Harry and Meghan Markle continue to step further away from the traditional royal path by abandoning their titles, an unexpected announcement just 10 days after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they would split their time between North America and the U.K.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement that Harry and Meghan have agreed to no longer use the titles His/Her Royal Highness (HRH) as they step away from public duties as senior members of the royal family. The two will continue to work towards financial independence and have made their intention to pay back the public for renovations of their home, Frogmore Cottage. The latest announcement comes to the surprise of those who suspected the couple would retain their titles while stepping back from the royal family.
What does it mean to give up royal titles? Will Harry get a last name? Is he still in line for the throne? Here are the answers to these burning questions and everything else you need to know about what will happen now that Harry and Meghan are stepping back from their roles as senior members of the royal family.
Is Harry still a prince?
Yes, Harry because he was born into it as the child of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana, Princess of Wales. The titles in question that Harry and Meghan are giving up are the HRH, or His/Her Royal Highness titles. The couple will also stop using their Prince and Princess titles.
The HRH titles were limited to only the children (of either gender) and grandchildren of a sovereign in the male line by Queen Victoria in the 1830s, according to the BBC’s History Extra. It has since been expanded to include female heirs who may ascend to the throne. Additionally, Dr. Jonathan Spangler, a senior lecturer in history at Manchester Metropolitan University specializing in the history of the monarchy, explains that “George V in 1917, when modifying the house rules...clarified this, and added the eldest son of the eldest grandson.”
Harry will still be a prince by birthright, but he will no longer be His Royal Highness Prince Harry, a title now granted at the pleasure of the Queen to senior working members of the royal family who are direct heirs.
Will Prince Harry and Meghan keep their titles?
Yes, Harry and Markle are still the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The only title they are giving back are the HRH designation as they step back from royal duties. Otherwise, Harry retains that official title, as well as those of Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel. Meanwhile, Meghan’s official title is still Duchess of Sussex. She will not use Princess Henry of Wales, which she holds through marriage.
What will Prince Harry and Meghan be called?
It is currently unknown whether the couple will take a last name after giving up their HRH titles. There is a case to be made for taking the name Wales, as Harry was called Captain Harry Wales in the British Army. They may be known as the Sussexes, given that the Queen referred to them in her statement as “Harry and Meghan” and Buckingham Palace’s official statement referred to them as the Sussexes. The Sussex name is also prominent on baby Archie’s birth certificate, where Harry’s full name is listed as His Royal Highness Henry Charles Albert David Duke of Sussex.
The couple could also take the surname Mountbatten-Windsor, as Windsor was officially adopted as the surname for the family in 1917 and Mountbatten-Windsor given as the specific distinction for direct descendants of the Queen and Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh. If in doubt, however, you can still call them Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
What does this mean for Prince Harry's role British line of succession?
Nothing has changed in this regard. Harry still remains sixth in line for the throne. It is still unlikely he will face any need to worry about the line of succession. Additionally, Harry has not turned his back on his royal position completely — just the HRH title — in contrast with Edward VIII, who abdicated to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson in 1936, thus losing HRH and becoming the Duke of Windsor after his marriage. This led to King George VI, who left the throne upon his untimely death to his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II. Harry needing to ascend to the throne is a possibility only an is an extremely unlikely sequence of events.
This article was originally published on January 18. It has been updated throughout.