“Given the specific UK government rules surrounding use of the word ‘Royal’, it has been therefore agreed that their non-profit organisation, when it is announced this Spring, will not be named Sussex Royal Foundation,” their spokeswoman said in a statement issued Friday.
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex do not intend to use ‘SussexRoyal’ in any territory post Spring 2020,” the statement added.
That means Harry and Meghan will abandon the “Sussex Royal” they have been using to promote themselves on Instagram and on their new website. The spokeswoman said trademark applications have also been withdrawn.
According to a document on the British royal family’s website titled “Guidance on the Use of Royal Arms, Names and Images,” legislation prohibits companies and limited liability partnerships from being “registered under a name which includes any of the sensitive words” — including “Royal, Queen, King, Prince or Princess” — unless “the approval of the Secretary of State has been obtained.”
It also states: “Names of the Royal Family may not be registered in, or as, trade marks without the consent of The Queen or the relevant Member of the Royal Family.”
Lee Curtis, a trademark lawyer, said the intent is to prevent nonroyals from registering “royal” brands on certain goods and services. But in Harry and Meghan’s case, it would really be the queen who would make the call on what was appropriate.
“This all centers around the queen,” he said. “She’s the person who gives out royalty. If she has problems with it, he can’t register it or use it — or his foundation can’t.”
Curtis added: “I think also it’s a family thing. If your grandmother tells you not to use it, you’re probably not going to use it.”
Peter Hunt, a former BBC royal correspondent, tweeted: “This is what happens when you try to bounce your 93 year old grandmother.”
Robert Lacey, a royal biographer, said a distinction is being teased out between “Royal” with a capital R and “royal” with a small r.
Technically, the couple will still be royals. Prince Harry will still be a prince. He will still be sixth in line to inherit the throne from his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.
He and Meghan will continue to be styled as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and, if they want, could also refer to themselves as the Earl and Countess of Dumbarton and the Baron and Baroness Kilkeel.
But Harry and Meghan will no longer be considered “senior royals.” They will retain his and her “Royal Highness” titles but won’t be allowed to use them.
Dickie Arbiter, a former press secretary to the queen, said it was right to drop “Sussex Royal,” too.
“They are going commercial, and they can’t use the term ‘royal’ for commercial purposes,” he said.
They certainly have plenty of commercial potential. To take one example, British Vogue said its September issue, guest-edited by Meghan, sold out in 10 days and was the best-selling issue of the past decade.
But the couple has not said how they plan to capitalize on that — only that they “value the ability to earn a professional income” and want to set up a new nonprofit while also becoming financially independent. Last year, in addition to accepting money from the taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant, they got millions from Harry’s father, Charles, through his Duchy of Cornwall estate.
Lacey said that cutting ties may be more than a financial proposition.
“Using the term ‘Sussex Royal’ would have involved strings back to the palace that were neither practical nor proper for a young couple operating in the field of social welfare and development in North America or internationally,” he said.
Curtis, the trademark lawyer, noted that Harry’s father set up Duchy Originals — an organic food company known for its tea, biscuits and produce sold at British grocery stores — but that its profit is funneled back into charities. Curtis added, “ ‘Duchy Originals’ doesn’t have the term ‘royal’ in it, so there isn’t that very strong association.”
Trading on the reputation and celebrity of the British royal family doesn’t tend to wash well with the queen or the British public. The queen’s eldest grandson, Peter Phillips, recently raised eyebrows when he appeared in a milk commercial on Chinese television, where he was introduced as a “British Royal Family member.”
In Harry and Meghan’s case, the value of their brand isn’t necessarily reliant on the name “Sussex Royal” or whether they represent the queen, said David Kippen, the chief executive of Evviva Brands, a brand agency.
“In three years’ time, it will be their star power and what they do that ultimately creates or destroys the follower base they’ve created, not the equity associated with the name,” Kippen said.
The couple, who are living with their son, Archie, on Canada’s Vancouver Island, will return to Britain for a handful of events in the coming weeks, including the March 9 Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey, which they will attend alongside the queen and other senior royals.
Their spokeswoman’s statement said Harry and Meghan will close their office at Buckingham Palace at the end of March. After that, they will be represented in Britain by their foundation.
She added that the situation will be reviewed in a year. “As there is no precedent for this new model of working and eventual financial independence, the Royal Family and The Sussexes have agreed to an initial 12-month review to ensure the arrangement works for all parties,” she said.