Did Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Steal Their New Instagram Handle From Another User?

ICYMI: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle broke a world record this week. No — it has nothing to do with how big their baby is. It has to do with Instagram. That’s right, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex broke the internet with the announcement of their new solo social handle, @sussexroyal.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Instagram

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle | Kirsty Wigglesworth – Pool/Getty Images

The new account, which now has over 3.5 million followers, reached a major milestone on its April 2nd launch day of 1 million followers in under six hours (five hours and 45 minutes, to be exact) — which was so huge that Instagram couldn’t handle it and momentarily crashed.

While that’s all great and dandy for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, one user is feeling the repercussions of the royals’ new account.

According to BBC, the account used to belong to a Sussex man named Kevin Keiley. “I got a jokey text from my son which said ‘Ha ha, I see your handle has gone then,’” Keiley told Radio 1 Newsbeat. “I thought ‘What’s that all about?’ He said ‘Look on Instagram’ so I looked on Instagram and suddenly my handle wasn’t @sussexroyal anymore, it was @_sussexroyal_. It had been taken,” he added. Keiley created the handle three years ago “because he supports Reading FC — nicknamed the Royals — and he lives in West Sussex” BBC noted.

Did Prince Harry and Meghan Markle really steal an existing Instagram account?

So, how did Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get their hands on an already taken Instagram Handle? Someone from their communications team — perhaps their new head of communications, Sara Latham? — likely contacted the social media platform and inquired about the handle.

Keiley says no one from Instagram or the royal family contacted him before making the switch, but Instagram confirmed to Newsbeat that the handle was considered inactive, and therefore changed on their part. Per the platform’s policies, Instagram can make changes to a name “if it’s been inactive for a certain amount of time.”

However, they don’t allow just anyone to request access to an inactive account. “If a username you want is being used by an account that seems inactive, you can choose an available version of the username,” the platform’s help section explains. “You can add periods, numbers, underscores, or abbreviations to help you come up with a username that’s not already in use,” they added, failing to note that if your name is Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, these suggestions don’t apply.  

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After serving in the @BritishArmy for ten years, The Duke of Sussex has committed himself to promoting the welfare of members of the Armed Forces and veterans. The Duke knows the lasting effects military service can have, as soldiers recover from PTS after battle or struggle to get back into the normalities of civilian life. Through his work with servicemen and women, The Duke has also seen how families benefit from extra support when their loved ones are away and adjusting to life back home. He met many soldiers and their families at the Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch in London today. This is an annual event which raises money for @soldierscharity to support those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Duke’s work with wounded servicemen and women has included creating @weareinvictusgames, volunteering with the Army's Personnel Recovery Unit in London, trekking with wounded servicemen and women to the South Pole and in the Arctic and supporting a number of adventure challenges through his Endeavour Fund. The Duchess of Sussex was unfortunately unable to attend today, but has joined her husband in supporting the troops at the Invictus Games, Endeavour Fund and with the TILS Fund, as an extension of her previous work in this space. By participating in events like today’s, The Duke hopes that servicemen and women are recognised for their unique skill set and abilities, and that we all work together to ensure that they and their families have the support they need and deserve during and after service.

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In addition to Instagram, Keiley also has a Twitter account with the same handle, which hasn’t been claimed by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex yet. In order to keep what’s left of his social media identity, Keiley is using it a lot more. “What I’m trying to do is keep tweeting therefore they can’t take it if it’s active,” he told Newsbeat. “I don’t know what the royals are planning down the line,” he added.

If Prince Harry and Meghan Markle want to use his Twitter handle, all he asks for is a heads up — and chat with the duke and duchess. “Hello Harry and Meghan. If you do want my Twitter account as well can you at least have the decency to speak to me?”

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