The Sussex Children Are Prince and Princess
Lots of questions still swirl as the Sussexes surprised the world (and maybe the Palace?) with the big news.
Big news from Montecito this morning! The Sussexes confirmed their daughter Lili was baptized by the Episcopal Bishop of Los Angeles last Friday at the Sussexes’ home. According to People:
An insider tells PEOPLE there were between 20-30 guests at Friday's intimate gathering, including Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, Lilibet's godfather, Tyler Perry, and an unnamed godmother. Following the ceremony, attendees were treated to an afternoon of food and dancing — with Archie enjoying a dance with his little sister!
Perry was spotted arriving in Montecito last week ahead of the christening. He flew in for the ceremony from his home in Atlanta with a 10-person gospel choir that sang "Oh Happy Day" and "This Little Light of Mine" — a song that was played at Meghan and Harry's wedding.
The bigger news was in the announcement, though. In the course of confirming the baptism, the Sussexes’ spokesman used the title “princess” to refer to Lili. This, of course, sparked an enormous amount of discussion among royal watchers and a flurry of activity from royal reporters as they attempted to get statements from Buckingham Palace.
As of this writing, multiple royal reporters have confirmed that Buckingham Palace says the Sussexes have elected to exercise their right under the 1917 Letters Patent and call their children Prince/Princess. The BP website has yet to be updated, although the Palace has said it will be in due course.
Although this is being presented as an “all in the normal course of things” situation, I don’t think this was straight forward. First, I think the legal argument remained that the Letters Patent did not operate retroactively. I made that argument months ago here. Whether that argument was floated internally, I do not know, but it is possible it was, since the Sussexes have waited so long to use the titles.
Second, Meghan complained in the Oprah interview that her children had been denied titles, which suggests that there was a discussion and it wasn’t just a matter of delaying titles. Meghan was upset and claiming her children would never be Prince/Princess. There has been a keen desire on the part of the Sussexes for their children to have titles and resistance from the late Queen and then the King to grant them.
This is supported by the report months ago that after discussion Harry and King Charles agreed to let time go by and have the children decide in the future if they wanted to utilize their right to their titles. Whether that was the ultimate conclusion the two reached or not, the report again suggested that the issue was being debated internally. Given Meghan’s stated desire that her children have titles (immediately), this also suggests the Palace did not want to confer them.
I think that Charles did not want to give the titles to the children, but Charles is terrified of being called a racist. If he denied the titles to Archie and Lili (perfectly reasonable, as discussed in last night’s post), he’d be accused of denying royal status to his only mixed-race grandchildren. It would all be made about race, despite the obvious and rational race-neutral reason to deny the titles.
It is possible that the Sussexes decided to force his hand. The way the royal reporters were caught off guard coupled with the slow response from the Palace to inquiries and the royal website not primed to be updated, suggests the Palace might not have known, although it does not confirm it absolutely.
It would be interesting if this is a desperate move from the Sussexes. The timing suggests the Montecito couple feel up against a wall. As discussed on this post last month, they had a disastrous December and January, and have been cocooning in California probably trying to figure out what to do next to repair their image.
They have clearly been holding out for a royal christening. This has been suggested by reports of varying reliability since Lili was born, but I think it makes obvious sense they’d want that royal event. They even waited to “debut” Lili to the public until they returned to the U.K. for the Jubilee events last summer. Once there, they issued a picture of her to the press in the garden at Frogmore Cottage, their “royal residence,” and gave some details about the royal birthday party they’d thrown for her. So connecting their children to royal-status has been a priority. Clearly, they realized they just aren’t getting a royal christening, and they could not wait much longer—Lili will be two this summer.
Additionally, they have hit pretty hard times in the royal department.
December/January witnessed a sea change for Harry and Meghan. I think the Sussexes knew Harry’s family would feel betrayed (although more and more one gets the sense the Sussexes don’t have normal expectations of how people will react) and that the Netflix series and the book Spare would further alienate William and Kate. But the million dollar question was how would the public react. Obviously the Sussexes were banking on their stock rising. Unhappily for them, rather than boosting the Sussexes’ poll numbers and popularity, their one-two punch plunged them into heavy disfavor with the public. In fact, as I have argued before, such low popularity, it is difficult to see them ever fully recovering.
Meanwhile, William and Kate navigated a bumpy ride over those two months, but maintained a pretty steady ship throughout. Since then, they have emerged on the other side as calm and externally unbothered as ever. The royal family did not need to defend itself (the press and public did plenty of that on their behalf) and royal life moves on with that endless succession of public enagegemnts and smiling photo ops. The Sussexes must have felt even further alienated than ever from the glittering lives they miss, and wondering what to do next. Because the cold reality is, despite the battering they have been receiving from Santa Barbara, the royals—with their star power intact—are moving on without the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Then, the couple faced the news going public that they must vacate their more prestigious royal residence on the grounds of the Windsor Home Park, possibly for more modest accommodations with other minor royals at one of the London palaces. The couple were probably feeling like every indicia of royalty was evaporating.
Given all this, a christening at their home complete with a bishop and throwbacks to their royal wedding in Windsor suggest a counter-move on the part of the couple. If I had to bet, my money is on the Sussexes chose to unilaterally determine the Prince/Princess title. And Charles is in check-mate, because the Sword of Damocles is over his head in the shape of the ever-present threat that the Sussexes can accuse him of racism.
But, whether or not the move was without the Palace’s knowledge/blessing, it strengthens my conviction even more that the Sussexes are absolutely planning to attend the coronation in June. They want to be royal; they want to defend that status. They have to show up to the coronation.
I know a lot of people are upset and feel that titles for the children are inappropriate, both because of the behavior of their parents and because the children are being raised half a world away from the United Kingdom. Both those points are fair, but at the end of the day, just as their parents’ title doesn’t confer the royal sparkle, the Sussexes will find that using Prince and Princess every now and again on formal documents does not royalty make.
More on that in a future post, I am sure. I know not everyone likes the drama, but I have to say this is just the kind of left-field news morning that makes my day. What will they do next?
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I think I differ from most monarchists when I say I don't actually care if the Sussex children have titles. It makes sense to me that they would. However, I don't think they'll have much use for them in their lives, if the plan to live in the U.S. and remain outside the royal sphere is followed.
That said, I'm not clear at all as to what the Sussexes do want that they haven't already received or achieved on their own merit. They've told their story on their own terms several times now. They live where they say they want to live. They are making money outside of the royal family, which they wanted. They are unhindered by royal protocol and can seek therapy, financial gain, and social clout in whatever method they chose.
But they still seem unhappy about something. It's almost as if they just want to be universally loved and they want public acknowledgement from the Palace that they were right in every choice they made. Neither of those things are going to happen.
I 1000% agree - M and H have backed Charles and the palace into a corner. They push to the limit in hopes the opposition back down. It's like they are saying to Charles, we've given our children the titles 'publicly', if you're not going to provide them with a title you need to take it from them - 'publicly'. The title debacle should've been dealt with as a matter of urgency before they had the chance to forcibly gain the upper hand.
Was it fear they where being swept under the carpet, in terms of their 'royal' status, announcing this to the public after Frogmore cottage was no longer their UK base? Screams desperation to me.
How anyone can support Harry or Meghan is beyond comprehension - the hypocrisy is off the scale.