Why Are Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Rejecting Royal Protocol in Africa?

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry recently landed in South Africa to begin their royal tour of the country and a few other ones nearby. Generally, royal tours are very formal occasions with a lot of strict protocols in place.

However, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have reportedly ditched royal protocol and will conduct their tour in a more relaxed manner.

Meghan Markle in Africa
Meghan Markle | DAVID HARRISON/AFP/Getty Images

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will promoted many causes in Africa

This tour of southern Africa will focus on “community, grassroots leadership, women’s and girls’ rights, mental health, HIV/AIDS, and the environment,” according to a statement the Duke and Duchess of Sussex released on social media.

The couple’s first visit after they arrived in South Africa was to a workshop hosted by Justice Desk Project, which helps girls and women learn about self-empowerment and safety. Later on, they also went to the District Six Museum in Cape Town to learn about the diverse community in the area that were forcibly displaced during apartheid.

It has been reported that, some time later, Prince Harry will visit Malawi, Angola, and Botswana while Markle remains in South Africa. One thing that Prince Harry will do on his own is work with the Halo Trust to raise awareness for landmines in Angola – something that Princess Diana did a lot during her life. Meanwhile, Markle will continue visiting organizations that promote causes related to women’s and girl’s rights.

People can be informal with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on this trip

It is common knowledge that royals get treated a bit differently than commoners. There are guidelines about what one should do when meeting them, such as using the right title as well as calling them “Ma’am” and “Sir.” However, Markle and Prince Harry are dropping formality with people they meet on this tour. Palace aides have even said they can be addressed by their first names.

A source told Vanity Fair Markle and Prince Harry “want minimal fuss, formality, and protocol, and will instead roll up their sleeves and get to work with projects that mean something to them.” The couple seems to also think it is important for them to connect with the public, and having strict protocol could get in the way.

While this can make things easier for some people, others find it rather confusing. Jacky Poking, secretary of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association, said: “I have no idea how to speak to them. We haven’t received any official brief on etiquette. I think that’s because the Sussexes want to keep it informal. I don’t even know how to greet them.”

Why are Meghan Markle and Prince Harry rejecting royal protocol?

First off, many modern royals have always been relaxed when meeting commoners. Prince William once shared in an interview that he much prefers to be called “William,” not “His Royal Highness.” Even the official website for the royal family says that formalities are not required from members of the public when meeting a royal, though anyone who wants to observe the traditional way of greeting can do so.

In any case, Markle and Prince Harry have shown time and time again that they are not traditional royals, so it is not surprising that they are foregoing to protocol in order to feel closer to everyone they meet.

Some people also believe that this could be a way for the couple to get back their popularity after all the recent PR disasters. In the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been criticized for living too lavishly, spending millions of taxpayers’ money on home renovations, and flying private jets four times in less than two weeks. Perhaps a successful royal tour where they connect deeply with the public will help turn things around.