The wedge between the Sussexes and the British royals appears to have been driven even deeper. Reports suggest that Prince Charles intends to make a change to the Letters Patent that will permanently block Harry and Meghan’s children from claiming HRH titles.
What Are the Letters Patent?
George V issued a proclamation in 1917 that redefined the size of the modern monarchy. The Letters Patent limited official HRH titles George V’s children and the children of his sons (Edward VIII, George VI, Prince Henry, Prince George, Prince John). The Letters Patent also decreed that the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales would also be entitled to claim an HRH, making that person the only great-grandchild of the sovereign who could claim a royal title.
Basically, the Letters Patent of 1917 cut off the female line from claiming future royal titles. The law is still in effect today, with Princess Anne’s children ineligible for HRH titles but the children of Prince Andrew (Beatrice and Eugenie) and Prince Edward (Lousie and James) able to claim them. Edward and his wife decided not to claim the titles for their children, however.
The Queen amended the Letters Patent in 2012 to include all of William and Kate’s children, not just the males, as part of the HRH club. If she had not done so, Charlotte would not have been a royal Princess. However, Harry’s children should be allowed HRH titles, according to the current Letters Patent.
Is This Punishment for Harry?
If all that sounds complicated, you’re not alone in thinking so. You’d also be right in thinking that all these royals are expensive. Since the royal family of the UK is paid for by the taxpayers, Charles may see slimming down the monarchy as a way to keep the public happy. Cost is one of the main factors discussed by Republicans (people who want to abolish the monarchy), so it might make sense to limit the number of working royals.
But there’s also the rift between the Sussexes and the royal family to consider. Harry and Meghan have made it clear that they are never, ever getting back together with the House of Windsor. If they plan to raise Archie and Lili in America and live as (very wealthy, famous) regular folks, then perhaps they wouldn’t want the kids to be princes and princesses anyway.
For Charles to take that choice away from them, however, can be seen as another way to punish Harry for leaving. Given the Firm’s PR struggles over the last two years, the move could backfire.
Following in Sweden’s Footsteps?
Charles’ plan to streamline the UK monarchy isn’t that different from what happened in Sweden two years ago. In 2019, King Carl Gustaf decided to strip many of his grandchildren of their royal titles. While Crown Princess Victoria and her children will retain their HRH titles, Princess Madeleine and Prince Carl Philip are not in the direct line of succession and have been pruned from the Swedish royal tree.
Carl Gustaf explained the decision in a Christmas address to the public, stating:
“Earlier this year I made a decision to define what is called the royal house. The decision was to make clear who within the royal family will act as official representatives of Sweden in the future. For me, this is a way of clarifying what expectations are.”
He went on to say that he hopes the move will “be helpful when my grandchildren eventually carve out their own future. But, to that day, it is far away.”
Charles has stated that he plans to streamline the British monarchy in a similar way. The famously thrifty Prince of Wales aims to trim the official list of working royals with an eye toward cutting costs. If he does move forward with this plan once he becomes king, then only William and Kate’s children will be Their Royal Highnesses. In the future, only Prince George’s children would be HRHs, while any children welcomed by Princess Charlotte or Prince Louis would not be allowed to claim those titles.