In their explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey Sunday night, Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, indicated that at least Meghan believed the couple’s son, Archie, was denied the title of “prince” because he was mixed-race, but even the Guardian, a left-leaning newspaper in the United Kingdom, was quick to point out that a longstanding policy governing the monarchy barred Archie from being a “prince,” not the royal family’s “racism.”
In an exchange with Oprah, Meghan claimed that a senior member of the royal family had made racist remarks about her unborn son, wondering whether the mixed-race child would have dark skin. She connected that comment to other discussions with royal family members and, ultimately, to the decision not to give Archie the title of “prince.”
Meghan said she was upset at the “idea of the first member of colour in this family not being titled in the same way that other grandchildren would be.”
“It’s not their right to take away,” she said. Oprah then asked whether Meghan believed the decision was made because of Archie’s lineage.
“Do you think it’s because of his race?” Oprah asked.
“In those months when I was pregnant, all around this same time, so we [had] the conversation of he won’t be given security, he’s not going to be given a title,” Meghan replied. “And, also, concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”
But the rule barring great-grandchildren of the sovereign, in this case, Queen Elizabeth, from being titled dates back much further than Archie’s birth. In fact, the rule goes back to King George V who, in 1917 — more than 100 years before Archie was born — who issued “letters patent” — a royal order — decreeing that just children and grandchildren would be able to use “prince” or “princess” and the honorary “HRH,” or “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 this realm,” the order reads.
That means that while Prince Charles, the Queen’s son, can use the title, and Princes William and Harry can, only Prince George, Williams’s son, is technically allowed to become an HRH until his grandfather, Prince Charles, ascends to the throne.
Queen Elizabeth updated the 1917 order in 2011, shortly before Prince William married Kate Middleton, to ensure that all of William’s children would receive a title. So far, William and Kate’s children, George, Charlotte, and Louis are all called either prince or princess. That order specifically did not include Prince Harry’s eventual children, because they are not in the direct line of succession.
“But they are children of the future monarch, whereas Archie is not. His father, Harry, is sixth in line to the throne and will move down the line of succession if William and Kate have more children, and as George, Charlotte and Louis have children of their own,” the Guardian noted in its own explanation.
Archie would move up to become a prince once his grandfather becomes king, except that Prince Charles has said he would prefer only those in direct line of succession to the throne (the children of the monarch and future monarch) have titles.
As for whether Archie’s title was revoked, that decision is the Queen’s alone.
The pair also claimed that Archie was going to be denied security, but what they appear to have meant is that Archie’s security would not be paid for by British taxpayers. Last year, after Harry and Meghan moved to Canada, following their decision to quit as full-time royals, a debate over who would pay for their security went public. At the time, the British taxpayers footed the bill, but both Canada and the United States refused to shoulder the costs once the pair lost their full-time guards along with other royal perks.
It is notable that Prince Andrew’s daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, do not receive paid-for security and have not since 2011. “Since then they have provided their own” security, Vanity Fair reports. The two princesses also make their own income but in non-political fields.