Then he logged on and saw that he’d gone from “sussexroyal” to the far less regal “_sussexroyal_.”
“I assumed my account was active, but Instagram decided it wasn’t,” Keiley told The Washington Post in an interview Thursday via Skype.
Instagram declined to comment on the name change, which was first reported by BBC News. But the company told the media outlet that the switch was made to “prevent digital squatting” — establishing a handle with no intent of using it or, in some cases, to leverage a high-profile person or brand into buying it.
There was no indication either applied in this case. Though Keiley wasn’t particularly active on the site — “I would go occasionally” — he did signal what he liked, including the chalk art posts by British comic and TV personality Noel Fielding.
Instagram appears to have given the wildly popular couple — the television audience for their May wedding neared 30 million in the U.S. alone — special treatment in this case.
On a help center Web page, Instagram offers users guidance on what to do if a preferred handle has been claimed but seems inactive. “You can choose an available version of the username,” the posting says. “You can add periods, numbers, underscores or abbreviations to help you come up with a username that’s not already in use.”
Another FAQ states that Instagram bases account inactivity on several factors, including when the account was created and whether the user logs in, actively posts and interacts with others on the site.
Though the handle may have literal significance for Harry and Meghan, it also holds meaning for Keiley: Sussex is his home county, and the Reading Royals are his favorite soccer team.
Keiley said he would have liked to have received notice of the change or at least been given options for another username. He isn’t thrilled with the new handle, which is bookmarked by underscores. He would have preferred hyphens.
“It’s a bit of a lame handle to have,” he said, “Underscores are not something I would use in regular conversation.”
Though most of the online feedback has been positive, Keiley said that his brush with the royals has given him a taste of the notoriety that sometimes comes with prominent accounts. He’s still receiving hundreds of new notifications and some of the comments are hateful.
“I am not a celebrity by any means, but I know what they must go through.”
The royal couple shared their first Instagram post on Tuesday, racking up 1 million followers in 5 hours and 45 minutes, and shattering the record (11 hours. 36 minutes) set by K-pop star Kang Daniel in January. The singer had unseated Pope Francis, who needed 12 hours to reach the threshold in 2016.
As of Thursday evening, “sussexroyal” was at 3.6 million followers and counting.
On Twitter, Keiley still retains @sussexroyal, and he appears to have struck a comically defiant tone. But he’s not sure what will come next.
“Nothing has happened there yet — I say yet.”