Prince Harry Spare: King Charles could strip Harry and Meghan of Duke and Duchess titles

When Queen Elizabeth announced on May 19th, 2019 that she was making her grandson and occasional partner in social media crime (remember that cheeky Invictius video with the Obamas?) Prince Harry into only the second Duke of Sussex on occasion of his wedding, no one paid that much heed to the actual title.

After all, the royal family was about to get its most electrifying addition to its pale and stale ranks … umm … ever.

Turns out that there was only one Duke that came before Harry with the first holder of the title, Prince Augustus, being quite the scandal-maker of his time thanks to his choice of not one but two wives that his father and brother, George III and George IV, disapproved of.

Remind you of anyone?

Now, only a measly four years after the Sussex dukedom was dusted off and put back into service for Harry, could it be about to be mothballed? Again?

The reason why, like pretty much everything these days connected with the current Duke and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex comes down to their various money-making gambits. (With a reported $62,500-a-month mortgage to pay and a hen house full of chooks to keep in gluten-free grain, these days the couple need filthy lucre the exact same way that you and I do.)

While Meghan launched her debut commercial outing, the less-than-successful Spotify series Archetypes (a seemingly never-ending exercise in the application of ego to the podcasting format) we will have to wait until January 10 for Harry’s turn when his memoir, the savagely named Spare, will be released.

Unlike Archetypes, which largely constitutes hour after interminable hour of Meghan name-dropping and talking about herself, all masquerading as some sort of bold feminist endeavour, the Duke’s book will likely land like a Bikini Atoll detonation.

Never before has anyone who grew up in the sanctum sanctorum of the royal family turned whistleblower since his great-great-uncle the Duke of Windsor’s 1951 autobiography A King’s Story and even then, it’s not as if the former king went full literary turncoat and dished the dirt on Queen Mary’s midmorning shandy habit. (Okay I’m guessing about the last part.)

How explosive might Spare be? Depends on who is talking to which paper. Over the weekend, those familiar with Harry’s manuscript described the book as a “beautiful read” to The Telegraph, elsewhere a source told The Mirror that behind Palace gates, “Everyone is bracing themselves for yet another fraught and frantic period at the mercy of the Sussexes.”

The same source also said things are “near rock bottom” when it comes to Harry and his family and they were “completely caught by surprise” by Spare’s title.

“This book could spell the end for any relationship Harry wants to have with his family, it’s desperately sad,” one source had said.

Any wonder then that Buckingham Palace is, according to the Daily Mail, on “tenterhooks” as they wait to finally see what revelations Harry has committed to the page?

So let’s play ‘what if’. What if Spare lives up to courtiers’ worst fears? What if an emancipated Harry has decided to turn on the truth fire hose, particularly in regards to his father King Charles and stepmother Queen Camilla?

In this scenario, the pressure on Charles to make some sort of move to formally distance the monarchy from the Sussexes would be dialled up to 11, even if he is his much-loved son.

However, the options open to His Majesty to show his displeasure or attempt to censure the Duke and Duchess are limited at best. It’s not as if denying them future shooting weekends at Balmoral will really have much effect.

(The couple has, as far as is known, never stayed at the royal family’s beloved hulking Scottish estate having perhaps savvily clocked that long walks in itchy tartan do not a proper summer holiday make.)

Which leaves the monarch with one final ace card up his sleeve – titles.

Firstly, there is the issue of titles for the Sussex’s two young children, Archie, 3, and Lilibet, 1, which are still up in the air. Under the current Letters Patent, as the grandchildren, via the male line, of the sovereign they are entitled to be known as Prince and Princess but for nearly two months now, there has not been a single solitary official peep on this front.

Reportedly, Charles is waiting to see what his son might reveal in Spare in what feels like a slightly futile, horse-has-long-bolted move.

However, the kidlets’ titles are not the only ones that could end up on the chopping block.

In an interview on Good Morning Britain this week, royal biographer Tom Bower, author of last year’s Battle of Brothers, made the case that the couple’s post-palace career of regularly tossing brickbats at The Firm should translate to them being stripped of their Sussex honours.

“The couple in Montecito who are making their fortune solely by damaging and destroying the royal family to promote their own fortunes and their own prestige and their own brand, I don’t think they should be allowed to call themselves Duke and Duchess anymore,” Bower said.

“I think the only way in which they can be undermined and reduced in importance in America is to say, ‘Well if you think that of us, this is our family, this is Britain, you don’t need to keep your titles anymore.’

“They trade on their titles, they make their money by always parading themselves as the Duke and Duchess and the Prince. So if they want to make their money out of trashing Britain, then why should they be recognised as the Duke and Duchess?”

I’m not for a second saying I agree with Bower’s vehemence here, but it’s worth considering – if Harry goes scorched earth with Spare, could he leave his father with no choice?

If the book is a page turner of a flensing of the royal family, can Charles credibly be seen to do nothing to protect the throne?

If that is the case, we could see him act on the title front. As sovereign, his job is to protect the monarchy at all costs, even if the threat is coming from his own family.

Think of this possibility as less of a case of punitive retaliation and more of Charles’ hand being forced to try and protect the House of Windsor from the ‘truth-telling’ duo.

Now, keep in mind here, His Majesty himself cannot do away with the second Duke of Sussex with a quick flourish of his accursed fountain pen but would take an act of Parliament. So too would going down this path also raise very legitimate questions about why Prince Andrew should be allowed to remain the Duke of York.

But after the wild, formerly unthinkable events of the last few years – and I am very much including Andrew here, a man who thought that accepting the hospitality of a convicted child sex offender was the “honourable” thing to do – would the King taking this sort of decisive action and asking parliament to act be that much of a surprise?

(There is also the possibility His Majesty could just choose to exert considerable private and public pressure on the California-based duo to stop using the titles without them being formally removed.)

What we have seen so far of Charles is that he is a King of action, being the first monarch to make their heir the Prince of Wales prior to their coronation.

So too, Harry’s ceremonial role as the Captain General of the Royal Marines, which had lain dormant for 20 months since he was stripped of the role in February 2021.

While Queen Elizabeth had publicly taken no steps to reassign the prestigious military position, late last week Charles announced that he was taking over the gig less than two months into his reign.

We are still months away from anyone even getting the quickest of peeks at Spare but what seems clear is that there is far more at stake here than Penguin Random House’s sales figures.

Old Prince Frederick managed to hold onto the Sussex dukedom for 42 years but will Harry even hit his fifth anniversary?

At least if something dramatic did happen here it would give him plenty of fresh material.

Daniela Elser is writer and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

Read related topics:Prince HarryQueen Elizabeth II

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