There have been a lot of recent comments about whether or not The Duke and Duchess of Sussex should be stripped of their titles. Without getting into whether I agree with this or not, can it even be done?
There are two separate things to look at; the peerage and the HRH. By birth, Harry is His Royal Highness Prince Henry (Harry) of Wales. Upon his wedding day, he was granted the Dukedom of Sussex, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, with the subsidiary titles of Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel. Upon marriage, Meghan began to share his status and rank becoming The Duchess of Sussex with the status of a Princess. She does not carry a title in her own right, and if any titles are removed, they must be removed from Prince Harry.
Firstly, a peerage, in this case, The Dukedom of Sussex and its subsidiary titles, cannot be removed unless by Act of Parliament. This has only ever been done once before. The Titles Deprivation Act 19171 was used to remove the peerages of enemies of the United Kingdom during the First World War. This included three male-line British Princes and a Viscount.
- His Royal Highness Charles Edward, Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence and Baron Arklow – Grandson of Queen Victoria and the last Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
- His Royal Highness Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, Earl of Armagh – Great-grandson of King George III and Crown Prince of Hanover.
- His Royal Highness Ernest Augustus – Son of the above.
- Henry, Viscount Taaffe of Corren and Baron of Ballymote – Bore arms against the United Kingdom.
These four people were deprived of their peerages by the King’s Order in Council of 28 March 1919, as authorised by the Titles Deprivation Act 1917. The first three retained their (distant) succession rights to the throne, and they also retained their titles of Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. So keep in mind, if a new Act of Parliament is done, this will only affect the peerage. If the Dukedom is removed, Meghan and Harry will still be known as Their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Henry of Wales. Also considering the only other time this method has been used – for enemies of the United Kingdom – I’d find it highly unlikely it will be done.
Secondly, the styling of HRH was discussed, and it was announced that the Duke and Duchess would not use the style of HRH in business, but they still retain the style. This is due to the 1917 Letters Patent which limits the title of Prince or Princess to the children of the sovereign, the grandchildren of the sovereign in the male line, and the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. In 2012, this was expanded to include all the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales ensuring that both Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis were born Prince and Princess.
In 1919, Princess Patricia of Connaught asked if she could relinquish “the style of Royal Highness and the title of Princess of Great Britain and Ireland” upon marriage, which was permitted by King George V by Letters Patent.2 This was done voluntarily and she became known as Lady Patricia Ramsay. Nevertheless, at the following two coronations, she wore the coronet and robes of a Princess, showing that she had not been stripped of the style and title. I don’t see this option happening for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex either. Would they then be known as Their Graces The Duke and Duchess of Sussex?
Perhaps the easiest way out of the mob’s call for their heads would be for them to go by Harry and Meghan Sussex in business. This would be similar to how Princess Eugenie is known as Eugenie York at work and how her uncle was known as Edward Windsor when he was not a full-time royal.