In Oprah Winfrey’s tell-almost-all interview with Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan, one point seems to have grabbed the attention of the American media: Their firstborn child, Archie, has been denied a title and security because of his race. With racial issues being the go-to lead for most members of the Fourth Estate, it is perhaps unsurprising that this idea has gone unchallenged.
But is the royal family engaging in racism? Or has the duchess fundamentally misunderstood the roles, rights, and responsibilities of royalty?
Who Gets What?
During the interview, the duchess told Winfrey that, while she was pregnant, conversations took place that involved Archie not receiving a title or security, in tandem with questions over what color his skin might be. Winfrey’s shocked reaction was shared by many people who do not understand the rules of royal titles.
Who gets a title and who doesn’t ultimately comes down to the monarch of the day, but it is not as simple as deciding who is and is not in favor. The present governing rules were first laid down by King George V in 1917.
In the Letter Patent, King George wrote:
“[T]he children of any Sovereign of these Realms and the children of the sons of any such Sovereign (as per the 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 prefixed to their respective Christian names or with their other titles of honour.”
These rules made clear that the title of Prince would extend to only the grandchildren of the reigning monarch. At the time, it was considered highly unlikely that kings or queens would live to see their great-grandchildren, and, as such, the stated rules tidied up the details of the regulation. However, the British royal family is, despite what TV would have us believe, an institution that changes with the times.
In 2012, Queen Elizabeth II, realizing that people naturally live longer, amended the 1917 Letters Patent to grant title to the children of the Prince of Wales’ eldest children: namely Prince William’s children. It did not extend to the offspring of the second-born child.
For the duchess to suggest that Archie would not receive the title of “prince” because of his skin color, or for any reason other than the rules set in place before she ever met Harry, is disingenuous at best; at worst, it is feigning ignorance of well-established rules to paint the reigning monarch as a racist.
Security for Me…
As to whether Archie would be denied security because of his racial mix, we again find that this is a misleading concept.
The royal family is taxpayer funded through something called the Sovereign Fund Grant, which pays the family 25% of the income from lands within the Crown Estates. The queen and extended members of the family also receive incomes from various estate trusts. However, the Sovereign Fund does not provide for security or royal ceremonies; these are often paid out by the queen from the Privy Purse, the queen’s personal income derived from her land and asset portfolio.
The reality is that if the couple were to have their main residence in the United Kingdom, all security would be paid.
Rolling Stone Rules: You Can’t Always Get What You Want
The fact of the matter is that the British royal line has managed to continue for so long because the systems in place guarantee its longevity. The duchess may be upset that her child is not referred to as a prince, but if she truly understood how the whole thing worked, she would know that when the queen eventually passes, her child will become the grandson of the monarch. As such, under the Letter Patent of 1917, he will officially be Prince Archie.
But Prince Harry does, or should, already know this. So what is the problem?
Is it perhaps that Duchess Meghan wants not just her child to be a Royal Highness but also that of her line going forward? It seems that this whole storm in a Royal English teacup is not about race and more about perceived entitlement. All want the best for their children, but that was not the deal she signed up for in marrying into the family. And those in the media who insist on flattering her ego and ignoring her mistakes are not doing her or her family any favors.
Read more from Mark Angelides.
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