies: outside the royal orbit. But, as ever when it comes to the Sussexes, with clarity come yet more questions
Yesterday’s P45 from Buckingham Palace may have made it very clear where the future of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex lies: outside the royal orbit.
But, as ever when it comes to the Sussexes, with clarity come yet more questions.
Will Harry ever wear those hard-earned military uniforms again? No (old soldiers do not wear uniform unless they have an honorary rank; he does not).
Where does he remain in the royal pecking order? In the same place he was last week — sixth-in-line. There are no constitutional loose ends.
And while some may point to similarities between Harry and his great-great uncle, the Duke of Windsor — who abandoned royal duties 85 years ago — these simply do not stack up.
But what are we now supposed to call the couple? Here things become rather more confused.
For you need only look at the plethora of global news reports yesterday to see that no one has the faintest idea. Harry/Meghan/Prince/Markle — take your pick.
The couple have let it be known that they do not wish to be called ‘HRH’, though they still retain that royal style (it is a style not a title).
Though they call themselves ‘Duke and Duchess of Sussex’, they seem happy enough to use ‘Harry’ and ‘Meghan’ in other communications.
Yesterday, their short statement informed us that they are committed to ‘duty and service’, adding, pointedly, ‘regardless of official role’. The subtext was clear enough: ‘We don’t need a royal title to continue doing what we’re doing.’
In which case, many will say, why on earth are they still clinging to their royal status at all? And why has the Queen not removed it?
It was the Queen who created her grandson Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel on his wedding day in 2018.
If she took the dukedom away again, he would revert to being HRH Prince Henry of Wales and the Duchess would become HRH Princess Henry of Wales.
Out in California, where the Sussexes are building their new life, it might be considered much grander to be a prince and princess anyway.
Indeed, many people in Britain find it odd that having grown to know and love ‘Prince Harry’ for all those years, he suddenly morphed into a mere duke on his wedding day. Such are the intricacies of royal nomenclature.
Like Harry, the Duke of Windsor married an American divorcee and left the country, he was going into a life of self-imposed exile. He had renounced the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, a woman whom the state and the public would not accept as Queen
So why are they still HRH — even if they don’t use it? This is down to Letters Patent issued by George V in 1917 when he laid down new rules on who should or should not be royal.
He ruled that the son of the son of a monarch is ‘HRH’ — and so (by convention) is his spouse. Monarchs can always change the rules again.
The Queen issued fresh Letters Patent in 1996 to remove ‘HRH’ from those who had acquired it on marrying into the family — and who then got divorced (namely, the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of York).
It was not an act of spite (Diana had already volunteered to lose her ‘HRH’ style anyway) but of principle. Royal status acquired on marriage would disappear if that marriage was dissolved.
So the Queen could do it again. To strip Harry and Meghan of ‘HRH’, however, really would be seen as an act of spite because it would be removing Harry’s birthright.
He was born royal and remains, as the Palace stressed yesterday, a ‘much loved member of the family’. And such a move would stir up unwanted memories of the former King Edward VIII.
Though, like Harry, the Duke of Windsor married an American divorcee and left the country, he was going into a life of self-imposed exile. He had renounced the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, a woman whom the state and the public would not accept as Queen.
By contrast, everyone was delighted when Harry married Meghan on that magical day nearly three years ago. Their subsequent career path has been one entirely of their own design — and there is nothing to stop them coming back again whenever they choose.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor would spend the rest of their lives feeling deeply resentful towards the rest of the Royal Family. Two issues, in particular, became festering sores. One was money (though the Duke had secured a small fortune for himself when he abdicated) and the other was the Duchess’s royal status.
In 1937, King George VI issued new Letters Patent allowing his elder brother to style himself ‘HRH’ but forbidding the duchess or any subsequent children (there were none) from doing the same. It rankled for the rest of their lives.
Since Harry and Meghan don’t use their ‘HRH’ handle, it is hardly an issue. Removing it would stir up a battle that the Queen neither needs nor wants and it would be even more painful for the Prince of Wales.
He adores his younger son and would dearly like to see more of him and his young family, not less. However, I can see it becoming more and more of an issue as the couple branch out in fresh directions — starting with next month’s Oprah Winfrey interview.
That will be followed, soon enough, by Netflix productions, Spotify podcasts and assorted other projects under their new ‘Archewell’ brand.
Everyone was delighted when Harry married Meghan on that magical day nearly three years ago. Their subsequent career path has been one entirely of their own design — and there is nothing to stop them coming back again whenever they choose
The couple have lost all their royal patronages — including those Forces and Commonwealth appointments that meant a great deal to the Queen (they were the only other royal names on the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, one of her great legacy projects). In time, the same question will be asked by more members of the public: if they are no longer royal, then why are they still royal?
The Sussexes could, of course, ask the Queen to take away their royal status. For now, as they continue to issue statements as ‘Duke and Duchess’ that seems unlikely.
So, this curious limbo status continues thanks to a system that may seem strange and arcane in the funky Californian milieu that they now inhabit.
But are royal titles any weirder than the stated aims of the Sussexes in their new life?
‘At Archewell, we unleash the power of compassion to drive systemic cultural change,’ says their new ‘mission’ statement. ‘We do this through our non-profit work within Archewell Foundation 501(c)(3), in addition to creative activations through the business verticals of audio and production.’
It’s enough to make Letters Patent look as easy as ABC.