When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle revealed this Valentine's Day that they were expecting a second baby, it raised a host of questions for royal watchers—not least among them, whether the newest royal baby will hold the title of an HRH.
This query became even more salient after Harry and Meghan's primetime interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which Meghan claimed that—contrary to the widely held belief that the Sussexes had chosen to forgo a title for their first born, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor—it was the Firm (the institution of the royal family) that hadn't wanted Archie to have a title.
While the Duchess of Sussex was pregnant with Archie, "they were saying they didn't want him to be a Prince or Princess, which would be different from protocol, and that he wasn't going to receive security," Meghan said. She added, "This went on for the last few months of our pregnancy where I was going, hold on for a second."
She explained that her primary concern was for her child's security. "They said [he's not going to get security], because he's not going to be a Prince. Okay, well, he needs to be safe so we're not saying don't make him a Prince or Princess, but if you're saying the title is what's going to affect that protection, we haven't created this monster machine around us in terms of clickbait and tabloid fodder you've allowed that to happen which means our son needs to be safe."
As the rules are now, Archie was eligible to use Harry's subsidiary title, the Earl of Dumbarton, from birth—and once Prince Charles became King, Archie would have automatically become a Prince. But, Meghan said, "Even with that convention [that automatically makes all grandchildren of the monarch a prince or princess], they said, 'I want to change the convention for Archie.' Well, why?"
She added that it was particularly concerning that "the first member of color in this family isn't being titled in the same way as other grandchildren would be." Compounding this concern, "concerns and conversations about how dark [Archie's] skin might be when he was born" had been raised to Harry by a member of the family, Meghan said.
Assuming it's true that the royal family did not want Archie to have a title, it stands to reason that they wouldn't want any of the Sussexes' future children to have a title, either. Theoretically, "As a younger child of the Duke of Sussex, the new baby would normally have the title of Lord or Lady," Raising Royalty author and royal historian Carolyn Harris told T&C, prior to the revelations in the Sussexes' Oprah interview.
But since it's unlikely that the child will have title, "the new baby will be Master or Miss 'First and Middle Name' Mountbatten-Windsor." (The surname Mountbatten-Windsor honors both the Queen and Prince Philip's respective lineages, and was first used for Archie—learn more about that here.)
As the rules stand now, for both Archie and the yet-to-arrive Baby Sussex, the situation will change once Prince Charles ascends the throne. The Sussex kids will graduate from being the great-grandchildren to the grandchild of the reigning monarch, and will become eligible for HRH titles. (Archie, for example, could become His Royal Highness Prince Archie.)
"Male line grandchildren of a monarch are all currently entitled to be His or Her Royal Highness," Harris says. This is due to a Letters Patent—think the British monarch's answer to an Executive Orders—issued in 1917 by King George V, which limited the “HRH” designation to the children of the sovereign, grandchildren in the male line, and the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. (Queen Elizabeth issued her own Letters Patent in 2012 to ensure that all of Prince William's children—not just his first son—would have "HRH" titles, and that his eldest child, regardless of gender, would be designated as his heir.)
It seems that in her interview with Oprah, Meghan was referring to plans for a future Letters Patent, which would further narrow the eligibility for "HRH" titles, so her and Harry's children wouldn't become HRH Prince and HRH Princess when Charles became the monarch.
Harris, who again spoke to T&C prior to the Sussexes' Oprah interview, predicted that the royals would do as much. "There have been recent trends away from all male line grandchildren of a monarch holding these titles," she said. "For example, the two children of the Queen's youngest son, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, are eligible to have the titles of His or Her Royal Highness but they are instead styled as the children of an Earl—Lady Louise and James, Viscount Severn—rather than holding royal titles." (For those wondering, "male line" refers to a system wherein men, not women, pass down their titles to the next generation—unless the mother happens to be Queen.)
Harris added that Charles might well issue a new Letters Patent, which would restrict "the title of HRH to the heir to the throne and their immediate family to reflect the fact that there are now fewer working members of the family."
It's a trend that's been building for some time, even before Harry and Meghan agreed to stop actively using their HRH titles last year. "During Queen Elizabeth II's reign, all four of her children and even her cousins undertook official public engagements but a much smaller number of members of the royal family will undertake full time royal duties in the next reign," Harris says.
Still, she adds, "The trend in the 21st century royal family is toward fewer members of the monarch's family holding royal titles and becoming full time working members of the royal family so it's unlikely that we will see either of the Sussex children undertaking official royal duties or holding royal titles."
Of course, even if the plans to slim down the monarchy were in place well before Meghan entered the picture, it doesn't negate the fact that the rules will be changed just as Archie and his soon-to-arrive little sister—the first mixed-race members of the royal family—become eligible to receive HRH titles. As Meghan told Oprah of Archie, "the first member of color in this family isn't being titled in the same way as other grandchildren would be."
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