The Surprising Reasons Harry & Meghan Won't Lose Their Titles, Say Insiders
"Harry and Meghan hold most of the cards at the moment, and they know that," a source said.
Ever since Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan made their bombshell announcement in January of last year that they were stepping back from their senior royal duties and leaving the U.K., calls from Brits for the couple to be stripped of their titles have grown louder and louder. In their very first post-Megxit statement, the Sussexes claimed they were well within their rights to continue their use of the word "royal" in their branding. Over the course of the past year and half, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have held nothing back in telling their side of the story.
While some of Harry and Meghan's comments have been targeted toward a specific person—like Harry's recent stunning criticism of his father's parenting, saying Prince Charles passed down generational "genetic pain and suffering" to him—other remarks, like the allegation that an unnamed family member questioned the color of their yet-to-be-born son's skin, have rocked the monarchy as a whole to its very core. "These unproven allegations of racism and cruelty have been tremendously damaging to the Royal Family," one Palace insider told Best Life. "For many Britons, it has raised questions about the relevance and longevity of the institution. It has risen to the level of a true crisis."
Yet, Queen Elizabeth has shown no indication that she has any intention to remove Harry and Meghan's duke and duchess titles or their HRH styling. Read on to find out the surprising reasons the Royal Family may be reluctant to strip the Sussexes of their royal monikers.
Harry's anger towards the family has become "dangerous," said one insider.
Royal biographer Angela Levin, who wrote 2018's Harry: Conversations With the Prince with Harry's full cooperation, has been carefully watching the changes in Harry since leaving England. Appearing on The Andrew Pierce Show earlier this month, the royal expert went so far as to say (via Express), "I think he wants to destroy the monarchy. I really believe that. I think he will go on and on." Levin cited Harry's participation in "all sorts of television programs" and the now infamous Armchair Expert podcast that have drawn overwhelming interest in the prince because he is "making horrible comments that everybody will watch," she said.
"It's become a dangerous situation for the Royal Family," one insider told Best Life. "If Harry has chosen to speak out as he has up until now, it's inconceivable to imagine what he might do or say if he and Meghan are stripped of their titles, totally cut off by the family and out for revenge. The Queen must be weighing that in deciding what, if anything, she'll do now."
There is concern over Harry using dark moments in the royals' history for "commercial reasons."
His new Apple TV+ series on mental health, The Me You Can't See, which Harry co-produced with Oprah Winfrey, seems to have been a turning point in the prince's very public battle with his family. As he has done several times before, Harry revisited the emotional trauma he said he suffered after the death of his mother, Princess Diana, when he was just 12 years old. But this time, as a co-producer of the series, he allowed footage from the funeral showing the heartbreaking image of himself with Prince Charles, Prince William, his uncle Charles, Earl Spencer, and his grandfather Prince Philip walking behind Diana's coffin to be used on the program, causing some critics to accuse Harry of "cashing in" on Diana's death.
"If Harry is willing to use images from one of the most traumatic events ever suffered by the Royal Family and the Spencers—most especially by his own brother—for commercial reasons and seemingly without thought to what that could do to their state of mind, what's next?" one source wondered. "Palace aides find all of this deeply distasteful and worry about what all of this has done and will continue to do to the Royal Family as he continues to mine his own family for content."
Support among young Britons for the monarchy is dwindling and stripping Harry and Meghan of their titles could affect that further.
A May 21 YouGov U.K. survey found that nearly half of 18- to 24-year-old Britons polled would prefer a democratically elected head of state over a monarchy. Less than a third (31 percent) reported they want to see the monarchy continue.
According to YouGov polls tracking support for the Royal Family in recent years, the numbers among young Britons have been on a precipitous decline since 2019, while their preference for an elected head of state has risen 15 percent in two years.
"The Royal Family is in a no-win situation at the moment," said a source. "While the calls to cut Harry and Meghan out of the family entirely have increased among older Britons, the young people, whose support the monarchy needs to survive, aren't ardent monarchists and many still support the Sussexes. If the Queen were to strip them of their titles, it would satisfy people who already view the Institution favorably, but could turn a critically important part of the population against the Institution entirely. Despite every outrageous thing they have done, Harry and Meghan hold most of the cards at the moment, and they know that."
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There is no constitutional precedent for removing Harry and Meghan's titles.
British academic Iain MacMarthanne told Express that despite the current "feeding frenzy" calling for the removal of Harry and Meghan's titles, "there is no modern precedent for such a move." He explained that "within the context of present circumstances, Prince Harry was born an HRH and prince, and there is no modern precedent for someone born as such being stripped of these styles and titles."
MacMarthanne continued: "The Sussex peerage is a hereditary creation and was given as a gift by the Queen. Similarly, as with royal styles and titles, there is no modern precedent for the forfeiture of a royal peerage." But, he also said, "There are however historic exceptions where both have occurred and as such alternative precedents have been established, but these have been exceptional: where the individuals concerned were considered enemies of the state, such as in 1917, resulting in George V stripping German relations of their British royal titles and peerages through Letters Patent; and where a person of royal birth voluntarily relinquished their titles, again being given effect through Letters Patent, as in the case of HRH Princess Patricia of Connaught when she married."
While the Queen could still remove the couples' royal status if the situation was deemed "necessary," ironically, the most likely way Harry and Meghan would lose their Sussex titles would be if they chose to give them up. Removing Harry and his children from the line of succession would require an act of parliament.
Losing her "duchess" title could make Meghan a "princess."
Meghan received her titles through her marriage to Harry and if he were to renounce his dukedom, she would no longer be a duchess. But that would not mean she'd receive an obvious demotion in status. According to MacMarthanne, "if Prince Harry were to renounce his peerage, Meghan would no longer be the Duchess of Sussex and would instead be known as HRH Princess Henry of Wales and subsequently, HRH The Princess Henry." Because Meghan holds courtesy titles through marriage, she would not be formally known as Princess Meghan.
"Diana was never formally 'Princess Diana,' she was Diana, Princess of Wales, but that meant little to the rest of the world who called her 'Princess Diana' from the moment she married Charles," said an insider. "The same would be true of Meghan. She's already considered an 'American Princess' in the States, so the title change would only add further glamour to her image when she is fully outside the royal circle. We all know how well that turned out the last time. It's unlikely the Royal Family will want to go down that road again."