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King Charles May Strip Harry and Meghan of ‘Princely’ Status After Netflix Doc

The Daily Beast 12/7/2022 Tom Sykes
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images © Provided by The Daily Beast ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

King Charles could strip Meghan Markle and Prince Harry of their princely titles if they continue to make incendiary allegations against the royal family, but is essentially powerless to remove their duke and duchess honorifics, a well-placed source told The Daily Beast Wednesday, as temperatures rose ahead of the launch of the couple’s Netflix series on Thursday.

The monarch is understood to have the power to stop Harry using the title “prince,” meaning Meghan would also lose her status as a princess (although given Meghan rarely uses her “princess” style this would not be much of a punishment).

The model for any forfeiture could be based on how the late queen approached the matter when the couple were simply asked to stop using their HRH (His or Her Royal Highness) titles. They were also asked not to use the word “royal” in any commercial branding—and, somewhat grudgingly, agreed to both requests.

The source said: “Charles will be very cautious of repeating the mistakes made with Diana. When she was stripped of her HRH after the divorce, it fed into her narrative that the palace was a vindictive and cruel establishment.

“Imagine if they did something similar to Harry. He would be able to go on Oprah all over again and say, ‘They did it to my mother and now they are doing it to me.’ It would completely play into their victim narrative.”

The source added that while, theoretically, steps could be taken by the monarch to get Parliament to formally strip Harry and Meghan of their Duke and Duchess of Sussex titles, to do so would open up a “Pandora’s box” of problems.

The royals sought Wednesday to project a stately image of business as usual, carrying out multiple engagements; Camilla invited London children into Clarence House to decorate the Christmas tree, the king attended a 40th anniversary of the group Business in the Community, William conducted an investiture and further afield, in Washington, Sophie, the Countess of Wessex “attended meetings to discuss furthering efforts to support survivors of sexual violence and women peacekeepers.”

Behind the blur of formal activity, however, there was little doubt that an army of royal lawyers, advisers and spin doctors would be setting their alarms tonight to make sure that they watched the first three episodes of the new series when they drop tomorrow morning, at 8am UK time.

The Daily Beast’s source, who is not a palace staffer but has acted as an informal advisor to the royals for several years, said that the palace will move slowly and cautiously, and is unlikely to move against the couple to remove their princely titles in the heat of the moment, instead adopting a “wait and see” approach.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, pose with their newborn son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor during a photocall in St George's Hall at Windsor Castle on May 8, 2019 in Windsor, England. Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images © Provided by The Daily Beast Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, pose with their newborn son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor during a photocall in St George's Hall at Windsor Castle on May 8, 2019 in Windsor, England. Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images

“Nothing is going to happen before the Coronation anyway,” the source said. Charles’ coronation is scheduled for May next year. The palace, which did not respond to requests for comment by The Daily Beast for this story, has not confirmed if Harry and Meghan will attend, however they are still generally expected to be invited despite the conflict in the family.

The source said the couple are unlikely to be told to stop using their “duke” and “duchess” titles, as these can only be legally removed by an Act of Parliament.

Granting a peerage (such as a duke or duchess title) is the mere matter of a monarch’s pen stroke, but removing one is fiendishly complicated; the set text on the matter, Ronald Gadd’s Peerage Law, baldly states that once the Crown has granted a peerage it is “very difficult to deprive the holder of it.”

The only current mechanism for removing a peerage, according to the House of Lords, is the Titles Deprivation Act of 1917.

The Lords’ Library points out that the text of this act specifies it is to be used to remove peerages from those who had “during the present war, borne arms against His Majesty or His Allies, or who have adhered to His Majesty’s enemies.”

The Lords’ Library says that as the act “refers specifically to the First World War, it is unlikely that its provisions could be used today.”

A friend of King Charles concurred with the first source, telling The Daily Beast: “It’s hard to see how Harry and Meghan can square their attacks on the royal family with their use of royal titles, but the reality is the titles would have to be voluntarily given up. And if you forcibly remove them, then why don’t you take them off Prince Andrew? What about Sarah Ferguson? You can extend the list forever.”

However, there is now widespread speculation that Charles will not bestow Prince and Princess titles on Harry and Meghan’s children, Archie and Lilibet, despite the fact that, according to precedent, the grandchildren of the monarch are entitled to princely status.

Charles has clearly not been in a hurry to formally anoint Archie and Lilibet Prince and Princess.

They still don’t have those titles on the royal website and it’s hard to see him rushing to do it now. While stripping Harry and Meghan of their titles could be construed as a provocation, not bestowing them on the children is a less aggressive move. It’s basically doing nothing—something which the royal family are very good at.

The royal YouTuber and biographer Lady Colin Campbell declined to make a prediction on whether or not the couple would ultimately have their titles removed, but told The Daily Beast: “My personal view is that the sooner they become Mr and Mrs Harry Windsor the better.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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