LONDON — Among the many jaw-dropping revelations the Duke and Duchess of Sussex made in a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey was the claim that Buckingham Palace refused the couple’s firstborn child, Archie, the title of prince — a decision that Meghan called hurtful and that she suggested was driven by institutional racism within the monarchy.
But the granting of titles is somewhat complicated, especially when it concerns great-grandchildren of the reigning monarch.
The protocol can be traced back to an order introduced by King George V, Harry’s great-great-grandfather, in 1917.
Under new rules bestowed by the king, designed to limit titles of members of the royal family, only those in direct succession to the British throne could receive the title of HRH (his or her royal highness).
“The grandchildren of the sons of any such Sovereign in the direct male line (save only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) shall have and enjoy in all occasions the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes of these Our Realms,” the patent read.
This means that because Archie is a great-grandchild of the sovereign (at least until Charles assumes the throne), he is too far down the line of succession to rightfully assume the title of prince at birth — although the queen could have stepped in to change that, as she did with Prince William and Kate’s three children.
Archie is seventh in line to the British throne, although that ranking is likely to change as time goes on.
Under the regulation introduced by George V, only Prince George, who is the eldest of the Cambridge children and third in line to the throne, would have received a prince title — however, the queen issued a patent that allowed all Cambridge siblings to have HRH titles, and so Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte carry them.
When asked whether Queen Elizabeth II would intervene in the case of Meghan and Harry’s firstborn child, royal commentators at the time of the pregnancy did not rule it out — although the queen never did step in to make Archie a prince along with his Cambridge cousins.
The children of Elizabeth’s daughter, Princess Anne, did not inherit prince or princess titles, and neither did the offspring of the queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward — although they are entitled to them.
Upon birth, Archie was entitled to the title of earl or lord — and eventually he will be able to inherit Harry’s title, Duke of Sussex.
In the interview with Winfrey, Meghan expressed disappointment that Archie was not made a prince because it meant that he had no right to security. Meghan, whose mother is African American, said that Archie, the first royal family member of color, should be treated the same as his Cambridge cousins.
But since Archie’s birth, there has been speculation in Britain that the couple withheld a title for their son so that he may lead a more normal life out of the intense royal spotlight — something both continue to struggle with.
In comments made during the interview, Meghan appeared to contradict those widely believed claims, adding: “It was not our decision to make.”
When Winfrey asked whether it was important their son have the title of prince, Meghan replied: “If it meant he was going to be safe, then of course.”