It’s been more than two years since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle opted to step back from their duties as senior members of the royal family, resulting in the Duke of Sussex losing his royal patronages and military titles.
News broke in February 2021 that Harry had officially returned the titles of Captain General Royal Marines, Honorary Air Commandant, RAF Honington and Commodore-in-Chief, Small Ships and Diving, Royal Naval Command to Queen Elizabeth II.
“Following conversations with The Duke, The Queen has written confirming that in stepping away from the work of The Royal Family it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service. The honorary military appointments and Royal patronages held by The Duke and Duchess will therefore be returned to Her Majesty, before being redistributed among working members of The Royal Family,” the palace said at the time, confirming that there was a “12-month review” following Harry and Meghan’s initial step back.
According to royal authors Carolyn Durand and Omid Scobie, “the most demoralizing aspect” of Harry and Meghan’s new deal with the queen was “his being stripped of his honorary military appointments that had been awarded to him as a senior royal.”
“As a retired serviceman, Harry would always be able to wear his medals, but no longer could he wear uniform as Captain General of the Royal Marines, Honorary Air Force Commandant of the Royal Air Force Base Honington, and honorary Commodore-in-Chief of the Royal Navy’s Small Ships and Diving Operations,” they wrote in their book Finding Freedom. “[It’s been] a tough pill to swallow and the one that has been most painful to Meghan witness him go through. It’s the one that made Harry emotional.”
British royal family dress code rules state that working members of the royal family who served in the armed forces dress in uniform for military affairs including the Trooping the Colour, Remembrance Sunday and state funerals.
As a result of stepping back from his duties working for the queen, Harry, who served 10 years in the British Army, was noticeably not in uniform alongside Prince William and other working members of the royal family during Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee Trooping the Colour celebration in June 2022.
Three months later, when Queen Elizabeth died in September 2022, the palace confirmed that Prince Andrew — who was stripped of his titles in January 2022 two years after he was accused of sexual assault — was granted permission to wear his military uniform for one event, the late monarch’s final vigil, “as a special mark of respect.” (He was not given permission to wear his uniform for other funeral events alongside his siblings.) After news broke that Harry was not granted the same exception, royal experts had different opinions.
Christopher Andersen, for his part, exclusively told Us Weekly that the decision was “to be expected” even though it’s a “very sensitive” topic.
“It was [what] the queen wanted,” he said of Harry being stripped of his honorary titles. “And I think Charles wanted to make sure that those wishes were fulfilled.”
Commentator Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, meanwhile, told Newsweek that the double standards were “deplorable.”
“Prince Harry served with distinction. He served in the army with distinction, rising in the ranks. He did two tours of Afghanistan. He still works with veterans and promotes support for wounded men and women. Plus, he started the Invictus Games [a sporting event for wounded servicemen and women]. If there was anyone between the both of them who has the right to wear a uniform, then it’s Prince Harry,” Mos-Shogbamimu said. “I’m thinking about Charles. Hasn’t he learned a thing or two about the backlash that the queen got about the way she protected Prince Andrew?”
However, the palace appeared to have a change of heart ahead of the queen’s final vigil.
On September 15, royal expert Omid Scobie tweeted, “In a dramatic u-turn, palace officials have informed Prince Harry that he CAN wear his military uniform at a final vigil. On Saturday evening, Harry will join seven other grandchildren at Westminster Hall to stand in silence for 15 minutes by the Queen’s coffin.” (The U.K.’s The Mirror was first to report the update.)
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