Friday 24 May 2019

Baby Archie Mountbatten Windsor: the royal treatment or a life more ordinary?

Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor would normally be expected to disappear into the anonymity of low-ranking royals, but with Meghan bringing a celebrity spotlight to the family, could the young Sussex end up caught between two worlds, asks Sinead Ryan

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle hold their baby son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor as Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and Doria Ragland look on. Picture: Chris Allerton/@sussexroyal
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle hold their baby son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor as Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and Doria Ragland look on. Picture: Chris Allerton/@sussexroyal
New arrival: Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex are joined by her mother, Doria Ragland, as they show their new son to the queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle on Wednesday
Baby Archie, who is seventh in line to the British throne
Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor, who let his younger brother become king
Current heirs Prince William and George with Kate and Charlotte
Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

He'll be 'plain' old Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.

It's a bit of a burden for an infant not yet a week old, not to mention a mouthful, but while baby Archie is, to his parents Harry and Meghan, obviously the most important thing in their world, to the world, he's just another celebrity royal baby.

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To the royal family, he's not even royal, although their standards are more exacting that the rest of us.

'Second son' syndrome is part and parcel of the 'Heir and Spare' tradition of royals and aristocrats. Harry, unlike William whose destiny is set forth, will, over the years become increasingly irrelevant, constitutionally at any rate.

As his brother becomes Prince of Wales and eventually king, Harry's role will recede to supportive at best. Ribbon-cutting, patron of this and that and very much second place to his older sibling.

While William and Kate's children are styled 'Prince' and 'Princess', Harry and Meghan's new arrival will simply be 'Master' or 'Miss'.

The danger for the 'second' family is that they remain mere celebrities, adjuncts to the main event, a role they seem happy enough to take on at the moment, but which the British public may not wish to support in years to come. Meghan is a media darling for now, but the current backlash at her American ways, eye-poppingly expensive wardrobe and penchant for lavish trips may serve to trip her up eventually, leaving the British public to wonder why she is there at all.

Outside the 'super six'

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Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor, who let his younger brother become king
 

The enactment of the Perth Agreement in 2015 limited the immediate succession line to six individuals but it was George V, after World War I, who ruled that only children and grandchildren of those immediately in line to the throne and their spouses would carry 'royal highness' status - unless the sovereign of the day deigned otherwise.

The current super six are Charles, William, his three children (George, Charlotte and Louis) and Harry, with little Archie one place outside the order of lineage that would have automatically carried a HRH style and allowed him a proper title of a Prince or Duke.

Because of their perceived importance, the 'super six' must get the queen's permission before marrying or travelling abroad. Once Charles ascends to the throne, Harry will go 'up' and at this point his son may become titled in his own right. This is at the discretion of the monarch, and the future King Charles III has already expressed his desire to 'trim back' the upper echelons, bowing to public pressure over the years.

Only the top four are granted 'Counsellor of State' privileges, or official stand-in for the queen.

Harry's children would not normally be granted a formal title, although Archie could, if his parents wished, be styled Earl of Dumbarton as a courtesy (Harry's secondary title, granted for his marriage), making him Lord Archie, which some unkind detractors might suggest would be an excellent name for a pub.

Both Harry and Meghan have declined to do so "at this time", although they could change their minds when their son turns 18 or 21.

Queen Elizabeth relented the titles rules for her beloved second son, Prince Andrew (it's said he insisted), which is why his children are HRH Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, while her other children, Edward and Anne, turned down HRHs for their children, preferring them to have a 'normal' life.

Throughout history, second sons have always had an uncertain role.

Barring their necessity in the event of the heir not making it to the throne (which famously happened for Henry VIII - his older brother Arthur died suddenly and Henry not only got the throne but Arthur's wife, Catherine of Aragon into the bargain, and again with Edward VIII, who chucked it all in for another American divorcee - Wallis Simpson - leaving younger brother George VI to don the mantle of monarchy) the 'spare' creates a dilemma.

Royal, but with second-string duties. Important, but not important enough.

Governorship role?

In previous times, an army career followed by a governorship was the well-worn path. It kept the 'spare' out of the way (a long way if necessary) and made him appear useful as well as bestowing a valuable allowance for 'royal duties'.

There's certainly enough on offer - the Commonwealth is made up of 53 countries although the queen is only sovereign of 16 of them. Depending on how troublesome or otherwise the spares to the heir were, they could be dispatched as honorary head of Jamaica or Australia.

When the Duke of Windsor (formerly Edward VIII) scandalously fraternised with Hitler, he was promptly dispatched by his brother to be governor of the Bahamas in 1940, keeping him under wraps until the end of the war.

These days banishment is seen as a bit out of order for obvious reasons, however even as late as last month there was talk of Harry and his family being dispatched to Canada or even Africa in some unspecified 'good works' role.

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, has wasted no time letting on what she thinks about her family's purpose: this is a celebrity opportunity on speed. Insta account, cute baby and a million pound wardrobe allowance... what's not to like?

But already she has fallen foul of the po-faced court establishment, proving a little too 'out there' for comfort. The Sussexes' intense control of their 'brand' and media message may make them lose sight of their role (and value) to the British people.

It is not enough to be a celebrity; they have a duty.

Meghan's penchant for designer labels (her pregnancy alone cost up to €50,000 in maternity clothes alone), may put her and her family in danger of being seen as a drain on the royal purse, for limited return.

The Sovereign Grant replaced the Civil List in 2012, providing the queen with funds to run the palaces, travel, communications and duties of the family.

Some of it goes to the Sussexes, in return for public duties (and so they don't have to debase themselves with getting an actual job). But in reality, it's not enough and Prince Charles funds both Kate and Meghan's wardrobes from his Duchy of Cornwall income, which has an annual profit of around £20m. In truth, they're only as tolerated as the public allow.

So, what of little Archie? Where does his future lie?

Well, a similar one to James Wessex, Peter Phillips or David Linley most likely.

Never heard of them? Don't worry, they turn up at births, weddings and funerals with 'proper' jobs to support themselves. They're all children of 'lesser' siblings in the royal round up and aren't directly funded by the UK taxpayer.

Trimmed back royal family

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Current heirs Prince William and George with Kate and Charlotte
 

Archie Mountbatten-Windsor (or Archie Sussex, as he may be known in school), will have a charmed life. Prep school, followed by Eton, Oxbridge and the army/navy; a range of charitable endeavours and honorary patronages and income as a gallery owner, city financier or country squire awaits him. He'll be expected to acquire a wife and 2.4 children, a few dogs and horses and, unless he upsets the apple cart, will simply join the aristos with whom he'll be carefully reared.

It's a far cry from Victorian times (eight of Queen Vic's nine children became monarchs or married into royal families of Europe); these days it's a very trimmed-back royal family that Archie is joining.

Although, for the time being at least, his value is eclipsed by his very 21st century celebrity. The danger is that he could end up with the worst of both worlds - too royal to be allowed mistakes, not royal enough to be anonymous when he makes them.

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