Harry and Meghan Signal They May Be Ready to Give Up Their Royal Titles
"It would not surprise me if they announced they were relinquishing their titles," an insider says.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have continued to make news in the wake of their multi-million dollar deal with Netflix. The move—which led to them repaying the British taxpayer-funded renovation costs of Frogmore Cottage and the announcement that they will no longer be financially supported by Prince Charles—signals the couple may be readying to make another major change. According to Palace insiders, Harry and Meghan's next step may be to give up their royal titles completely.
"Everything Harry and Meghan have done and have announced they will do is very clearly distancing themselves from the family," a source told me. "Hollywood and the monarchy do not mix."
As part of their exit agreement formalized earlier this year, Harry and Meghan retained their titles when they stepped down as senior members of the royal family in March, but they agreed not to use their HRH designations. At his first event after they announced their exit, a Travalyst conference in Scotland in February, Prince Harry asked people to "just call me Harry."
However, Meghan was credited as the Duchess of Sussex for the voiceover work she did on the Disney film Elephant, which was released after the couple stepped down but possibly recorded beforehand. In her most recent appearance in an interview with feminist icon Gloria Steinem for Makers Women, which aired in August, Meghan was also referred to as the Duchess of Sussex.
Recently, it was announced that Harry and Meghan are scheduled to make their first post-royal television appearance together on Sept. 22 in a special celebrating the Time 100, the magazine's annual list of the world's most influential people. Eyebrows were raised as it appeared they had chosen not to use their royal titles based on a promotional clip for the show in which they are referred to as simply "Harry and Meghan."
In Britain, some royal commentators have maintained the couple should relinquish their titles. Piers Morgan, cohost of Good Morning Britain, told The Sun, "It's great they paid back the Frogmore money, it's great they're not taking any more of Charles's money, but they've kept the titles." He reasoned: "If you really want to find freedom, and you really want to divorce the country, why would you keep the titles 'Duke and Duchess of Sussex'?"
Morgan has spoken repeatedly about his friendship with Meghan that started on Twitter, but was scuttled immediately after she met Harry. "The only reason Netflix is paying them all this money is because of their royal titles," he added to The Sun. "You think Meghan Markle would have got £1.50 out of them without it?"
The issue of Harry and Meghan's titles will certainly be front and center as Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Prince William reconvene to review the Sussexes' exit agreement in spring 2021, one year after it was finalized. At the time it was first announced, a royal insider told me Harry was "determined to make the Queen proud in his new life."
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The Netflix deal could signal a significant change in the couple's thinking about their agreement in which they reportedly agreed to seek approval of any new commercial ventures when they quit public life. A source told The Sun: "Harry did not inform the Queen about the Netflix deal."
"The surprise Netflix announcement very much mirrors what Harry and Meghan did when chose to announce to the world they were stepping down on Instagram," said a royal insider. "They have their own timeline and play by their own rules. It would not surprise me if they announced they were relinquishing their titles."
That would, of course, preempt any decision the Queen would have to make—something that would have been unthinkable just nine months ago. "The Queen may not have to take away their royal titles," said my source. "They have already landed the deal of a lifetime due, in no small part, to their royal status, so they may walk away from them just as they did with their senior roles within the family. Harry and Meghan are Hollywood royalty now." And for more secrets about this royal couple, check out 3 More Explosive Royal Tell-Alls That Shed New Light on Harry and Meghan.
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.