The controversial intervention by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in the US election was a “violation” of their “Megxit” deal with the Queen and could further jeopardise their links to the monarchy, according to senior royal aides. Courtiers held talks last week to discuss how the royal household could distance itself further from Harry and Meghan after the couple called on voters in America to “reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity” in “the most important election of our lifetime” – comments widely interpreted as a swipe at President Donald Trump.
Source: Roya Nikkhah and Tim Shipman, The Times
Prince Harry, Meghan ‘violated’ Megxit deal with US vote plea, swipe at Trump
Members of the royal family are supposed to be politically neutral. Under the Sandringham accord – hammered out in March when they resigned as working royals and moved to America – the Sussexes pledged that “everything they do will uphold the values of Her Majesty”.
However, a royal aide said their comments last week had broken that promise: “The [royal] family are all wringing their hands, thinking: where is this going and does this abide by the deal to uphold the values of the Queen? The feeling is it’s a violation of the agreement.”
Prince Harry’s hopes of resuming his links with the Royal Marines and other military posts are now under threat, according to those familiar with the discussions in the royal household. The Sussexes’ arrangement will be reviewed after a year by the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge.
As part of the deal, Harry stepped down from his military roles, including as captain general of the Royal Marines. Officials involved in the “Sandringham summit”, where the deal was struck, say that the Queen agreed to keep the positions open during the review period so that he could return, if it was deemed appropriate.
“The door was left open,” said one aide. “There were some things that Harry hoped he could opt back into. He dearly wants to hang on to the Royal Marines and the military appointments. That will be harder now.”
This will be a blow to Harry, who publicly stated after the deal had been signed that one of his priorities “was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth and my military associations”.
It is thought that the roles of Harry and Meghan as president and vice-president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust will also now come under review.
In last week’s conversations, courtiers even discussed whether the couple could be stripped of their HRH titles, which they retain but are not allowed to use.
A source close to the household said: “The view at the moment is that you can’t do that to Harry. Even Edward VIII kept his HRH when he abdicated … [but] there is a strong view that the family really does need to put more distance between them and Harry and Meghan.”
In a video message recorded at their Californian home for a Time magazine broadcast, the Sussexes issued a rallying cry to American voters. Harry said: “This election, I’m not going to be able to vote in the US. As we approach this November, it’s vital that we reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity.”
Meghan added: “Every four years we’re told: ‘This is the most important election of our lifetime.’ But this one is.”
Trump said: “I’m not a fan of hers and I would say this … I wish a lot of luck to Harry, because he’s going to need it.”
Meghan has previously called Trump “divisive” and “misogynistic”.
The Queen is the only member of the royal family not permitted to vote; others refrain by convention. Meghan, an American citizen, has confirmed that she will vote in the presidential election.
Buckingham Palace sought to distance itself from Harry’s remarks, saying they were made “in a personal capacity”. But royal sources said the comments had embarrassed the monarch. “If Trump is re-elected and makes another visit here, what is the Queen supposed to say when her grandson and his wife have effectively campaigned against him?” said a source.
“They know the political arena is meant to be absolutely off limits to members of the royal family.”
Another well-placed source said: “Harry has wandered into a minefield and is in danger of dragging the royal family into it.” One courtier told a close friend: “This is only going in one direction now – permanent exile.” Gyles Brandreth, a friend of the Duke of Edinburgh, said: “This story plays into a growing disaffection with Harry and Meghan.”
A spokesman for the Sussexes said: “The duke’s message is not in reference to any specific political party or candidate, but is instead a call for decency in how we engage with each other.”
Vernon Bogdanor, professor of government at King’s College London and author of The Monarchy and the Constitution, also defended them: “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex … are not required to speak and act on the advice of ministers. Their only constraint is that they must not do or say anything that could embarrass the sovereign. They must not make any party political or partisan comments.
“The injunction to vote is not a partisan comment but an encouragement to civic participation. In my view the comments of the duke and duchess do not raise any constitutional issue.”
Buckingham Palace did not comment.