It’s shocking that Oprah didn’t address why Meghan and Harry still have royal titles. Picture: CBS
It’s shocking that Oprah didn’t address why Meghan and Harry still have royal titles. Picture: CBS

Glaring question Oprah didn’t ask


The dust has not - and probably will not - settle any time soon after Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussexes', historic Oprah TV interview aired on Monday.

In two-hours, the couple charged the house of Windsor with both shocking racism and cruelty, prompting a global wave of outrage and condemnation.

Going into the interview, a few lightning bolts here and there were expected with reports that the royal family were preparing to "hide behind the sofa". Tin hats on chaps!

There would be brickbats flying but nothing so perilous the 1000-year-old monarchy wouldn't be standing at the end of it.

What no one had even contemplated for a moment, in public at least, was that the Sussexes' would go scorched earth, razing Buckingham Palace's international reputation and unleashing the biggest crisis in a century. (If things keep going in this direction, Harry and Meghan might be in the running to top the abdication damage-wise.)

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Over two hours, Oprah and Meghan discussed the couple's courtship (let's just skip over the anachronistic, nauseating cutesiness of the word) which involved her historically poor choice not to google his family, learning how to curtsy with Fergie and the tears (hers not Kate's) in the lead up to their wedding.

Her heartbreaking disintegrating mental health and the palace's callous refusal to help her; and perhaps most devastatingly, that an unnamed member of the family raised "concerns" over their unborn baby's skin colour.

(When Harry joined the confab later he also revealed that his father Prince Charles had stopped taking his calls at one point, once and for all slashing the future king off the list for Father of the Year.)

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In just two hours the Sussexes managed to tear down the palace. Picture: CBS.
In just two hours the Sussexes managed to tear down the palace. Picture: CBS.

But there was one massive clanger of a topic that stayed resolutely off the table: Their titles.

On their wedding day back in May 2018, the Queen gifted Harry a Dukedom, as tradition dictates and not because she had simply forgotten to get them anything from their gift registry. Meghan, after saying 'I do' became Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex, proving the house of Windsor truly loves their capital letters.

That grandeur took a bit of a hit when one of the conditions struck as part of their royal 'divorce' deal in the wake of their decision to step down as senior working members of The Firm, was that they would no longer use their stylings as His/Her Royal Highness. (Their HRHs are not titles, by the way, but a form of address.)

When they rolled up in California in March last year, it was as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Time and again when they appeared in public, including Meghan at Fortune's Most Powerful Women conference and the duo when they took part in Time's Most Powerful People event, they chose to be referred to by their royal titles. (Power and monarchy - a match made in marketing heaven!)

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Harry and Meghan have held onto their Duke and Duchess status since Megxit. Credit: Time
Harry and Meghan have held onto their Duke and Duchess status since Megxit. Credit: Time

At any juncture it would have come as little surprise and nary a feather would have been rustled if they had announced they wanted to be known as Harry and Meghan as they pursued their lovely new American lives.

However, as they pitched their brand tent on US soil, the Sussexes' clearly did sever this very notable tie to the royal family.

That was then.

Today, the picture is irrevocably different.

The indelible image the Sussexes' painted during their Oprah interview was of not only the royal family but the monarchy as a whole as deeply toxic, an institution riddled with racism and a family callously focused on image rather than caring for someone in the throes of the deepest mental anguish.

After having taken such public (and depending on your view, wholly needed) aim at Buckingham Palace, how can they cheerfully sally forth bearing titles that represent the very thing they have just gone to great lengths to tell the world is deeply flawed? How can they want to still claim membership of an organisation that has treated them badly?

Now, having staked out the moral high ground, to continue to use their titles now would just seem hypocritical.

The title question is also one that has been dropped on the palace's doorstep.

From the royal family's perspective, the duo has just unleashed the biggest crisis the monarchy has faced since the tragic death of Harry's mum in 1997. In light of this, can the Sussexes truly expect the Queen & co. to let them continue to happily carry the torch, nomenclature-wise, for the monarchy?

While there are already calls on social media for them to be stripped of their titles, this whole thing is a huge pickle for the Queen. Only parliament can technically withdraw their Sussex Dukedom. One potential avenue would be for the palace to ask (politely I'm sure) the couple to no longer refer to themselves as the Duke and Duchess though who knows quite how that request might go down.

(Keep in mind here, Harry is a Prince, and that can never be taken away from. If they did somehow lose their ducal titles, Meghan could be known as Princess Henry of Wales.)

It’s shocking that Oprah didn’t address why Meghan and Harry still have royal titles. Picture: CBS
It’s shocking that Oprah didn’t address why Meghan and Harry still have royal titles. Picture: CBS

It's gobsmacking that Oprah, a seasoned interviewer, either failed to bring this particularly thorny topic up or that such a significant point was cut from the final edited version of the interview.

Beyond why or why not the world didn't see the TV supremo talk to the couple about this issue, they themselves have not said a peep on the title front since.

It would not have been a surprise to anyone if in the shell shocked moments after the interview came off the air the couple put out a pre-prepared statement announcing they would no longer be known as the Duke and Duchess.

However, clearly they did not.

If Harry and Meghan fail to address this glaring issue in the coming days then it could make them look like they quite fancy the cache of royalty when it suits them but are happy.

Of all the questions that remain now - how will the palace react? Will they go on the brutal offensive? Will the person who raised "concerns" about Archie's skin colour be outed? - the question about what happens to Harry and Meghan's titles is unavoidable.

There is every chance that all the history-making this week is far from over yet.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.

Originally published as Glaring question Oprah didn't ask

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