Why Meghan Markle and Prince Harry won’t have legal custody of future children

Sabrina Barr

Kensington Palace has announced that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expecting their first child in spring 2019.

While the couple and their relatives have expressed their excitement over the news, there is a fascinating law in place that means that Prince Harry and Meghan won't have full legal custody of their child when the duchess gives birth next year.

A law enacted more than three centuries ago means that the Queen would actually have full legal custody of the children, as royal expert Marlene Koenig explains.

The law, called “The Grand Opinion for the Prerogative Concerning the Royal Family,” was introduced by King George I in 1717.

“George I did not get along with his son, the future George II,” Koenig tells The Independent.

“I believe it came about when the Prince of Wales [George II] did not want to have the godparent for his son that his father wanted - so George I got Parliament to come up with something.”

According to Koenig, issues surrounding the law arose in 1994 when Diana, Princess of Wales separated from Charles, Prince of Wales.

Diana expressed wishes to take their sons, Harry and William, to live with her in Australia, but couldn’t due to the regulations laid out by the custody law.

An annual register published in 1772 goes into greater detail explaining the details of the regal ruling.

“They said that the opinion of 10 judges, in the year 1717, was a confirmation of the legality of this prerogative, which admitted the King’s right to the care of the marriage and education of the children of the royal family; and that the late opinion acknowledges, that the King had the care of the royal children and grandchildren, and the presumptive heir to the crown…”, the register outlines.

While the law indicates that the Queen legally has custody of her grandchildren, which also includes the children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Koenig doesn’t believe that she would ever feel the need to act upon it.

“I would doubt that the Queen would interfere. [It’s] more of a formality,” she says.

“I think the Queen has let her children raise their kids.”

Earlier this year, it was revealed that a law that states that only sons can inherit hereditary peerages was being challenged in the European Court of Human Rights.

If the law were to be changed, this would mean that a daughter born to Prince Harry and Meghan would inherit a royal title, whereas she wouldn’t have been granted one before.

“Under the current system, any child of the Duke and Duchess won’t automatically have a royal title,” royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams explained to The Independent.

“The peerage, unlike the succession to the crown, favours males and if they have only daughters, the title of Sussex could die out as it did before."