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Following Harry & Meghan’s resignation, who are the ‘senior royals’?

Michael Garnett via Flickr CC

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex effectively resigned as senior royals on Wednesday, deciding that they would prefer to split their time between the UK and North America while ”continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen”.

In a statement, Harry & Meghan said: “We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent.”

As such, the debate is likely to restart over who exactly constitutes as being a senior member of The Royal Family.

What defines as being a ‘senior royal’ is very much subjective and divides opinion.

One possible definition of a senior royal is ‘any member of the Royal Family who continually carries out duties in their own right and on behalf of the crown’. While this may be true, this would make most members of the Royal Family ‘senior royals’ so there’s more to it than that.

The other way one could define a senior member of the Royal Family is by proximity to the throne. But then, if that’s the case, where is the cutoff point – fourth-in-line, fifth-in-line, tenth-in-line? And that excludes spouses of members of The Royal Family who constitute high influence.

Then there is the matter of who does the most work? This system would put The Queen and Princess Anne at the top, and then people such as the Duke of Gloucester higher than the Duke of Cambridge, despite their extremely differing roles. This system is somewhat flawed from the start as workloads fluctuate in The Royal Family, and it is no measure of someone’s seniority.

It seems there is almost no formally agreed way to define senior members of the Royal Family… until now. After doing a little research into different roles of members, we may have discovered a definitive way to determine who is a senior member of The Royal Family.

In short, the system is The Monarch, Counsellors of State and their spouses.

Counsellors of State are high-ranking members of the Royal Family who, in the case of Queen Elizabeth’s absence, carry out the function of the Crown together.

Using this system, senior members of the Royal Family are:

  • Her Majesty The Queen
  • The Duke of Edinburgh
  • The Prince of Wales
  • The Duchess of Cornwall
  • The Duke of Cambridge
  • The Duchess of Cambridge
  • The Duke of Sussex
  • The Duchess of Sussex
  • The Duke of York

Since the resignation of the Duke & Duchess of Sussex and the Duke of York from The Royal Family, many would argue that these are no longer ‘senior’, and indeed the Sussexes made a point of explaining that they no longer to consider themselves to be as such.

But, for our purposes, Prince Harry & Prince Andrew are still Counsellors of State, and Meghan is married to a Counsellor, despite none of them undertaking royal duties.

This system does, however, miss out hugely respected royals such as The Princess Royal, although knowing Princess Anne, she couldn’t give a hoot about her seniority – as long as the work gets done she is happy.