The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who publicly departed the royal family two years ago, raised the question of whether they would impose the titles of prince and princess on their children following the demise of Queen Elizabeth II.
According to more than a century-old rules, the queen’s grandchildren or great-grandchildren are entitled to inherit royal titles.
While Harry’s grandmother was in power, Archie Harrison, age 3, and Lilibet “Lili” Diana, age 1, were too far down the line of succession to automatically be entitled to royal titles. (The queen, who has the same name as young Lilibet, had the option of changing that, much to the dismay of admirers of Harry and Meghan, but she opted not to.)
It is unknown if Archie and Lilibet have yet obtained the additional honorifics that come with becoming King Charles III’s grandchildren.
“I’d anticipate a clarification of the circumstances. It hasn’t,” noted Sunday royal analyst Richard Fitzwilliams.
On a list of those in line to follow the queen that Buckingham Palace made public, Archie and Lilibet, who are sixth and seventh in line to the throne, respectively, were referred to as “Master” and “Miss” rather than “Prince” and “Princess.”
This fueled speculation that Charles, who has previously stated he wants the monarchy’s ranks to “narrow down” around a core group of full-time working royals, may break with tradition and refuse to confer royal titles on his grandchildren.
The issue of Archie and Lilibet’s position became more pressing last year as the couple claimed that the royal family treated their firstborn child, Archie, differently, notably by refusing him the title of prince.
Meghan, whose mother is Black, asserted that the institutional racism within the monarchy was the driving force behind this behavior.
King George V, Harry’s great-great-grandfather, issued a legal edict known as Letters Patent in 1917 that outlined who was qualified to use the titles of prince or princess and HRH, his or her royal highness, as well as the regal adornments that go along with them, such as monetary compensation and patronages.
Harry and Meghan opted to renounce their HRH titles with the royal family when they retired into more private lives and moved to North America. The family has moved into a $14.7 million home in Montecito, California.
“The grandsons of the sons of any such Sovereign in the direct male line shall have and enjoy in all situations the style and title enjoyed by descendants of Dukes of these Our Realms,” the 1917 treaty adds (with the exception of the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales).
Because of this, throughout Queen Elizabeth’s reign, only Prince William’s eldest son, Prince George, was permitted to refer to someone as “his royal highness.” George’s siblings, Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte, received HRH titles as a result of a patent she submitted.
Archie and Lilibet “should’ve been offered [royal titles]” following Charles’ accession to the throne, according to Fitzwilliams.
According to what Meghan stated in her interview with Winfrey, she learned that Buckingham Palace “didn’t want him to be a prince or a princess” and that “he wasn’t going to receive security” while she was pregnant with Archie.
Due to the extreme media scrutiny she and her family were exposed to, Meghan expressed concern that her son would be less secure if he did not have the entire security she felt came with a royal title. She also disputed claims made at the time in the media that she and Harry had opted against giving Archie the title of prince.
Meghan explained that conversations over Archie’s lack of a title and “how dark his skin could be when he’s born” were happening “in parallel” when asked why she thought the royal family had not made Archie a prince.
The implication, in Fitzwilliams’ words, was that their lack of titles was tied to prejudice. That hurt a lot, I must say.
Not all royals accept titles, according to Fitzwilliams, and even if they do, it’s unknown if Harry and Meghan would want their children to inherit them.
Peter and Zara were denied HRH titles by Princess Anne, Elizabeth’s daughter. In an interview in 2020, she spoke about her decision. “I think it was probably simpler for them,” she said, “and I think the majority of people would argue that having titles has disadvantages. So, in my opinion, they made the proper decision.”
The loss of privacy that comes with having a higher social standing in the eyes of the media and the general public is a big disadvantage of being a titled member of the royal family, despite the numerous advantages it offers.
Fitzwilliams went on to say, “On the other hand, if Harry and Meghan are really worried about this topic, as it appears on Oprah they were, [that Archie and Lilibet be provided them] is of course very important since that’s the 1917 decree.”
If they weren’t granted titles, he said, “Of course it would be viewed as a tremendous disrespect.” If they were offered and declined, that was their own choice.