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Meghan Markle Explained Why Archie’s Title Is About More Than What’s in a Name

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It was two days after the birth of their first child in May 2019 that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry shared both his name and a surprise—Archie Mountbatten-Windsor would be known simply as “Master Archie Mountbatten-Windsor,” with no royal title attached to his name. Reports at the time claimed that Harry and Meghan had decided not to give him a title because they wanted to ensure that he would be able to have a normal life. Now that the family has left the palace and moved to a California estate complete with an “Archie’s Chick Inn” chicken coop, it seemed they had gotten their wish.

But in the interview with Oprah that aired on Sunday night, Meghan said that this wasn’t the whole story. In the last few months of her pregnancy, discussion within the palace about Archie’s title became contentious, and ultimately the decision was taken out of her hands. “They didn’t want him to be a prince or princess, not knowing what the gender would be—which would be different from protocol—and [said] that he wasn’t going to receive security,” she said. “It’s not our decision to make, right?” According to Meghan, Harry found this out through “conversations with family members.” Buckingham Palace has yet to comment on Sunday night’s interview.

On the other side of a royal exit, Meghan said she now understands the downsides of living life with a title, but wishes Archie had been able to make the decision for himself. “I have a lot of clarity on what comes with the titles, good and bad, and, from my experience, a lot of pain,” she said. “I wouldn’t wish pain on my child, but that is their birthright to then make a choice about.”

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The sticking point for Meghan, as she emphasized in the interview, was the title would allow Archie to receive royal security protection. But as some royal correspondents and tabloids pointed out, it didn’t actually break “protocol” for Harry’s son, who is only the great-grandchild of a monarch, to be denied the title of prince. And as Vanity Fair reported last year, the rules say that Archie could still become a prince after Prince Charles becomes king. As Meghan mentioned in the interview, the 1917 letters patent written by King George V has determined the titles for most living royals; the letters patent was written to limit the number of princes and princesses in the family, given how many descendants there were of Queen Victoria’s nine children. The letter said that all children of the sons of the monarch are automatically princes or princesses; for great-grandchildren of a monarch, only “the eldest living son of the eldest living son of the Prince of Wales” (that’s currently Prince George) would automatically be considered a prince at birth.

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Queen Elizabeth has issued subsequent letters patents to amend the status of her descendants. George, Princess Beatrice, and Princess Eugenie have received their titles from the original letters patent, but in 2012, another was released to state that all children of Prince William and Kate Middleton would be given the title, which is why Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis have theirs. When Princess Anne married her first husband, Mark Phillips, in 1973, the queen offered titles to her children, but Anne declined. She had also issued one in 1999 that said all children of Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, would not be styled as princes or princesses, even though they were entitled to it.

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In the interview, Meghan said it was the security, not the “grandeur,” that made Archie’s title important to her. Whether she was really told that his access to protection depended on his status is a matter for further reporting, but Beatrice and Eugenie are a useful example—until their university years, they did have access to royal protection.

If Archie was not provided a title and the royal protection that goes with, Harry and Meghan would have been stuck in a catch-22—unable to earn an income because they were senior royals, but forced to pay for their son’s protection anyway. Knowing that it was possible to change the rules so that Archie could be styled as a prince from birth, Harry and Meghan seemed to take the debate as one more way in which their family was not being welcomed into the royal fold. “There was a lot of fear surrounding it,” Meghan told Oprah. “I was very scared of having to offer up our baby knowing that they weren’t going to be kept safe.”

Ultimately, these decisions about titles and security costs are at the discretion of the monarch, and for years, Prince Charles has reportedly been interested in minimizing the number of people who count as official members of the royal family. Currently, cousins of the queen live at Kensington Palace and undertake roles as senior royals. In 2012, the Daily Mail reported that the removal of Beatrice and Eugenie’s security was a reflection of the fact that they had been dissuaded from fulfilling public roles, in keeping with Charles’s desire for a “slimmed-down monarchy.”

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Harry and Meghan, however, were working hard on behalf of the royal family, even as Meghan was pregnant with Archie and having suicidal thoughts. “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore,” she told Oprah. “And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought. And I remember—I remember how he [Harry] just cradled me.” She said she approached a senior staffer about getting help but was told it would be too embarrassing for the royal family.

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