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Why Harry and Meghan’s children may now use the titles ‘prince’ and ‘princess’

Archie and Lilibet can now use the titles "prince" and "princess" thanks to a century-old royal decree.

Several royal titles have already shifted following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, including those of Archie and Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor.

The two children of Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex are now eligible to claim the titles of “prince” and “princess,” in keeping with a decree issued by King George V in 1917. 

Though questions remain as to whether the titles will be changing: While the website of the royal family has been updated to reflect other royal family members' new titles, Archie and Lilibet are still listed as Master and Miss Mountbatten-Windsor.

According to that written order, known as Letters Patent, “the children and grandchildren of a reigning monarch have the automatic right to the title ‘His Royal Highness’ or ‘Her Royal Highness’ and ‘prince’ or ‘princess,’” royal commentator and biographer Carolyn Durand told TODAY.

Archie and Lilibet are now entitled to use "prince" and "princess" titles since they are grandchildren of the monarch.
Archie and Lilibet are now entitled to use "prince" and "princess" titles since they are grandchildren of the monarch. Alexi Lubomirski / Courtesy Archewell Foundation

Before the queen’s death on Sept. 8, Archie, 3, and Lilibet, 1, were great-grandchildren of the ruling monarch, and were thus not eligible to style their names with “prince” or “princess” titles, Durand explained.

But now, with their grandfather ruling as King Charles III, they would be eligible to use these honorifics.

Prince George, 9, has always been an exception to the rules outlined in the 1917 decree; as a direct successor to the British throne, he has been styled as a prince since birth.

His siblings, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, would not normally have been given “prince” and “princess” titles — but in 2012, the queen changed the rules for all the children of Prince William and the former Kate Middleton.

“(Prince George) is going to be king one day,” Durand said. “So he was entitled to be prince, but any other children that William and Kate had were not. So (the queen) intervened and issued Letters Patent, so any children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and now Cornwall, would be prince or princess, so all of the children would be the same.”

“Harry and Megan have not indicated whether they will use these titles,” Durand said. “They are entitled to be styled that way — that’s the terminology — but we don’t know whether they will elect to use them.”

Harry and Meghan stopped using their royal titles "His Royal Highness" and "Her Royal Highness" after they stepped back from their royal duties in 2020.

Some royal children who could have used royal titles do not. For example, neither the children of Prince Edward nor Princess Anne, Elizabeth's youngest son and her daughter, do not use “prince” or “princess” titles, despite being eligible to use them.

On the other hand, Prince Andrew, the late queen’s second son, chose to give “HRH” titles to his daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.

It’s possible that in the future, King Charles could change the rules surrounding titles, but right now, it’s too early to say.

Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, accompanied by their parents the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Prince George (left), Princess Charlotte (right) and Prince Louis (middle) have had "prince" and "princess" titles since birth thanks to a 2012 order from Queen Elizabeth. PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo / Alamy Live News.

“We don’t know in the future if he would change Letters Patent, in which case Archie and Lilibet could not necessarily use those titles in the future,” Durand said. “There’s no indication that he will or will not do that, but he has called for a slimmed-down monarchy in the past.”

While some questions remain about Archie and Lilibet’s future titles, some royal titles have already definitely changed since the queen’s death.

The Prince of Wales became King Charles III, and his wife, the former Duchess of Cornwall, is now known as Her Majesty the Queen Consort.

Prince William and the former Kate Middleton are also now known as the Prince and Princess of Wales. Meanwhile, Harry and the former Meghan Markle will remain the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Durand said.