Meghan says Archie's title was not royal family's "right to take away"
In Sunday night's bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, said the royal family had decided not to bestow a title on their son Archie. She said she was never given a reason why "the first member of color in this family [was] not being titled in the same way that other grandchildren would be," and she said there were conversations around the same time about "how dark" Archie's skin would be.
Meghan cited a "convention" that the grandchildren of the monarch are titled prince or princess. Under protocol set up by King George V in 1917, the children and grandchildren of a sovereign have the automatic right to the title HRH, or His or Her Royal Highness, and the title of prince or princess. That extension does not apply to the great-grandchildren of a monarch, although Queen Elizabeth made an exception giving the titles to William's children because they are directly in the line of succession.
When Archie was born, Harry and Meghan announced his name as Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, the surname used by the royal family. But, as Meghan pointed out in the interview, Archie and the baby girl they're expecting this summer would be entitled to become prince and princess when Harry's father, Prince Charles, becomes king.
"Even with that convention I'm talking about — while I was pregnant, they said they wanted to change the convention for Archie. Well why?" Meghan said. She said she was never given an answer.
While Charles has never spoken specifically about Harry and Archie's titles, the Daily Mail reported in 2019 that Charles wanted to cut down on the number of members of the family with royal titles, especially in the wake of the scandal over Prince Andrew's connection to pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also said in 2019 that there is "the question of the size of the family and all that they do, but I do think the public as a whole would want to see those kind of changes and the debate around the behavior of Prince Andrew has actually brought that to the fore."
But at the time, it was reported that Charles wanted to keep titles for his sons and their wives and children. In the line of succession after Queen Elizabeth II, Charles is first, William is second, and William's children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis are third, fourth and fifth. William's younger brother Harry is now sixth in line for the throne, Archie is seventh, and Harry and Meghan's baby girl will be eighth.
Other than William's three children, Queen Elizabeth's five other great-grandchildren do not have titles, although it's unclear if that's by choice. For example, Princess Anne and her ex-husband chose not to give their children titles, and none of Anne's grandchildren have titles either.
When Harry's parents got divorced, his mother Diana lost the right use HRH, and she was given the courtesy title of Diana, Princess of Wales. When Harry and Meghan split from the royal family — after Archie was born — they agreed to drop the HRH from their titles as well. But Harry is still a prince and the couple also retain the titles Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Meghan told Oprah that Archie's title was not her or Harry's "decision to make," but rather "that is their birthright to then make a choice about."
Meghan said the conversation they had with palace officials about the level of security they would receive was also tied to whether or not Archie would be a prince. She said it was the security protection — not the royal status — she really cared about.
"All the grandeur surrounding this stuff is an attachment that I don't personally have," she said. "I've been a waitress, an actress, a princess, a duchess, I've always just still been Meghan. So for me, I am clear on who I am independent of that stuff, and the most important title I will ever have is Mom. I know that. But the idea of our son not being safe and also the idea that the first member of color in this family not being titled in the same way that other grandchildren would be."
Meghan said they were not asked to take the traditional photo of front of the hospital after Archie was born because he wouldn't be a prince.
Around the same time, when she was still pregnant, she said there were also conversations going on in the royal family about "how dark" Archie's skin would be.
"In the months when I was pregnant, all around the same time, so we have in tandem the conversation of he won't be given security, he's not going to be given a title, and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he's born," Meghan said.
"What?" Oprah asked. "Who is having that conversation with you? What?"
"There were several conversations," Meghan said, specifying, "with Harry."
Meghan wouldn't say who it was who had the conversation, noting that it "would be very damaging to them." She said it was relayed to her from Harry.
"It was really hard to see those as compartmentalized conversations," she said.
Harry said it was not a conversation he ever wanted to discuss. Oprah said he later clarified that it was not his grandmother or grandfather who made the comment.
In addition to Queen Elizabeth making a special dispensation for William's children, there have been other changes in protocol over the years involving titles and even the line of succession. For example, in 2013, Queen Elizabeth amended the Succession to the Crown Act to end the system of male primogeniture, in which a younger son took precedence over an older daughter. Due to this change. Princess Charlotte remains fourth in line for the throne, rather than her younger brother displacing her.
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