What do Harry and Meghan really want? It’s hard to know. The Sussex press team declined to go on the record when I asked them and the couple have made contradictory statements in the past.
When Archie was born, the couple’s spokesperson said that the new parents had chosen for their son not to take the courtesy title he was owed as the child of a duke (he would have been Archie, Earl of Dumbarton) in order to give him as normal a life as possible.
Aim Meghan repeatedly told Oprah that she and Harry were not given a choice about their first child’s title — although she explicitly said Archie was denied a princely title. “You know, we had heard — the world, those of us out here reading the things or hearing the things — that it was you and Harry who didn’t want Archie to have a prince title. So, you’re telling me that is not true?” Oprah asked. “No, and it’s not our decision to make, right?” Meghan replied.
Meghan also told Oprah that her son having a title was only important to her “if it meant that he was going to be safe,” but said that the choice about having a title shouldn’t be taken away from her children. “I have a lot of clarity on what comes with the titles, good and bad — and from my experience, a lot of pain,” she said. “Again, I wouldn’t wish pain on my child, but that is their birthright to then make a choice about.”
One thing is for sure — since Harry and Meghan are now autonomous from the royal family, this time at least, we’ll likely know exactly how they feel about whatever decision is made.
Possible outcomes for Titlegate 2022 have been the subject of media speculation since the Palace declined to update the Sussex children’s titles on the royal family’s official website. The Sun reported that King Charles III planned to give Archie and Lilibet the titles of prince and princess but deny them the honorific “royal highness” styling. The tabloid and multiple news outlets have reported behind-the-scenes arguments between the King and the Sussexes, with Harry and Meghan described as “relentless since the Queen’s death” and “furious” over their children being denied HRH status.
And then, on Tuesday, Vanity Fair royal reporter Katie Nicholl wrote that the King hasn’t made a decision and will make the call about Archie and Lilibet’s titles based on their parents’ behavior. Nicholl quoted a “source close to the King” as saying “it depends a lot on what happens in the coming months,” specifically with Harry’s announced memoirs, likely to be published before the end of the year, and the Netflix TV show Meghan hinted at in her recent profile on The Cut.
We’ll soon see who was right — if anyone was right at all. When it comes to the Sussexes, anything is possible and everything is controversial. And that’s part of the King Charles III dilemma is now facing. His desire to create a “slimmed-down” monarchy is well-known; indeed, limiting the number of royals has been a priority for the House of Windsor since the “Way Ahead group” of the 1990s. A prince and princess who will never be working members of the royal family and live in the US doesn’t exactly align with that vision. (And yet, it’s also true that even in the cause of “slimming down” the monarchy, it seems unlikely that the new King will strip his nieces — who are not working members of the royal family — of their titles as HRHs Princess Beatrice and Eugenie of York.)
How much would it hurt the King’s public image and brand-new reign to deny those titles to the children of the son of the much-loved Princess Diana and a mixed-race woman, especially in the countries poised to leave the Commonwealth now that Queen Elizabeth II is gone? How will his subjects react to having one set of grandchildren be princes and a princess and the other treated so differently? Not to mention the toll that his decision will have on his personal relationship with Harry and his family.
This is arguably the first big decision of King Charles III’s reign. You can’t really blame him for waiting until the last possible moment to make it.