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British RoyalsInsightOpinionThe Sussexes

Will Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor ever be a prince?


There’s been a lot of discussions recently about Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor’s royal status.

Okay, actually there’s been a lot of discussion about him in general. The non-traditional name. The cuteness. At less than a week old, this is unsurprisingly one of the most talked about little ones ever. While there was a lot of pomp and ceremony around the birth of Archie’s older cousins – Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis – there was also a lot less confusion. It was made clear before birth that they would all be styled His/Her Royal Highness (HRH) with the title of Prince or Princess. With Archie – the son of the second son of the Prince of Wales – things are much less clear.

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Let’s dive in, shall we?

At present Archie (or Master Archie, as he would most formally be known) is 7th in the line of succession after his grandfather (Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales), uncle (Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge), three older cousins (Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis of Cambridge), and his father (Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex). Since he is the son of the second son of the Prince of Wales, he is not entitled to any royal title or style.

He is, however, entitled to be styled as the child of a Duke and use his father’s subsidiary title – Earl of Dumbarton – becoming Lord Archie, The Earl of Dumbarton. Interestingly, however, his parents have opted for him to not use subsidiary titles or alternate styles “at this time.” (It’s my opinion that the “at this time” wording is quite important, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)

He is, therefore, simply, Master Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.

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In 1917 King George V issued Letters Patent declaring that the children of the sovereign, the children of any sons of the sovereign, and the eldest living son of the eldest living son of the Prince of Wales would be granted the style of HRH (His/Her Royal Highness).

This meant that going forward – and until 2012 when things were changed – all of the monarch’s children were automatically styled HRH Prince/ss at birth, as were any male-line grandchildren. Additionally, the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (ie: the 3rd in line to the throne) would be given a royal and princely status – but his siblings would not. In 2012, prior to the birth of Prince George, new Letters Patent were issued by Queen Elizabeth II declaring that all children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (in this case, all children of Prince William, regardless of gender) would be eligible to be styled HRH Prince/ss upon birth. This closed the loophole that would have prevented a first-born daughter, who was now able to succeed the throne due to the changes in succession laws, from not being styled as a Princess at birth.

Notably, this set of Letters Patent did not include a provision for all grandchildren of the Prince of Wales – only the children of his eldest son. So, as it stands now, Prince Harry’s children are not eligible for any royal style or title.

However, upon Prince Charles’s ascension to the throne, Princes William and Harry will be the sons of the monarch, and their children will all be male-line grandchildren of the monarch. This means that unless anything changes in the meantime, legally Archie will assume the title/style HRH Prince Archie of Sussex the moment his grandfather ascends the throne.

That said, it remains to be seen if that will happen. The Wessexes, for example, have chosen to have their children styled as children of an Earl (and later to be styled as children of a Duke) rather than having them styled as a royal princess and prince, as they are legally entitled (since they are male-line grandchildren of the sovereign). This was announced via a press release and was not a change made via Letters Patent, and so there remains some dispute as to whether legally the Wessex children are, in fact, royal.

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And now, we come to the fact that The Sussexes have been using the phrase “at this time.” These three little words lead me to believe that when the time comes, Archie will be styled HRH Prince Archie of Sussex. In my opinion, his parents are electing to forgo the use of a subsidiary style/title now (Lord Archie, Earl of Dumbarton) since his style/title would be changing in the relatively near (but hopefully not too soon!) future when Prince Charles becomes King.

It’s my personal opinion that if the intention had been that Prince Harry’s children were not ever to be eligible to become royal, the 2012 Letters Patent would have made this clear in some way, or new Letters Patent would be issued by Her Majesty. If no Letters Patent is issued by Her Majesty before her death, Archie will automatically become HRH Prince Archie of Sussex when she dies and Prince Charles becomes King. If Prince Charles – during his reign (even if it was the absolute very first thing he does) – decides to issue Letters Patent altering this he would essentially be stripping a style/title away that has already been legally entitled – something the Royal Family doesn’t usually do. Typically when Letters Patent are issued we see them explicitly not made retroactive so that they don’t affect anyone who is already currently holding a particular style/title/rank/position. The only time in recent memory that changes were made that were retroactive was in 2012 when the succession laws were changed and those who married Roman Catholics were allowed back into the line of succession (and this was a positive change and didn’t remove any rights/privileges, which is why it was allowed retroactively).

It is possible that The Sussexes will follow in the footsteps of The Wessexes and simply state that Archie will not be known by his royal style/title, but I also don’t see this happening.

First, we go back to the phrase “at this time.” Again, this phrasing makes it seem like they are only eliminating styles/titles for now, not forever.

Second, by the time Charles ascends the throne – and more importantly, William, the Royal Family will be much smaller. There are presently 18 working members of the Royal Family (and much to the dismay of some, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York do – on a minimal basis – also undertake engagements). As the older generation begins taking on fewer engagements, the numbers will shift downward. By the time Prince William is King, if Prince Harry’s children are not royal and are not working members of the family, the work of 18 people will be landing on the shoulders of 7 people (assuming The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are still working royals and that Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis are old enough to undertake duties). There may be a time when the number of the working royals are just four (if Prince William ascends before his three children are old enough to undertake duties). While that would mark an extreme downshift in expenditure, something the British people would probably applaud, it also marks an extreme downshift in exposure, patronages, international relations, and potentially even tourism dollars.

There are some who insist that Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor will never be royal, and while I respect them immensely as experts in their field and in general, I respectfully disagree with this assertion. If it was never intended for Harry’s children to be royal, the issue would have been addressed already. The discussions of Charles’s slimmed-down monarchy have been existent for a while, but I don’t believe the intention has ever been to exclude his direct line from becoming working royals. The intention, in my opinion, has been to streamline the working royals away from his mother’s (Yorks, Wessexes, and Princess Royal) and great-grandfather’s (Kents and Gloucesters) lines.

What do you think? Will Archie ever be royal?