Prince Harry and Meghan, still considered Royals or simply celebrities?

Watch: Are Prince Harry and Meghan considered royals or celebrities? | Royal Insight

In this episode of Royal Insight, India McTaggart analyses Prince Harry and Meghan's crossover between the two worlds

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Are the Duke and Duchess of Sussex royals or celebrities? That is the question now being asked around the world following the couple’s major website rebrand and the suggestion that Prince Harry should come back into the fold to lend a hand amid the King’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. 

I’ve just returned from covering a very cold trip to Canada where Harry and Meghan officially marked the one-year countdown to the next Invictus Games, and one of the things that really struck me during the visit was this crossover between their celebrity status and their royal pull.

The mini tour came right on the heels of the launch of their new website, Sussex.com, in which the pair have positioned themselves very much on their royal titles: even using the Duchess’s old coat of arms from when she married into the family to illustrate the words “The Office of Prince Harry & Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex”. 

It sparked speculation of a commercial rebrand for the Sussexes, who have faced difficulties with two of their major deals in the last few years. Spotify was famously axed early – washed down with an accusation by a company executive of being grifters – and neither has it been smooth sailing with their production for Netflix. 

The revamped website included new philanthropic-focused biographies for the couple, describing the Duchess as a feminist, a champion of human rights and gender equity, as well as one of the most influential women in the world. Prince Harry, meanwhile, is described as a humanitarian, military veteran, mental health advocate and environmental campaigner. 

The site immediately drew critics who questioned the suitability of using the royal coat of arms, with some arguing that it could clash with the spirit of the couple’s understanding with Buckingham Palace – made at the Sandringham summit with the late Queen Elizabeth – to not trade on their royal status once they stepped down as working members of the family. 

The backlash brought home a point that has come full circle since their exit to the US in 2020, which is that they appear to still want to have both sides of the royal coin. 

Commercialisation of their titles

In the background, we know that the commercialisation of their titles is contrary to the agreement they made with the Palace - but The Telegraph has understood that the couple will not be stopped from using Meghan’s coat of arms in the future. 

The pair also opted to use the titles of Prince and Princess for their two children and while we were away in Canada, reports emerged that they are now also using Sussex as the official surname for Archie and Lilibet, rather than Mountbatten-Windsor, their given name at birth.

So after trying to find freedom in the US from what they described as the constraints and pressures of the Royal family, they also appear to recognise four years down the line that those titles do matter after all.

In an interview with American breakfast television show Good Morning America while in Whistler, the Duke even suggested that the King’s diagnosis could have a reunifying effect for his family, which was seen by some as a tentative reopening of the door.

He was later reported to have told friends that he was willing to come back and take a temporary working role in the family while his father is ill. 

Whether his words to the programme were intended to pave his way back into the royal fold or not, Palace sources were quick to contradict the latter claim, saying that no offer for a temporary role was made during Harry’s 30-minute reunion with the King at Clarence House. 

It is understood that there is no way back for the Duke as the terms of the Sandringham summit, as agreed between Prince Harry and his late grandmother, father and brother, still stand: and they rule out a “half in, half out” approach to monarchy.

So the question then remains of what the couple’s future ambitions are – and where this rebrand positions them? 

In Canada, they seemed as distanced as ever from the royal health crisis unfolding in London, but they were clearly devoted to the cause of their trip – with Harry jumping at the chance to try his hand at adaptive winter sports – such as the skeleton bobsleigh and sit skiing – alongside his beloved Invictus Games veterans. 

We know the couple are immensely proud of the commendable legacy of Harry’s Games – hosted to support wounded or sick military personnel around the world – and that pride did cut through over the three days of events held on Whistler Mountain and in Vancouver. 

They rarely left each other’s sides during the trip – always holding hands or with an arm around one another – and while Harry was being his well-known daring self with the sporting activities on offer, Meghan was always waiting for him at the finish line and eagerly filming him with a nervous smile. 

And not only did they interact warmly with each other, but Harry seemed to make a point of welcoming the press – thanking us for attending every event and even coming over for a more personal thank you during their final appearance in front of the media. 

It came as somewhat of a surprise in light of his recent settlements and litigation with the British media, but he often interacted with us by joking around, giving us throwaway commentary on what he was doing and seemed to really enjoy showing off his competitive side to the assembled reporters while wheelchair curling with Michael Buble.

Remaining legacies

While it may have been a tactic to garner more coverage for the Games, which is one of the only remaining legacies he has from his time as a working royal, the acts of warmth may signal a thawing of relations between him and the British media.

But amid criticism that they were still capitalising on their royal status with the rebrand – and midway through their Canada trip – the Duke and Duchess’ spokesman released an extraordinary statement insisting that the couple will not be broken by media speculation. 

It said that despite Harry and Meghan hearing time and time again that certain opportunities are make or break for them, they are still here and still pursuing what they believe in.

The statement added that the pair continue to work despite being constantly challenged and criticised no matter what they choose to do. 

This sentiment was one clearly shown to us in Canada – with Harry remaining laser-focused on Invictus and its impact. 

In the meantime, Meghan has also announced a new home for her podcasting ambitions – this time with an independent and female-founded company called Lemonada Media, rather than the global streaming giant Spotify. 

The Duchess said that the immediate plan was to re-release her Archetypes series so that more people would have access to it, and that launching a “dynamic” new podcast was also in the works. 

Harry, meanwhile, will remain as committed as ever to his Games in the run-up to the 2025 event, but revealed in Canada that he also has upcoming trips or stopovers to the UK planned – and that he will try to visit his family as often as he can. 

For the future, he made it clear that the majority of his life was in the States now, telling Good Morning America that he had even considered getting citizenship there. 

So it seems the Sussexes may continue to be isolated from the rest of the royals, advocating for their various causes while also capitalising on their celebrity status abroad. 

But recent events have begged the question whether the shift towards Harry’s royal roots – and the perceived olive branches extended to his father – signals a recalibration in the couple’s ambitions four years after stepping away from official duties and life in England.

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