Three little letters. H. R. H. Their absence as a prefix to Duke and Duchess will pass unnoticed in most of the world, not least the celebrityland that is now presumably Harry and Meghan’s most likely destination. So too the small but significant detail that they can no longer represent the Queen abroad.
But be in no doubt: within palace walls, in government departments, embassies and wherever anxious aides pore over the small print of protocol, both these demotions carry real significance. To Harry personally, they will sting, as – one assumes – is Her Majesty’s intention.
So too will the removal of his military appointments and affiliations. To Harry, former soldier and member of a family so steeped in military service and tradition, to whom wearing uniform (and wearing it properly in every meticulous detail) is second nature, this will be a particularly deep cut.
Three little letters. H. R. H. Their absence as a prefix to Duke and Duchess will pass unnoticed in most of the world, not least the celebrityland that is now presumably Harry and Meghan’s most likely destination
The significance will certainly not be lost on men and women currently serving who have sworn an oath, if needed, to pay a far higher sacrifice than anything being asked of the Sussexes.
And, while on the subject of symbolism, it must be time to stop the confusing practice of issuing Sussex statements under the Buckingham Palace letterhead.
Meghan’s PR company can surely suggest a more appropriate (and accurate) alternative.
As for practical reality, the two statements pose more questions than they answer. Top of the list must come SussexRoyal, the trademark with which Harry and Meghan could make millions.
We must assume that any restrictions on its use and some kind of oversight mechanism are still under discussion, doubtless with the steely involvement of the couple’s small army of hard-nosed American advisers. As a former courtier, I don’t envy the officials now working under such pressure to reconcile so many discordant voices, and with a transatlantic cultural barrier to surmount.
But be in no doubt: within palace walls, in government departments, embassies and wherever anxious aides pore over the smallprint of protocol, both these demotions carry real significance
What also of small matters such as security (neatly sidestepped here) and tax; of visas and citizenship; of co-ordination with other households and consular support overseas; of Archie’s education and his future role in the life of the Royal Family? And what do the Canadians make of it all?
Answers to these and other key issues still have the potential to derail the whole process, as heels dig in, patience frays and tiny details acquire huge symbolic significance.
So far, all sides can claim to have achieved some success and the Queen’s highly personal words reinforcing how much she values Harry and Meghan as family members will comfort the millions who feel this trauma almost as keenly as if it were happening to their own nearest and dearest.
For this is a wound that will take years to heal, not just for the Windsors but for monarchists worldwide who grieve over such damage to the institution they love and admire. Damage that, in the way it was inflicted – without consultation, courtesy or any sign of responsible forethought – has many of the attributes of calculated vandalism.
Emotions understandably run high when so many have so much invested in a couple that was held up as symbolic of a whole new, enlightened and diverse style of Royal future. Those high-flying hopes have now been brought painfully to earth, in the process setting off a rumbling and ominous wider debate on the cultural faultlines in our society.
To Harry personally, they will sting, as – one assumes – is Her Majesty’s intention
All the more important that we take note of the Queen’s obvious determination to see this as primarily a family matter. She emphasises her pleasure at how Meghan has become part of that family – a gentle reminder to those, perhaps including Meghan herself, who would cast her as a proxy in their own progressive campaigns. Being in a family, even a family under such stress, is still a cause for gratitude… and for personal restraint.
Will this interim statement staunch the bleeding? Far too soon to say. But at least we have had a glimpse into life after this abdication; we have had clear evidence of the Queen’s hand ‘on the tiller’ and we now have at least the hope – however distant – of a monarchy restored to health and a Royal Family restored to peace.
To echo the Queen’s Christmas message, now is the time for those ‘small steps… that bring about the most lasting change’.
Will it be change for the better? That lies very much with the still very grandly titled Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
So far in this still-unfinished process they have a lot for which to be grateful. It will be interesting to see how they show their gratitude.