Harry and Meghan Are Told to Drop Their 'Sussex Royal' Label

Published February 19th, 2020 - 08:13 GMT
Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Twitter)
Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Twitter)
And as they secretly prepared for a new life in Canada, it was clear that Sussex Royal was at the forefront of Harry and Meghan's plans.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex must drop their 'Sussex Royal' label after deciding to step down as working royals.

Following lengthy and complex talks, the Queen and senior officials are believed to have agreed it is no longer tenable for the couple to keep the word 'royal' in their 'branding'.

Harry and Meghan have spent tens of thousands of pounds on a new Sussex Royal website to complement their hugely popular Instagram feed.

They have also sought to register Sussex Royal as a global trademark for a range of items and activities, including clothing, stationery, books and teaching materials. 

In addition, they have taken steps to set up a new charitable organisation: Sussex Royal, The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

It has now been made clear that they will need to 're-brand'.

The Mail understands that, amid what has been described as a 'complex' situation, the 'fine detail' is still being thrashed out. 

However, it is understood the couple have accepted that, as part of their new working arrangements, they will not be able to use the Sussex Royal name as they had hoped.

The development is thought to represent a major blow to the Sussexes, who now face starting again and re-registering everything from their website to their charity under a new label. 

Harry and Meghan first began using the Sussex Royal branding this time last year, after they split their household from that of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – known as Kensington Royal.

The Sussexes' Instagram page, @sussexroyal, has amassed 11.2million followers – the same number of fans as William and Kate's account.

It was a natural progression, therefore, for Harry and Meghan to use the moniker for their new charitable foundation, due to be launched this year with the support of Buckingham Palace.

And as they secretly prepared for a new life in Canada, it was clear that Sussex Royal was at the forefront of Harry and Meghan's plans.

Dozens of trademark applications were made for everything from bandanas to notebooks – although sources have always stressed that these were preventative measures to protect the trademark from others, and never intended for commercial use.

The couple also privately commissioned a new website. It went live last month to coincide with their bombshell announcement, with the introduction: 'Welcome to the Sussex Royal community, your source for information on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.'

The couple's decision to step down as senior working royals and pursue 'financial independence' put a spanner in the Sussex Royal works. 

It placed the Queen in an invidious position, given her long-held conviction of refusing to allow working members of the family to profit from their positions.

Announcing Her Majesty's decision to allow her grandson and his wife to pursue a new life abroad, officials made clear that the Sussex Royal title would still need to be re-evaluated.

All members of the family – including Harry and Meghan – were involved in the discussions, and it is understood they all agreed that, in light of the Sussexes' decision to step back, their use of the word 'royal' would come into question.

Now, as well as giving up their HRH titles for work purposes and abandoning official appointments and patronages – including Harry's military roles – the Sussex Royal brand will have to be abandoned.

Such is the sensitivity around the issue, Buckingham Palace officials would not discuss the developments last night.

A source told the Mail: 'In many ways this is inevitable given their decision to step down, but it must surely come as a blow to the couple as they have invested everything into the Sussex Royal brand The Queen would have had little choice, however.

'The Sussexes' original plan – of being half-in, half-out working royals – was never going to work. Obviously, as the Queen has made clear, they are still much-loved members of her family.  

But if they aren't carrying out official duties and are now seeking other commercial opportunities, they simply cannot be allowed to market themselves as royals.'

The couple are reported to have 'no regrets' about their decision to step down.

Discussions about their charitable foundation took them to the prestigious Stanford University in California last week. 

The foundation had been expected to launch in April, with the couple believed to be modelling the non-profit on those run by Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hilary Clinton and Bill and Melinda Gates.

The Sussexes also recently appeared at a conference in Miami organised by banking giant JP Morgan. 

They reportedly dined with Jennifer Lopez after flying in on the firm's private jet from Vancouver – despite previously calling for the world to embrace more eco-friendly ways to travel.

The appearance at the invitation-only summit is said to have earned the Sussexes up to £775,000. Local media reported that Harry appeared on stage with his wife and Gayle King, a TV host who attended Meghan's baby shower last year.

A source told the New York Post that the duke 'opened up to the wealthy crowd about the childhood trauma of losing his mother', adding: 'Harry also touched on Megxit, saying while it has been very difficult on him and Meghan, he does not regret their decision to step down as senior royals because he wants to protect his family.

'He does not want Meghan and their son Archie to go through what he did as a child.'

From the moment that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced their intention to renounce royal duties for a more 'progressive role' overseas, one thing was never in doubt: that 'Sussex Royal' brand would have to go.

It might have sounded just fine and dandy to the team of super-slick US rights agents, intellectual property lawyers and digital marketing experts flocking to advise the couple on their new modus operandi. 

But it was never going to meet with the approval of the ultimate arbiter on all things royal – the Queen.

The only surprising thing is that this may have come as a surprise to the Sussexes themselves.

From the earliest age, Harry has been raised on the sanctity of the 'brand' which has come to define his existence. 

Almost no one else on Earth has grown up thinking it perfectly normal that both parents should have their own individual standards to be flown above whichever residence or vehicle they happened to occupy at any given moment.

Whenever his grandmother undertakes the most important of all her constitutional duties – the State Opening of Parliament – she is preceded by the heralds of the College of Arms, custodians of all things heraldic (from coats of arms to flags).

The very thought of labelling the monarchy as a brand may appal staunch royalists. However, in this case, the analogy is not just relevant but crucial to the argument.

For the definition of what is and what is not 'royal' is not just a matter of regal whim. The Queen is actually governed by several pieces of legislation, including the Trade Marks Act 1994 and even the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property of 1883.

The Sussexes have not picked a fight with the Queen but with the law of the land.

Since time immemorial, people have attempted to trade on royal connections, which is why there have long been strict rules governing everything from the use of the Royal Arms to the use of crowns on cereal packets. 

It is not a case of monarchs jealously guarding the perks of office, it is about protecting the public from fraud and misrepresentation.

No monarch wants someone buying faulty goods or being taken for a ride by some huckster claiming some sort of bogus royal provenance. 

It was for precisely that reason that the Royal Warrant Holders Association came in to being in the 19th century.

To this day, royal warrants are granted to companies which must have supplied the Royal Household over a period of several years. If royal custom ceases, then so does the warrant. They are not bought or sold.

Nor are they a company asset – they are registered to an individual at the company.

Now, Harry and Meghan may have, very understandably, assumed that their own 'royal' credentials are beyond reproach, as indeed they are. After all, they retain the style of HRH, even if they will not use it.

But what applies personally to a member of the family does not apply to what is very clearly a commercial enterprise.

The Sussexes 'get' the importance of brand protection, which is why they have been so busy registering 'Sussex Royal' for every sort of potential commercial use (including, we are told, pyjamas).

So they can hardly object when the Queen and her officials, representing an institution which has been protecting its own brand for centuries, lay down what is very well-established law to protect their own 'intellectual property'.

Perhaps Harry and Meghan should switch their attention from their own elegantly constructed website to the rather more arcane recesses of the official Royal Household website.

There, they will find exhaustive guidance from the Lord Chamberlain's Office on how businesses can lay claim to any sort of 'royal' status. Much of it, in any case, is governed not by the Palace but by the Cabinet Office. 

In other words, Harry and Meghan are going to have to square their plans with Michael Gove as well as Granny.

The official royal website might not have the beautiful arty shots like those on sussexroyal.com, but it is pretty precise.

For example: 'Sections 55 and 1047 of the Companies Act 2006 and Regulation 8 of the Limited Liability Partnerships (Application of Companies Act 2006) Regulations 2009 prohibits companies (including overseas companies)… from being registered under a name which includes any of the sensitive words specified in the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014, unless the approval of the Secretary of State has been obtained.'

The sensitive words specified in the 2014 Regulations include Royal, Queen, King…

Hours before leaving for his new life in Vancouver last month, the Duke of Sussex made that downcast speech at a dinner for his charity, Sentebale.

In it, he spoke of his 'sadness' at the rejection of his plans to carve out a new, privately funded semi-royal existence.

It was his reply to the statement from the Queen the previous day in which she had voiced her love and support for the couple in their attempts to create 'a happy and peaceful new life'. 

It was widely seen as a rather churlish riposte, particularly given the generosity of the Queen's words at such a delicate time.

Let there be no more such grumbling. The Queen's love for her grandson and his wife has not changed one jot. 

This issue, however, is just business. Clamping down on 'Sussex Royal' comes under the heading of 'duty' not 'family'.

The Queen's father had to make some very difficult decisions when his brother, the former Edward VIII, abandoned ship in 1936. This situation is nothing like the Abdication Crisis, of course, but it is every monarch's duty, first and foremost, to protect the Crown.

The Queen is not completely immovable with regard to her 'brand'. She is very sensible and often very generous.

Come the big royal moments such as jubilees, for example, she will announce an amnesty on use of the royal arms, allowing souvenir manufacturers a free run in producing all manner of commemorative tat – from biscuit tins to loo roll – for a specific period.

But that certainly does not mean a permanent free-for-all.

Of course, Harry and Meghan should be given time to reconfigure their new ventures.

And, of course, there will be a few grey areas and misunderstandings in the years ahead.

But the overarching rule remains the same: the royal imprimatur – and all that it entails – must always remain exclusively in the hands of the Sovereign.

This article has been adapted from its original source.     

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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