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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Can Harry lose his styles and titles?

With The bombshell that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are to ‘step down’ as senior members of the Royal Family let’s look at the styles and titles enjoyed by the couple.

Many members of the public and on social media are demanding that the renegade Harry be ‘stripped’ of his styles, titles and peerages, following his shock announcement.

Harry, as a male line grandson of the monarch, was born HRH Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales on September 15, 1984. The HRH handle or the title Prince were not conferred by the Queen, but came at birth under the terms of the 1917 Letters Patent of Harry’s great-great grandfather, King George V.

On his father’s accession Harry would be upgraded to HRH ‘The’ Prince Harry. All children and male line grandchildren of the monarch are princes and princesses of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Queen, as fountain of all honour, can remove the style of Royal Highness. The issuing of Letters Patent or a Royal Warrant could strip both Harry and Meghan of the rank, style and title of HRH.

On Harry and Meghan’s wedding day in 2018 the prince was created Baron Kilkeel, Earl of Dumbarton and Duke of Sussex, all in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. The three peerages were created by the issuing of Letters Patent under the Great Seal. 

The recipient of a peerage cannot afterwards go on an disclaim that peerage or peerages. He or she is a peer for life. 

The 1963 Peerage Act made provision for a new peer, having succeeded to a peerage, to then go on and disclaim that peerage with 12 months of succession. The Peerage Act made no provision for a newly created peer to disclaim. 

A peer can be deprived of his peerage by an Act of Parliament. No peer has been so stripped of his title since the days of the First World War when several peers who supported or fought on the side of Germany had peerages removed under the terms of the Titles Deprivations Act 1917. 

For Harry to relinquish or be deprived of his peerages then another act of Parliament would be required. 

The Duchess of Sussex possesses no titles in her own right. No styles or titles were specifically created for her on her marriage. Her rank and precedence come as the wife of Prince Harry. Meghan’s styles and titles mirror those held by her husband. She is HRH Princess Henry, Baroness Kilkeel, Countess of Dumbarton, Duchess of Sussex.

In the event of the Sussex marriage ending in divorce then under the terms of the Letters Patent of 1996 Meghan would cease to be Her Royal Highness, following the precedent of Diana, Princess of Wales and Sarah Duchess of York.

A divorced Meghan would be styled in the same way as the ex-wife of any other duke, and would be ‘Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’, but only for as long as she remained in the divorced state. On any subsequent marriage she would lose the Sussex title.

And so Harry is destined to be Duke of Sussex for the remainder of his life, and on his death his son, Archie, will automatically succeed as 2nd Duke of Sussex.

Of course Harry could drop the use of rank, styles and titles unofficially. The late Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, widow of the Queen’s uncle, was known as ‘Princess Alice’ for thirty years of widowhood without being formally so styled by Letters Patent or Royal Warrant.

Similarly, when the Prince of Wales announced his engagement to Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005 it was announced that his wife would not be styled Princess of Wales but be known as HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. It was also stated that Camilla, on Charles’s accession, would not be known as Queen but instead be styled HRH The Princess Consort.

Harry and Meghan have already gone down this road by declaring that their son will not use a courtesy title as son of a Duke. Young Archie Mountbatten-Windsor would traditionally have been styled Earl of Dumbarton from birth.

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