Breaking news: The British monarchy is an extremely old-fashioned and outdated institution that operates under unbelievably archaic and patriarchal traditions. So when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's first child was born in May 2019, while it was a bit confusing that he wasn't instantly referred to as Prince Archie, it seemed well within the realm of possibility that there might be some stodgy old rule dictating who, exactly, can be called a prince or princess.
It turns out that that stodgy old rule does indeed exist, though there's another that would allow the little royal—currently officially titled Master Archie Mountbatten-Windsor—to become a prince once Prince Charles assumes the throne. However, that title upgrade is currently up in the air, with Harry and Meghan hinting in their March 7 bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey that a future rule change might be driven by racism or, at the very least, the palace's frustration with the couple's very public decision to distance themselves from their royal duties.
Here's what you need to know about Archie's title (or lack thereof), all of which will also apply to his soon-to-arrive little sister.
Archie wasn't born a prince, per the official royal rulebook.
It may seem strange that the 22-month-old wasn't born Prince Archie despite being seventh in line for the throne, but that's just the way the royal cookie crumbles. A letters patent issued by King George V in 1917 decreed that only the children and male-line grandchildren of the reigning monarch, plus the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (typically the heir apparent), would be called princes and princesses. Queen Elizabeth II issued a slight update to this proclamation in 2012 that expanded the last part of George V's decree to include all of the children of the Prince of Wales' oldest son.
Under these rules, of Archie's cohort on the family tree, only Prince William and Kate Middleton's kids George, Charlotte, and Louis can currently use the "His or Her Royal Highness" style. Once Prince Charles takes the throne, however, Archie and his little sister would ostensibly be granted the title of prince and princess, since they'll be male-line grandchildren of the sovereign—unless, as Meghan and Harry hinted to Oprah, Elizabeth or Charles changes the rules before that can happen.
It was originally reported that his parents didn't want him to have a title.
Even without being born an official prince, Archie was entitled to the courtesy title of Earl of Dumbarton as heir to his dad's Scottish earldom. Instead, in the days after his birth, it was announced that his official title would not make him an earl or even a lord, but would simply be Master Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. (The royal family's official surname combines Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip's last names but is rarely used; Will and Kate's kids use the surname Cambridge on their birth certificates.)
At the time, reports claimed that this modest styling was the choice of Harry and Meghan, citing their "wish that he grow up as a private citizen," as The New York Times noted. In their new interview with Oprah, however, the Sussexes cast doubt on those reports.
Harry and Meghan told Oprah that Archie's lack of title was a palace directive.
Though they didn't discuss the choice to make Archie a "master" rather than an earl or lord upon his birth, the almost-2-year-old's parents did reveal to Oprah that the choice of Archie's title "was not our decision to make." Meghan added that, in contrast to those previous reports, they would've gladly allowed their son to be called a prince "if it meant he was going to be safe," since he's currently not automatically entitled to palace-sponsored security.
Instead, they said, they were informed that once Charles takes the throne, he'll be taking steps to slim down the monarchy that will likely result in the loss of titles for Harry's children. While pregnant, Meghan said, "We have in tandem the conversation of he won't be given security, he's not going to be given a title."
And with some of those conversations also, shockingly, revolving around "how dark his skin might be when he's born," as she added, it begs the question of whether the decision to keep her and Harry's children from using the HRH title is racially motivated, especially as Meghan expressed sadness and bewilderment at "the idea of the first member of color in this family not being titled in the same way that other grandchildren would be."