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Opinion

Commentary: Renounce your titles, you cowards

Prince Harry and Meghan
Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
(Matt Dunham / Associated Press)

It’s cute whenever thirtysomething rich kids want to become financially independent of their parents.

So hats off to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who have announced their intention to wean themselves from the teat of the British state, upon which they have feasted for far too long. But why stop there?

If it’s hard being a prince or a princess — and it’s absolute murder, I’m sure! — why not go further and toss your titles into the dung heap of history in which they belong?

Sympathy for Harry and Meghan, as tabloid convention demands we refer to them, abounds in the U.S: Harry had a tragic childhood and overcame youthful indiscretions (cough, dressing up as a Nazi, cough) to become an unexpectedly well-rounded adult; Meghan, rightly proud of her African American roots, is pretty and has been on the receiving end of racist coverage from the U.K. press.

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But being a duchess is a profoundly ridiculous, indefensible thing for anyone to be. It’s undemocratic, pretentious and, well, un-American.

A dukedom isn’t merely a form of celebrity. Accepting a hereditary noble title means buying into a worldview that says you and your children are better than the rest of us, by birth.

As anyone who has watched Netflix’s “The Crown” can tell you, and Royalists happily repeat, the Royals have little direct power. This is true, in as far as it goes, though it does not prevent Prince Charles from dashing off nutty letters to ministers of state about, say, the fate of the Patagonian toothfish.

The real harm the royal family does, though, is to serve as a bulwark to the ugly British class system. It is hard for Americans to understand, as outsiders, how pernicious that system is, how even the most mundane daily interaction in the U.K., such as buying a packet of cigarettes at a corner store, is colored by the class system.

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But the framers of the U.S. Constitution understood it well enough, which is why they prohibited the federal government from granting titles of nobility. And all naturalized U.S. citizens are required to “entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen,” in an oath during their naturalization ceremony.

Harry and Meghan say they want to spend more of their time in North America — whether that means the U.S., Canada, or some combination thereof — beyond the prying eyes of the British media. As an English expat, I can’t blame them for that.

But if they don’t want to be singled out by the media, they shouldn’t seek special treatment based on an accident of birth.

Harry and Meghan, have the courage of your convictions. Renounce your snobby, stupid titles and live like the rest of us.


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