Stripping Sussexes’ titles is tempting but rash

The Conservative MP Bob Seely has said he intends to introduce the “nuclear option” of a parliamentary bill that would strip the Duke and Duchess of Sussex of their royal titles.

This is in response to the latest uproar caused by the Sussexes’ biographer, Omid Scobie. A Dutch translation of his new book named the King and the Princess of Wales as the source of an alleged “racist” remark about the likely skin colour of the Sussexes’ then unborn baby Archie.

The King is reportedly considering legal action over this claim, which Scobie denies having made. The most likely explanation, however, is that these names, which were absent from the final text of the book, were mistakenly left in an early draft that was sent to the Dutch translators.

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Harry and Meghan pose for their Christmas card last year with Archie and Lilibet. Picture: Alexi Lubomirski/The Times

As Seely said, few believe that Harry and Meghan weren’t behind Scobie’s claim and that the use of a race row to smear the royal family was “poisonously insidious”.

The outrage fuelling Seely’s gesture is entirely understandable. The sustained onslaught by Meghan and Harry on the King, the Queen and the Prince and Princess of Wales has been sickening. There is significant public dismay over the way the Sussexes have not only milked their position for commercial gain in America but done so by turning upon the institution that has provided their lucrative meal ticket.

Their incessant whining about the way they say they have been treated by the individuals whom they themselves have so publicly wronged, through egregious breaches of privacy and vicious character assassination, has disgusted much of the British public.

The call for them to lose their royal titles isn’t surprising. Justice demands no less. Justice, however, is not the only consideration. Stripping the Sussexes of their royal titles really would be to slam the door on them for ever. Some may say that, considering what they’ve done, this is exactly what should happen.

Yet it is not necessarily a wise move for the institution of the monarchy. It risks looking petty and vindictive. That’s because, however selfish, spiteful and altogether disgraceful Prince Harry’s behaviour has been, it is clearly influenced by the wounds inflicted by his traumatic childhood.

That is not an excuse for the way he has behaved, but it does mean that slamming the door on him would be lacking in compassion.

Harry and Meghan Netflix docuseries. Picture: Netflix
Harry and Meghan Netflix docuseries. Picture: Netflix

None is surely more sensitive to that fact than the King. The love that a parent has for his or her child is unconditional. A child can break your heart but they remain your child. It’s an unusually flinty individual who doesn’t hope against hope that their estranged child will one day return to them. A loving parent, hurting badly from a child’s behaviour, has to suck it up.

Although the Sussexes’ behaviour has made an accommodation with them currently impossible, the King will almost certainly not want to cut Harry loose altogether. He will, surely, desperately want Harry to return to him. And this is entirely possible.

There are some who have predicted from the start that the marriage between Meghan and Harry won’t last. This is based on the view that Meghan is motivated overwhelmingly by self-interest. Having viewed her marriage as a passport to riches and social prestige, the thinking goes, she will throw Harry over as soon as that passport becomes worthless.

There are already signs that America has wearied of the couple, with media outlets deciding they haven’t come up with the promised goods to keep ratings in the stratosphere; indeed, Meghan and Harry have hardly produced any media efforts at all.

Maybe these predictions about the marriage are wrong, and it is rock solid and will endure. It is possible, even so, that the Sussexes will eventually conclude that America has soured on them or has just lost interest so badly that their joint interests would best be served by buckling down to some kind of role in the royal family after all.

Of course they might continue to chase unicorns together indefinitely in America. But Meghan may decide that her best shot at the status and lifestyle she so obviously craves lies not with film producers but with her father-in-law.

And if the worst predictions about the marriage breaking up were to come true, who can doubt that Harry would himself want to return to the royal fold in some way – and would play by the rules to do so.

Their incessant whining about the way they say they have been treated by the individuals whom they themselves have so publicly wronged, through egregious breaches of privacy and vicious character assassination, has disgusted much of the British public. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images.
Their incessant whining about the way they say they have been treated by the individuals whom they themselves have so publicly wronged, through egregious breaches of privacy and vicious character assassination, has disgusted much of the British public. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images.

It is unthinkable that in these circumstances the King would turn him away. And if Meghan were to decide that it was in her interests finally to play by those rules too, it is hard to imagine the King refusing her either.

Equally, it is unlikely that these wounds can ever properly be healed. How could either Harry or Meghan ever again be wholly trusted? But some kind of modus vivendi with them is by no means beyond hope.

For all these reasons, it is therefore exceedingly unlikely that the King would want to humiliate Harry totally by stripping him of his royal title.

Having a thankless child, said King Lear, is “sharper than a serpent’s tooth”. Too late, he discovered quite what love demanded. It’s an insight of which the King, who could probably recite Shakespeare’s play by heart, is unlikely to be unaware.

The Times

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