Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Being Stripped of Their HRH Titles is a Bigger Deal Than We Thought

Who knew three letters could mean so much?

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex shocked the world by announcing that they were essentially quitting the royal family. No one understood their half in, half out resignation — not even they could predict the outcome. But the couple did hope to continue supporting Her Majesty, the queen.

Alas, it was not to be. After a series of secret meetings, Harry and Meghan were forced the drop the “HRH” (His or Her Royal Highness) from their titles. This small distinction might not seem like much — but for members of the royal family, those three little letters are everything.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle | Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Only certain royal family members are bestowed with the coveted HRH distinction

These days only certain members of the royal family are granted HRH as part of their title. It all goes back to King George V in 1917 who restricted how many offspring would be able to use HRH. Before his edict, the styling was used much more liberally.

Queen Elizabeth loosened the rules on who in the family could use HRH, too. But she still took the letters very seriously, which is why she ultimately decided to revoke Harry and Meghan’s usage. And it wasn’t her first time either.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle lost their HRH styling

Harry and Meghan made it clear that they weren’t interested in a full scale divorce from the royal family. Instead, they wanted to participate in their former roles in a more limited way, thus shielding them from the worst aspects of the working royal life.

“We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen,” they shared in an Instagram post. “It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages.”

However, the battle over the word “royal” began with those words. Harry and Meghan assumed they’d be able to keep their titles and royal distinction. Queen Elizabeth disagreed.

The queen took “HRH” away from Princess Diana, too

The HRH styling is given out at the queen’s discretion and so far, she’s been generous. Prince Andrew’s daughters Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice both have it. The queen offered it to Princess Anne’s two children, Peter and Zara Tindall, but she declined on their behalf. She also gave HRH as a gift to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge on her wedding day, and later to Meghan after she married Harry.

All three of Prince William’s children have the HRH, but Harry and Meghan turned it down for their son, Archie Harrison.

The queen is not above taking the HRH away following a divorce. Most famously, Her Majesty revoked Princess Diana’s HRH styling while allowing her to keep the courtesy title Princess of Wales. She did the same for Prince Andrew’s ex-wife Sarah Ferguson who remained the Duchess of York.

Prince Harry is ‘disappointed’ with his loss of status

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex | Simon Dawson – WPA Pool/Getty Images

It seems that the Duke of Sussex didn’t expect to separate so completely from the royal family, even if he’s the one who initiated the split. “Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding,” he said during a speech. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible.”

But there’s a chance it will turn around in the future. Both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Harry have plans to re-evaluate the arrangement in one year. At that time, Harry could choose to re-join the royal family as a senior member, and the queen could then bestow the HRH styling again at her discretion.

It’ll be fascinating to see how this all plays out and whether Harry and Meghan ever get back their HRH — or if they care about it all after this year.