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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s announcement that they “intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family” has left the world with many lingering questions — a notable one being whether they will renounce their royal titles.
At this point, there is no definitive answer as to whether Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, will continue to be known as the duke and duchess of Sussex, but a look back at past events might offer a hint at the answer.
First, it should be noted that Harry and Meghan signed their announcement as “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex,” inplying their continued attachment to the titles.
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In a similar manner, the message referred to Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, his father, Prince Charles, and his brother, Prince William, by their official titles — Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales and The Duke of Cambridge, respectively — drawing parallels between themselves and their family members.
The two have used “SussexRoyal” as their official Instagram handle and website, and according to The Guardian’s reporting, they’ve been seeking to register the Sussex Royal brand as a global trademark.
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Meghan and Harry’s website also noted they would not be the only members of the royal family to engage in full-time jobs: “There is precedent for this structure and it applies to other current members of the Royal Family who support the monarch and also have full-time jobs external to their commitment to the monarchy.”
This may be in reference to Prince Andrew‘s daughters, Eugenie and Beatrice, who have held full-time jobs but retained the title of “Her Royal Highness, Princess of York.”
Also of note, Buckingham Palace and its official press materials nearly always referred to members of the royal family by their official titles, including Harry and Meghan. Even the Queen’s husband is known specifically as “Prince Philip” and Anne, the daughter of the 93-year-old Queen, is called “The Princess Royal.”
However, after a face-to-face meeting between the Queen, Harry and other members of the royal family, the Queen released a statement calling Harry and Meghan by their given names rather than their royal titles.
“My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family,” the statement read.
While this language differed from past protocol, Her Majesty did refer to the royal couple as “the Sussexes” once in the statement.
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“It has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK,” she wrote.
The Daily Mail also reported that the Queen’s statement “could be an indicator the couple are poised to be stripped of their HRH titles.”
It’s not unheard of to keep royal titles after renouncing royal duties, however.
While Edward VIII, Elizabeth’s uncle, had to give up the title of King after his 1936 abdication, he and his wife, Wallis Simpson, kept the titles Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The two have since died.
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A source told People Magazine, however, that this new case was “vastly different” from Edward’s abdication.
Charles’ ex-wife Diana also maintained the title of Princess of Wales after she and Charles divorced, but she would no longer be called “Her Royal Highness,” as Charles still is. His current wife, Camilla, is known as “Her Royal Highness, Duchess of Cornwall” rather than taking on Diana’s former title.
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Amid all the speculation, a source told Vanity Fair that Meghan and Harry “are not understood to want to relinquish their royal titles and will continue to be the Duke and Duchess of Sussex,” but that “nothing has been ruled in or out.”
The source also claimed that tension has been running high between Harry and his grandmother since his wedding and that the Queen “feels she has done everything to smooth the path for them but this could well be the last straw.”
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