Archie and Lilibet: Commentator discusses titles
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At the time of their births, neither Archie Harrison nor Lilibet Diana were given ‘HRH’ titles. As a result of being the great-grandchildren of the monarch, the two children were not eligible for the coveted title. Given Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle’s strained relationship with the Royal Family, whether or not their children use their royal titles has long been a major talking point. And following the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September, interest grew as reports of disagreements behind-the-scenes surfaced. Now, a decision has reportedly been made, putting to bed years worth of speculation.
On Wednesday, news emerged that one-year-old Lilibet had been christened. A ceremony took place on March 3 at the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s home in Montecito. A spokesperson for the couple said: “I can confirm that Princess Lilibet Diana was christened on Friday, March 3 by the Archbishop of Los Angeles, the Rev John Taylor.”
It marked the first time Lilibet has publicly been referred to as ‘Princess’, a title she received on the accession of her grandfather, King Charles III, but has been at the centre of much controversy.
A royal source has since confirmed the King was notified of Harry and Meghan’s intention to use the title for their children, saying: “The appropriate conversations have taken place ahead of today’s news (of Lilibet’s christening).”
As the row over Archie and Lilibet’s royal titles seemingly comes to a close, Express.co.uk looks back at how it all unfolded.
Children of a Duke
When the Sussexes’ welcomed their firstborn in May 2018, it was confirmed that he would not receive the HRH title.
While the late Queen Elizabeth II had previously stepped in to change the rules for the children of Prince William and Kate, Princess of Wales, it did not apply to any future offspring of Harry’s.
Because Harry is less senior than his brother, made notably clear in his memoir Spare, it was understood that his children would be styled “as children of Duke”.
As historian Marlene Koenig told Express.co.uk in September: “If there were plans for Harry’s children to hold the same titles before Charles became King, the Queen could have put in that Letters Patent: ‘The children of all sons of the Prince of Wales.’ She didn’t, she didn’t do it then. So the assumption was that they would be styled as children of a Duke.”
This follows the 1917 Letters Patent issued by King George V, which stated: “The children of any Sovereign of these Realms and the children of the sons of any such Sovereign (as per the above Letters Patent of 1864) and the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (a modification of the Letters Patent of 1898) shall have and at all times hold and enjoy the style, title or attribute of Royal Highness with their titular dignity of Prince or Princess.”
Ms Koenig explained: “The others would be styled as a Duke. Before, all the male line, except the children of the Prince of Wales, were HH Prince.”
In 2012, Queen Elizabeth amended the 1917 Letters Patent to include all children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, meaning the firstborn child of Kate and William, regardless of gender, would receive the HRH Prince or Princess titles.
Victoria Arbiter, a long-time royal commentator, argued that the Queen’s amendment “suggests Harry’s children were never destined to be burdened with an HRH”.
Writing for Australian outlet 9Honey last year, she said: “Knowing Harry would one day marry and have children of his own she could have altered the ruling to include all grandchildren of the Prince of Wales, but she didn’t.”
Grandchildren of the King
However, there was an immediate change following the death of Queen Elizabeth and the accession of King Charles. Both Archie and Lilibet became entitled to Prince and Princess styles.
As per the 1917 Letters Patent, “the children of any Sovereign of these Realms and the children of the sons of any such Sovereign…shall have and at all times hold and enjoy the style, title or attribute of Royal Highness with their titular dignity of Prince or Princess.”
Yet, in the days following Charles’s accession to the throne, Archie and Lilibet’s titles remained as Master and Miss on the official Royal Family website. While the styles of Charles, Queen Camilla, Kate, William and their children were changed to reflect their new positions, the two Sussex children’s titles remained unaltered.
At the time, it was claimed the King had spoken to his younger son to ask what he wanted his children to be known as.
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During an appearance on The Royal Beat, royal commentator Roya Nikkha said: “On the death of the Queen, Harry’s children, Archie and Lilibet, automatically as grandchildren of the sovereign, became HRH and Prince and Princess. So they’ve got that now, but they’ve not been updated on the royal website with their new titles. They are still ‘Master and Miss’.
“William and Kate’s new titles were instantly updated and it’s my understanding that this was discussed with father and son when Harry was over here and [Charles] said, ‘what do you want?’, and [Harry] said, ‘I’d like my children to be able to decide about their titles when they come of age, it’s not my decision to make for them. And we can only do that if we keep the titles’. They have the titles now, but it’s up to Charles whether he allows them to keep them, or whether he issues Letters Patent to remove them, and that is still unresolved.”
Much was made of who was responsible for making the decision. While some claimed King Charles would have the final say, others suggested it was up to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to decide what was best for their children.
Ms Arbiter said it was an “enormous decision” for the monarch, noting his strained relationship with his second son and daughter-in-law. She said Charles would be “keen to quell any future barbs” from Meghan and Harry, saying “it’s imperative he use the early days of his reign to tie up loose ends by addressing the issues that may prove detrimental to the crown”.
Elsewhere, it was claimed that Harry and Meghan wanted the decision to be their children’s. The Times reported: “Harry is understood to have expressed his desire to let his children decide when they are older, and to have emphasised that would only be possible if they were allowed to retain their titles now.”
When Archie was born, the Duke and Duchess decided not to use his courtesy title, Earl of Dumbarton, instead agreeing their son would be known as Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.
Ms Koenig recalled: “The Sussexes issued a statement that they were not going to use of Earl of Dumbarton at that time because they wanted their son to have a more private life.”
However, in their explosive interview Oprah Winfrey in 2021, the couple claimed there were behind-the-scenes conversations surrounding their son’s future title before he was born.
Meghan claimed the Royal Family had discussed changing the protocol in order to keep Archie from acquiring the royal title. She told Oprah: “In those months, when I was pregnant, all around this same time, we had in tandem the conversation of he won’t be given security, he won’t be given a title, and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin will be when he’s born.”
Security for the Sussexes has remained a point of contention since their exit from the Royal Family. It is understood it may be easier for the Duke and Duchess to have protections covered while in the UK if their children hold princely titles.
When Harry and Meghan stepped down from their senior roles, they relinquished their ‘HRH’ titles and were no longer eligible for taxpayer-funded police protection. The latter has led to the Duke filing lawsuits challenging the Home Office’s decision.
There were reportedly arguments over the issue, with a source telling The Sun, Harry and Meghan were not pleased about the apparent absence of titles. They said: “Harry and Meghan were worried about the security issue and being prince and princess brings them the right to have certain levels of royal security.”
It was understood that the and Duchess did not want to deny their children their birthright, but let them decide themselves once they were old enough. As The Times reported: “The conversation is understood to have ended unresolved, and to have left the Sussexes dismayed.”
Now, however, it appears that a decision has been made.
Harry and Meghan referred to Lilibet as ‘Princess’ when announcing the one-year-old was christened last week. Lilibet was said to have been christened in a private ceremony in Montecito, California, in front of 20 to 30 people, including grandmother Doria Ragland and godfather Tyler Perry.
A source told PEOPLE magazine there were no royals in attendance at the ceremony, despite an invitation being extended to the King, Queen and the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Despite this, it is understood that Buckingham Palace will respect the wishes of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to use Prince and Princess titles for Archie and Lilibet. The royal website will also be updated to reflect their new titles.
The decision comes after weeks of relations between the royals dominating the headlines. In December, Harry and Meghan sat down for a six-part Netflix documentary series, detailing their experiences of life behind palace walls, and a month later, the Duke’s tell-all memoir was published, revealing unprecedented insight into the Royal Family and its members.
While the King seems to have accepted the decision regarding his US-based grandchildren’s titles, with “appropriate conversations” taking place before the announcement, some commentators have claimed the agreement would come with a caveat.
Katie Nicholl, author of The New Royals, said Charles could “insist” that any titles given would come with strings attached in a bid to keep the Sussexes in line.
She told Palace Confidential last year: “If that did happen, it is going to come with a caveat. He [Charles] is going to insist that Harry and Meghan are respectful of the institution if they are taking the titles of the institution. That is very important to him.”
The author explained that “titles matter to Charles” and he would not hand them out freely.
Meanwhile, Ms Koenig explained that titles can be given as easily as taken away. When King George V issued the 1917 Letters Patent, a young, little-known Prince was stripped of his title.
She said: “In 1914, Prince and Princess Arthur of Connaught had a son — Alastair; he was His Highness Prince Alastair Arthur of Connaught because his father was a grandson of Queen Victoria. In 1917, the new Letters Patent came out, he [Alastair] is a great-grandson in the male line but not the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, so he lost his title. He was no longer a prince.
“Since his mother was Duchess of Fife in her own right, he was styled as Earl of Macduff. So here you have a precedent of a three-year-old, who was a prince but lost his title — another precedent. I’m saying it’s been done before. There is precedent — you have 1917 when Alastair lost his prince title, you have the decision — made by the Queen — regarding the Earl and Countess of Wessex’s children and of course, the 2012 Letters Patent where this could have been solved then and there.”
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