How a royal is stripped of their title

Caroline AllenContributor
There's a chance that Harry and Meghan could be stripped of their titles. [Photo: Getty]
There's a chance that Harry and Meghan could be stripped of their titles. [Photo: Getty]

Last week, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle revealed they would be stepping down as “senior Royals”.

This set in motion a series of questions about how this process would work. Everything from their taxpayer’s allowance to where they will live was called into question.

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With Harry and Prince William meeting the Queen today to discuss their future, it’s yet to be determined how this new relationship will work.

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One possibility is that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be stripped of their titles in order to continue their work outside of the Royal Family.

As we enter into unchartered territories, we look at how a royal is stripped of their title and how it has happened in the past.

How is a royal stripped of their title?

Being “stripped” of a royal title tends to be a collaborative decision.

However, when Edward VIII was stripped of his title in 1936, he said in his abdication speech that the decision was “mine and mine alone”.

Edward VIII abdicated so he could marry divorcee Wallis Simpson. The pair were then known as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Edward VIII abdicated so he could marry divorcee Wallis Simpson. The pair were then known as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

He continued: “This was a thing I had to judge entirely for myself. The other person most nearly concerned has tried up to the last to persuade me to take a different course. I have made this, the most serious decision of my life, only upon the single thought of what would in the end be best for all.”

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Edward went on to sign 15 separate letters of abdication in the presence of his younger brothers.

As Edward VIII was already King, this probably involved a lot more to and fro than the process the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would go through.

How has the stripping of titles worked in the past?

When a royal has been stripped of their title in the past, they often take on a new title at the discretion of the monarchy.

When Edward VIII abdicated, he was henceforth known as the Duke of Windsor.

Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson had different experiences, given that they divorced members of the Royal Family.

Sarah, Duchess of York, and Diana, Princess of Wales, in the royal box at Epsom in 1987. (PA)
Sarah, Duchess of York, and Diana, Princess of Wales, in the royal box at Epsom in 1987. (PA)

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After Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew’s divorce was finalised, Buckingham Palace released the following statement:

“The Queen has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the Realm dated 21st August 1996, to declare that a former wife (other than a widow until she shall remarry) of a son of a Sovereign of these Realms, of a son of a son of a Sovereign and of the eldest living son of the eldest son of The Prince of Wales shall not be entitled to hold and enjoy the style, title or attribute of Royal Highness.”

Even with this statement, she is now known as Sarah, Duchess of York, much like Diana was known as Diana, Princess of Wales.

The pair both lost the “Her Royal Highness” part of their titles, though.

Would Harry and Meghan lose all titles?

If Meghan and Harry were to follow in Diana’s footsteps, they could be known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex but lose the “Royal Highness” part of their titles.

Would baby Archie be affected?

When Harry and Meghan had Archie, they were entitled to name him the Earl of Dumbarton.

When he was born, there was no mention of this title and instead he was called Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.

Marlene Koenig, an author and expert on British and European royalty, told Time that this would not have been the Queen’s decision.

“This is just their attitude that they want a normal life for their children,” she explained, saying that Archie is supposed to take on his father’s Earldom.

Because of this, it was unlikely baby Archie would ever have royal engagements or duties.

As such, if his parents were to step back from this also, it wouldn’t affect him or any future children they might have.

If a royal is stripped of their title, do they lose their place in the line of succession?

When Edward VIII abdicated, he had to create an Act of Parliament called His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act 1936 to recognise that any future children he might have would not be in line to the throne.

He, too, naturally lost his place in line to the throne by choice (as he was King at the time).

All past examples of stripping of titles would suggest that it would mean the royal would lose his or her place in line to the throne.

If this is the case for Prince Harry, it is unknown whether baby Archie and any future children he and Meghan have would also lose their place.

Do royals lose all of their royal ‘perks’?

This will be up to the Queen and other senior royals.

When Edward VIII was stripped of his title, he was still given an allowance by the monarchy.

As Harry and Meghan have been quite forthright about their desire for financial independence, it’s unlikely this would be the case for them.

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