Harry and Meghan wave goodbye to their royal duties. Picture: Steve Parsons/Pool photo via AP
Harry and Meghan wave goodbye to their royal duties. Picture: Steve Parsons/Pool photo via AP

Queen bluntly rejects Harry and Meghan's plan

The Queen famously uses her $2000 plus signature Launer handbags to send secret signals to staff. For example, if she moves her patent black bag from one arm to another, it is a discreet sign to her staff that she is done talking to whomever happens to be in front of her.

All of which is to say Her Majesty is adept at sending subtle messages and coded missives to make her wishes felt. But yesterday was proof that sometimes the gloves have to come off.

Early yesterday morning, Australian time, both the Queen and Buckingham Palace released extraordinary statements outlining the final deal which will see Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, officially step back as working members of the royal family. There was no subtlety or delicate nuance here. Gone are their HRHs. Gone are public funds. Gone are military patronages.

It has been a momentous and tumultuous 10 days for the royal family

 

 

The gap between Prince Harry and his grandmother Queen Elizabeth has never been wider. Picture: John Stillwell/pool photo via AP
The gap between Prince Harry and his grandmother Queen Elizabeth has never been wider. Picture: John Stillwell/pool photo via AP

On January 9, the couple made the historic announcement that they intended to quit as "senior" members of the Windsor clan, outlining their vision for a new "progressive new role" on their relaunched, glossy website.

The model they were advocating, perhaps overly confidently in hindsight, was for a sort of half-in, half-out version of royal life which would see them retain many of the perks (the house on the Windsor estate, the around-the-clock armed bodyguards) while also allowing them to ink commercial deals and live in North America.

Clearly they had given their vision for what their lives could look like a lot of thought. Clearly the Queen was not having a bar of it.

Yesterday's statements were a blunt rejection of that model. The unequivocal takeaway here is that the Queen retains her iron grip on not only her contrary family members and crucially her ability to take the pulse of the nation and to respond accordingly.

Harry and Meghan will still be known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, however the magnitude of the significance of stripping them of their HRH status cannot be underestimated.

Being styled as a His or Her Royal Highness is not some flowery honorific or meaningless anachronism. Those three words confer legitimate royal status.

 

The rationale for the Queen's move is inherently sound. By removing their styling as HRHs, the Sussexes cannot be accused of crassly cashing in on their royal status if they go on to ink highly lucrative business deals as has been widely speculated.

However, that does not mitigate what must be a particularly stinging blow for Harry. In fact, today's news is a poignant echo of the traumatic events of the '90s.

In 1996 when Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, were hammering out their divorce settlement, she was allowed to keep her title but was stripped of her styling as an HRH.

Discussing the change with her son Prince William, the then-14-year-old is reported to have heartbreakingly said: "Don't worry, Mummy, I will give it back to you one day when I am king."

Harry and Meghan wave goodbye to their royal duties. Picture: Steve Parsons/Pool photo via AP
Harry and Meghan wave goodbye to their royal duties. Picture: Steve Parsons/Pool photo via AP

(The question remains if Harry and Meghan will be able to market themselves as Sussex Royal, the brand for which they have applied for significant copyright protections.)

However, that might not be the biggest blow for Harry. Having served two tours on the front line in Afghanistan, his commitment to support veterans and military causes has been unimpeachable.

Yesterday's announcement bluntly says that he will lose his military titles and patronages. In 2017, Harry took over from his grandfather Prince Philip as the Captain General of the Royal Marines. He is also Honorary air force Commandant of the Royal Air Force Base Honington, and Honorary Commodore-in-Chief of the Royal Naval Commands' Small Ships and Diving. (The chief of a charity "very close to Harry" told ITV royal correspondent Chris Ship that they were "Very sad. I'm gutted.")

He has similarly lost his role as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador though he and Meghan will remain president and vice president respectively of the Queen's Commonwealth Trust.

The Queen's message with all of this is crystal clear and devastating: Either you are a working royal or not. There is no pick'n'mix version of royal life that is acceptable to the UK's longest serving monarch in history.

Essentially, the sovereign has bluntly rebuffed Harry and Meghan's vision and laid down the law - they can have their freedom but at a significant price.

"They can no longer formally represent The Queen," the statement read. The "can" in that sentence is telling. If the couple wants to ditch grey London for a brave new world in North America (whether they will make a home in Canada or Los Angeles remains to be seen) they cannot cart the Queen's official imprimatur with them.

Make no mistake, if there is one thing that has been made abjectly and powerfully clear is that the Queen might be 93-years-old but she retains an iron grip.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.


Man in iconic 9/11 photo dies from virus

Man in iconic 9/11 photo dies from virus

This man miraculously survived the 9/11 terror attacks

‘Not good enough’: Lisa slams royal family

‘Not good enough’: Lisa slams royal family

'... it is now up to the palace to push for Andrew to front up'

China’s takedown of new Aussie logo

China’s takedown of new Aussie logo

Australia’s new logo shows ‘confusion and anxiety’, claims Chinese state media