Harry and Meghan interview: Was Archie denied a royal title when he was born?

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·6-min read

Watch: Meghan Markle claims Royal Family was concerned about her son's skin colour

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have suggested their son was not given the opportunity to be a prince when he was born, with Meghan indicating she fears it might have been because of his race.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, which aired in the UK on Monday evening, Meghan said it was not her decision for her son to not receive a title when he was born.

She also raised concerns that her son would not be given security, and said it was because he would not be a prince.

In 2013, before any of Prince William's children were born, the Queen issued a letters patent that removed an anomaly in an earlier royal decree by George V, which stipulated that a son would become a become a prince, but a daughter would not become a princess.

Prior to the Queen's intervention, only William's eldest George would have been entitled to the title of prince as the 1917 letters patent said that the titles Royal Highness (HRH) and prince and princess should be restricted to the children of the sovereign, the children of the sovereign's sons, and the eldest son of the Prince of Wales.

However the same was not done for Archie, who under the previous precedent would only inherit the title of prince when Charles becomes king.

Meghan also suggested there was an attempt to change that precedent and 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".

She said: "It’s not their right to take it away."

Meghan continued: "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.

“And also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”

The claims have sparked discussion about whether Archie could, in fact, have been Prince Archie. At the time of his birth it was said the new parents had declined the offer of a courtesy title, in the same way Princess Anne, the Queen's daughter, declined titles for her children.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 25: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and their baby son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Thandeka Tutu-Gxashe at the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation during their royal tour of South Africa on September 25, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Toby Melville - Pool/Getty Images)
Meghan said it was not their choice for their son not to be a prince. (Pool/Getty Images)

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Professor Kate Williams explained the precedent for a title on ITV's This Morning saying: "George V in 1917 made a letters patent about who would be prince and princess.

"The idea is that the children and grandchildren of the monarch can be a prince or princess."

She explained it means that, while everyone in William's generation is entitled to be a prince – which would include Harry and the brothers' cousins Eugenie and Beatrice – in the following generation, only Prince George would be allowed to be termed a prince because he is the eldest child of a future heir.

However, the potential bone of contention seems to be that Charlotte and Louis have been accorded princely titles, in addition to their older brother George, but cousin Archie has not.

The 1917 letters patent rule means that Archie will get a title when his grandfather, Prince Charles, becomes king.

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Referring to a lack of title when Archie was born, Prof Williams said: "At the time we were told not intervening was Meghan and Harry's choice, but they say it was not.

"They also seem to imply that there was talk about changing that protocol so that Archie wouldn't be prince when Charles became king either.

"To her it seemed clear it was because of the conversations about Archie's skin."

Asked whether that would be regarded as unfair, Prof Williams said: "The Royal Family is always saying it wants to slim down and perhaps that's what they will say but it seemed very pointed that the first child to be slimmed out would be the first child of colour.

"Charlotte and Louis are in the line of succession but they will be pushed out when George has children."

The Queen intervened before George was born to ensure all the children of William and Kate would have titles. If it was not for that, Charlotte would have been a Lady and Louis a Lord, although they would not have been HRHs.

Archie could have been the Earl of Dumbarton, taking on one of his father's subsidiary titles, or Lord Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.

At the time of his birth, a royal source said Harry and Meghan had decided he should be a regular Master Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.

Eventually he will be able to succeed Harry as the Duke of Sussex.

Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, his wife Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and their children Britain's Prince George of Cambridge (R), Britain's Princess Charlotte of Cambridge (3rd L) and Britain's Prince Louis of Cambridge (L) arrive to attend a special pantomime performance of The National Lotterys Pantoland  at London's Palladium Theatre in London on December 11, 2020, to thank key workers and their families for their efforts throughout the pandemic. (Photo by Aaron Chown / POOL / AFP) (Photo by AARON CHOWN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
George was the only prince entitled to his title, but the Queen intervened to give Charlotte and Louis titles too. (AFP)

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But Meghan told Winfrey: "It was not our decision to make."

She added: “I wouldn’t wish pain on my child but that is their birthright to then make a choice about.”

Meghan indicated that she was concerned he would not get security as he was not a prince, and said she wanted a title if it meant he would have that.

Security is not an automatic provision for all princes and princesses.

Archie was already unlikely to ever carry out royal duties, being seventh in line to the throne at birth, but living in the US full time and not having working royal parents would have made it untenable for him to have British taxpayer funded security.

However, the Royal Family could have paid for security privately. Meghan has indicated they have chosen not to.

Harry and Meghan also revealed that there had been a conversation between Harry and a member of the Royal Family about "concerns... about how dark his [Archie's] skin might be when he’s born".

Harry then added: "That conversation, I am never going to share. At the time it was awkward, I was a bit shocked."

They have said, via Winfrey, that neither the Queen or Prince Philip was involved in that conversation but have not said who made the comment.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said the allegation should be taken seriously: "Nobody, but nobody, should be prejudiced (against) because of the colour of their skin or because of their mental health issues."

Buckingham Palace responded on Tuesday evening in a brief statement which read: "The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan.

"The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.

"Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members."