Queen considered stripping Harry and Meghan of duke and duchess titles

Robert Jobson
Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex: AP

The Queen considered stripping Harry of his royal dukedom as well as his HRH title and allowing him to use only the lesser title of earl, the Evening Standard has been told.

As “The Duke of Sussex” is one of the ancient royal titles, downgrading Harry and Meghan’s rank in line with their reduced level of official duties was discussed, sources said.

It is understood the suggestion was that the sixth in line to the throne would have been referred to by one of his lesser titles, the Earl of Dumbarton, with his wife being known as a countess — putting them on a par with Prince Edward and Sophie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

But the Queen and Prince of Wales did not wish to appear “petty” and felt banning the couple from using HRH in public and for commercial use — while still retaining it — was sufficient.

A source said: “The Sussex title is one of the ancient royal dukedoms given to him ahead of his wedding to Meghan, along with other titles. Removing it was seriously considered and discussed at the highest level.”

Prince Harry arrives at the UK-Africa summit on Monday (Jeremy Selwyn)

It means there could still be a future clash over the couple’s use of the “Sussex Royal” brand that they have been developing as a vehicle for their commercial activity for many months.

The latest revelations over the agonising about Harry’s future came ahead of a Buckingham Palace reception this evening for African leaders and business tycoons being attended by him and his brother William.

But while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were hosting tonight’s event, Harry was expected to play a more marginal role.

The prince appeared at an another event being staged at the UK-Africa summit today, however.

Last night, a devastated Harry, 35, admitted that he was “taking a leap of faith” in stepping back from being a senior royal, but felt “there really was no other option”.

In his first appearance since the so-called “Megxit” deal was revealed, Harry said he and Meghan, 38, had hoped to continue serving the Queen, but without public funding.

“Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible,” he said. In his first speech since the Sandringham summit exit deal was struck, Harry told a charity audience: “I want you to hear the truth from me as much as I can share.

“Not as a prince, or a duke, but as Harry the same person that many of you have watched grow up over the last 35 years — but with a clearer perspective. The UK is my home and a place I love. That will never change."

Prince Harry shakes hands with Prime Minister of Morocco Saadeddine Othmani during what could be his last royal appearance before jetting back to Canada (AP)

The prince now intends to spend the majority of his time in Canada and is expected to fly there within days and stay there for the foreseeable future with his family.

His heartfelt remarks came at a dinner for his charity Sentebale, which he founded, and followed Saturday’s statement from the Queen that said Harry and Meghan will “not use their HRH titles”.

It was hugely important for Harry and Meghan to keep their Sussex title as it is central to their future commercial plans. The couple — now styled Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex — applied to trademark the “Sussex Royal” brand and the application was published in December.

It includes items such as books, clothing, charitable fundraising, education and social-care services.

Another source said that Harry, who has served two tours of duty on the frontline in Afghanistan, was particularly upset at being stripped of his military associations.

At the event at The Ivy in Chelsea last night, Harry also paid a stirring tribute to his grandmother, calling her his “commander-in-chief”, and his family for their support. He added: “What I want to make clear is we’re not walking away and we certainly aren’t walking away from you.”

The Queen ruled the couple will drop their HRH titles and pay back £2.4 million of taxpayer cash used on renovations of their UK home, Frogmore Cottage at Windsor, which they will keep.

In exchange, they have been allowed to quit frontline duties and given the freedom to seek employment and eventually become financially independent.

Charles will reportedly fund their new life out of his own investment income but he will seek to review the couple’s financial arrangements in a year. It comes amid a growing row about who will pay their annual security bill as they split their time between the UK and Canada, where it has been estimated the measures required could be similar to those of the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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