Whether you love or loathe Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, you probably know more than you think about them. After the fall-out from that Oprah interview, they’re pretty much inescapable! But as the media scrambles to get the latest on the war between the Sussexes and the rest of the royals, one important thing has been forgotten. There’s been a sly change to Archie’s birth certificate – and it’s kind of a biggie.
For a little while, that switcheroo flew under the radar. Soon enough, though, the tabloid press picked up on the detail and went wild with speculation as to what it all meant. Hard to believe that a single piece of paper could cause this much of a ruckus, but it really did!
The gossip seemed to annoy Meghan’s camp, though. In a statement to Harper’s Bazaar magazine, a spokesman for the duchess claimed that the rumors about the birth certificate “would be laughable were [they] not offensive.” Rather dismissively, they added, “There’s a lot going on in the world. Let’s focus on that instead of creating clickbait.” Ouch.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the story? The change on Archie’s birth certificate was so subtle that, at first glance, it’s remarkable anyone noticed it in the first place. But while Meghan’s press team warned against paying the swap too much attention, it did raise eyebrows for a reason.
Why have you not heard about this? Possibly because the Oprah interview has since blasted the speculation off the front pages. And then there was another happy piece of news that got everyone focusing elsewhere. On Valentine’s Day 2021, Meghan and Harry announced that they were expecting their second child. Hopefully, that little one’s birth certificate will be printed without a hitch so that the public and press don’t have to question it at all.
Archie’s own document, though? That was updated weeks after his birth on May 6, 2019. Naturally, Harry and Meghan were overjoyed by their new arrival, as the prince made plain days later. When speaking to the press outside Windsor Castle, he said, “How any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension, but we’re both absolutely thrilled and so grateful for all the love and support from everybody out there. It’s been amazing, so we just wanted to share this with everybody.”
Meghan and Harry quickly found, though, that they didn’t want to share as much as the press wanted to know about them. And in April 2020 the couple made that clear. They told some of the British tabloids that they wouldn’t be working with them going forward. Apparently, the decision had a lot to do with how the newspapers had treated the duchess during and after her pregnancy.
In the 2019 documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, Meghan opened up about how the media had made her feel during this time. She admitted, “Any woman, especially when they’re pregnant, you’re really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging. And then when you have a newborn, you know… especially as a woman, it’s really, it’s a lot.”
Harry also went on the defensive to protect his wife and son, as he knows first-hand how hard it is to be constantly in the limelight. For starters, there were to be no photo ops at Archie’s christening. In fact, the whole event would be a very private affair. And, yes, that meant the media were left out in the cold.
A royal source defended the prince, though, saying to the Daily Express in 2019, “[Harry] is fiercely determined to protect his newborn from the glare of public opinion which he has had to bear. [It] became especially oppressive when he lost his mother Diana.” The insider was, of course, referencing the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.
The source also claimed that Harry was “fiercely protective of Archie and has promised him he will never have to go through that.” It wasn’t just the Duke of Sussex making the decision, though. The anonymous individual went on, “Meghan, who has lived a large part of her life in front of cameras, agrees wholeheartedly.” The couple may have been disappointed, then, when the press picked up on the change to Archie’s birth certificate.
And, apparently, Meghan and Harry want their son to lead a relatively normal life – as much as the child of a royal can, anyway! It helps, too, that he was neither given a lordship nor the title of prince by his great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. Meghan’s since claimed to Oprah that this wasn’t her choice, although it’s still up for debate.
In the future, however, Archie could become a prince when his grandfather, Prince Charles, takes the British throne. At that point, Meghan and Harry’s son will be sixth in line to become king himself. He’ll also have to follow the royal demands that his parents have tried to sidestep by skipping his title – and by skipping the country entirely.
Yes, although the royal family have become more lax with their rules and traditions, Archie will probably have to play ball when he becomes a prince. But we’re talking about many years in the future. Meghan and Harry’s son is still just a toddler, after all! And that makes the furor over his birth certificate even more relevant.
That document first hit the press on May 17, 2019 – so, only nine days after Archie came into the world. And for fans and royal watchers alike, it was a goldmine of information. For one thing, it confirmed where Meghan had given birth. Surprisingly, it was a different location to the one many folks had guessed.
Nope, Meghan and Harry didn’t have Archie at their home in Windsor, England. Just like any commoner, the duchess had gone into hospital. The Portland Hospital in London is a private medical facility, mind you, and so it’s pretty ritzy. Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice were both born there.
What else was on the original certificate? Meghan’s job. And, no, it didn’t say “actress” or mention Suits. Instead, the document listed Meghan’s occupation as “Princess of the United Kingdom.” That’s quite a come-up from small parts in Fringe and CSI: Miami.
But this detail wasn’t the one that turned heads when Archie’s new birth certificate was issued a few months later. Instead, it was all to do with Meghan’s name on the revised document. On the original certificate, you see, Archie’s mother was listed as “Rachel Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.” Yes, Rachel is indeed her real first name!
However, according to a report in The Sun, the second document only named Archie’s mom as “Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex.” That change had been made in June 2019, but the press only discovered it in early 2021. And once the alteration was out in the open, the media had a field day.
Speculation ran wild as to why Meghan’s name was changed on her son’s birth certificate. And considering the tensions between the Sussexes and the royal family, people wondered if it had to do with the reported rift between the two camps. Yep, apparently there was bad blood even before the Oprah interview…
The feud may have started back in January 2020, when Meghan and Harry announced in a statement to the press that they had decided to “step back as senior members of the royal family.” The couple also said that they wanted to be financially independent of the Windsors, although they would continue to “fully support Her Majesty The Queen.”
In March 2020, though, Meghan and Harry moved halfway around the world. Now, they’ve put down permanent roots in the duchess’ home state of California. And they probably won’t be heading back to the U.K. any time soon, if a royal insider is to be believed. The source told People magazine, “This is what Meghan and Harry have always wanted – to create their own life. It’s got to feel like an immense relief to get out of the U.K. and go down their own path.”
That path meant Meghan and Harry lost some of the perks that came with full-time work as part of the royal family. And in February 2021 it was announced that the pair wouldn’t return to their roles within the Windsor clan after their 12-month probationary period. Meghan and Harry lost their patronages in the aftermath, too.
If you think about it, that could explain the alteration on Archie’s birth certificate. Since Meghan’s role within the family has changed, the document had to be updated, too. Makes sense, right? Only if the edit had come in early 2021. And that shortened birth certificate was approved, if you remember, in June 2019.
So, why did Meghan’s name get the chop from her son’s birth certificate? Well, there were a few ideas floating out there. And most of the theories involved another piece of royal gossip: the supposed estrangement between the Sussexes and William and Kate.
Now, Kate’s name appears on her children’s birth certificates, so outsiders wondered if Meghan had deliberately gone against her sister-in-law. Or maybe Meghan was subtly distancing herself from Kate and William? Had she even hinted at the break from the royal family months before she and Harry left the U.K.?
On the other hand, maybe Harry had ordered the change as a way of honoring his late mother. You see, Princess Diana appears on Harry’s birth certificate as “Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.” And that’s very similar to “Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex” – close enough for tribute rumors to fly.
Who do we have to blame for all this hoopla? Step forward writer and royal watcher Lady Colin Campbell, as she was the one to notice the difference between the two documents. Speaking to the Daily Express after the news broke, she said, “It is extraordinary and raises all kinds of questions about what the Sussexes were thinking.” Royal expert Ingrid Seward was similarly forthright, calling the change “unprecedented.”
What all the speculation seemed to miss, though, was that there was a change to another name. Previously, Archie’s birth certificate had listed his father as “His Royal Highness Henry Charles Albert David Duke of Sussex.” The updated version, on the other hand? Well, that included the word “Prince” in front of Harry’s first name.
Vanity Fair’s Erin Vanderhoof wrote at the time, “The omission of ‘Prince’ from Harry’s title would seem to be more urgent, as it is a part of his legal name.” And there was precedent for adding that particular word to the document. Vanderhoof continued, “The title is included on the birth certificates of Prince William’s three children.”
There was a seemingly logical explanation for Meghan’s change of name, too. Basically, it’s because “Rachel Meghan” is not part of her official title. When Harry got his “Prince” added, then, she may have had her forenames removed so that the document did include her proper title at the time: Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex.
Even with all of this information in mind, the press and public wondered if it had been Meghan who updated her son’s birth certificate. And the answer? A very big no. The Duchess of Sussex didn’t make the changes, and she wanted to make that clear to the gossipers.
A spokesperson for Meghan explained her side of the story to Harper’s Bazaar after the birth certificate started to grab headlines. They said, “The change of name on public documents in 2019 was dictated by the palace, as confirmed by documents from senior palace officials. This was not requested by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, nor by the Duke of Sussex.”
It appeared the Sussexes had a message for The Sun, too. The statement from the spokesperson continued, “To see this U.K. tabloid and [its] carnival of so-called ‘experts’ [choose] to deceptively whip this into a calculated family ‘snub’ and suggest that she would oddly want to be nameless on her child’s birth certificate, or any other legal document, would be laughable, were it not offensive.” Strong words indeed!
And there was one final sting in the tail. Basically, Meghan’s spokesperson told everyone poring over Archie’s birth certificate to well, get a life. The statement concluded, “There’s a lot going on in the world. Let’s focus on that instead of creating clickbait.”
But that wasn’t the end of that, as we later got another explanation for the changes. In February 2021 a Buckingham Palace insider told the Daily Mail that Meghan and Harry’s aides had been the ones to make the alterations. The source said, “The certificate was changed by the former office of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. It was changed to ensure consistency of the name and title of the duchess with other private documents.”
Confused? You soon will be! You see, yet another insider told the Daily Mail that Meghan’s U.S.-based team were mistaken. Apparently, the truth of the matter had actually become “lost in translation.” And that same person felt that the Sussexes had done wrong by releasing their own statement on the topic. They thought that the message only created questions rather than answering them.
Ultimately, then, neither party took responsibility for the changes. But they’re probably not as big a deal as the press made out. The Daily Mail source said as much when they told the newspaper, “These are civil documents. There is no protocol.” Maybe it was all just a mountain out of a molehill?
In any case, Harry and Meghan can get it right with their new baby. Along with the more controversial revelations the couple made during the Oprah interview, they revealed that they were expecting a girl. She’s due in summer 2021 if everything goes smoothly.
And for now at least, the family continues to call California home – thousands of miles distant from the rest of the royal family. Harry may return to the U.K. later in 2021, though, as he and William are scheduled to unveil a new statue of Diana in London. Will the brothers get along? That remains to be seen.
Harry may not even make it back to the U.K. if his new daughter has arrived by then. William, on the other hand, is likely to carry out his duty even though he’s got three kids. And while the two men are, of course, both parents, they and their wives are bringing up their little ones very differently.
Parenting is difficult in and of itself, but if you’re royal there are so many more rules to follow. For example, the reason Prince George almost always wears shorts is that it’s traditional for royal princes to do so until the age of eight. Imagine the tantrum a regular kid might have when his clothes are picked out for him – and then imagine having to explain to him he has to wear them.
Royal parenting has always had, to put it bluntly, a bit of a checkered history. Queen Victoria was not a fan of motherhood at all. By all accounts she herself experienced an extremely controlled and smothering sort of childhood, and perhaps if she’d had the choice, she might not have even had children. But she did, a whole nine of them. And she was determined to shape them into perfect young royals.
Alas, Queen Victoria’s harshness was apparently passed down to future generations. King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II’s dad and Queen Victoria’s great-grandson, reportedly developed his stutter as a result of his father’s strict rules and pressure. And the Queen herself wasn’t immune to the long-standing but problematic royal parenting traditions.
It’s said that Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t the most demonstrative of mothers. She had a country to rule, and that inevitably meant less time for her children. Nannies were given the job of child-rearing, and Prince Philip stepped in to shape the young Prince Charles into what he thought an heir should be. Yep, it seems this meant pressure and hard words.
Prince Charles appears not to have had an easy childhood, despite the privilege into which he was born. Once, upon returning from a six-month tour away from her children, the Queen greeted the five-year-old Charles with a handshake. And Prince Philip’s desire to “toughen up” his son reportedly turned to just plain bullying sometimes, according to an authorized biography penned by Jonathan Dimbleby.
It was Princess Diana who changed all of this. She was determined that her sons Prince William and Prince Harry should have normal childhoods, even if one of them was going to be king one day. When she had to go on a tour of New Zealand, she simply took the baby William with her instead of leaving him with a nanny.
Diana arranged her royal schedule around the activities of her sons. What’s more, she sent them to a school instead of getting them a governess, and she happily gave out hugs rather than handshakes. There are photographs of her running to her children with arms outstretched after having been away for a time.
William and Harry still fondly remember the childhood Diana gave them. “She made the decision that no matter what, despite all the difficulties of growing up in that limelight and on that stage, she was going to ensure that both of us had as normal life as possible,” Harry said in the 2017 TV documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy.
Of course, as everybody knows Diana passed away in August 1997, leaving her two sons behind. Both were still young at the time: Harry was only 12. But when the boys grew up and got married, people were curious to see if their wives Kate and Meghan would follow in Diana’s footsteps when it came to mothering.
They did, of course – but in their own ways, it seems. In 2020 the magazine Fabulous spoke to a parenting expert named Sue Atkins about the separate approaches Kate and Meghan have apparently taken towards raising their children. According to Atkins, Kate is a “lighthouse mom” who guides her children from the sidelines.
This does indeed seem to be what Kate does. She appears to be a very warm mother: just like Diana, in fact. In November 2015 she told an audience at an engagement for children’s mental health charity Place2Be, “I know that I was lucky. My parents and teachers provided me with a wonderful and secure childhood where I always knew I was loved, valued and listened to.”
Kate has reiterated a few times that she’s trying to raise her own children the way her parents raised her. In 2017 she said while visiting a children’s school in London, “My parents taught me about the importance of qualities like kindness, respect and honesty. I realize how central values like these have been to me throughout my life.
And Kate is determined to give her kids quite a traditional childhood, by all accounts. She and Prince William don’t want their children to spend too much time on screens and would prefer they play outside. According to insiders, Prince George is actually allowed only an hour of screen time every day.
Kate and William apparently don’t let their kids have iPads, either. “They’re very much seen as Mummy and Daddy’s toys, not for children,” a source told Us Weekly magazine in 2017. “As two people who grew up without gadgets for entertainment themselves, William and Kate are firm believers in toys, outdoor play and encouraging an active imagination.”
Apparently Kate is determined that her kids should play outside as much as possible. In 2019 she designed a garden called “Back to Nature” and ahead of its unveiling she said, “In recent years I have focused much of my work on the early years, and how instrumental they are for outcomes later in life. I believe that spending time outdoors when we are young can play a role in laying the foundations for children to become happy, healthy adults.”
So Kate very much wants her children to have normal lives, but that’s difficult when one of them is going to be king. In 2016 William told the BBC that George didn’t actually know yet what his future held, and there would “be a time and a place” to tell him one day he’d be the ruler of an entire country.
And because George will one day sit on the throne, the paparazzi have always taken an especially keen interest in him. Naturally, this can lead to problems. In August 2015 Kensington Palace released a statement condemning the “extreme lengths” photographers were going to in order to get pictures of the young prince.
The statement went on to say that William and Kate were “concerned about their ability to provide a childhood for Prince George and Princess Charlotte that is free from harassment and surveillance.” One photographer had even hidden in a car outside a children’s playground just to get pictures.
Meghan doesn’t have this exact issue to tackle, because Archie won’t be king. Or at least, there’s a staggeringly low chance that he will. Prince Charles is next in line after the Queen passes away, then William, then George, then George’s two siblings, then Harry himself and finally Archie only after that.
In October 2019 the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were filmed for an ITV documentary called Harry and Meghan: An African Journey. Meghan spoke emotionally on camera about the pressure she was under dealing with press intrusion, firstly while she was pregnant and then when she had a newborn baby.
This appears to be one of the concerns which led Harry and Meghan to step down from the royal family in January 2020. But in the Instagram statement which mapped out their intentions, the pair said they still planned to “raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born.”
According to Atkins, the expert to whom Fabulous spoke, Meghan is a “lawnmower mom.” This means she takes the lead in decision-making and adopts a modern approach. “Even when Meghan was preparing to give birth, she made it clear she would do things her own way as a parent,” Atkins said.
Indeed Meghan didn’t do the traditional thing when it came to giving birth. Before Archie was born Meghan made clear she wouldn’t go to St. Mary’s Hospital where other royal mothers have had their babies. She and Harry released a statement in April 2019 saying they would “keep the plans around the arrival of their baby private.”
According to sources, Meghan’s main objection to this tradition seemed to be that the mother was expected to go outside and pose for photographs not long after giving birth. In April 2019 an alleged friend of the duchess told the New York Post newspaper that Meghan “felt sorry” for Kate being “forced” to pose for photos.
To be honest, Kate doesn’t seem to be a big fan of this tradition either. She didn’t refuse to do it, of course, but in 2020 she told the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast that she found the experience “slightly terrifying.” She went on, “There were all sorts of mixed emotions.” And she did it three times in the end.
Atkins spoke about Meghan defying traditions, saying, “She chose to have her own birth plan rather than stick to the usual birth of royal babies. She also didn’t go along with the day-of-birth photo opportunity that Diana or Kate had and she also chose a modern buggy rather than the classic Silver Cross that was used by royals – and Kate and William – for generations.”
Meghan herself subtly tends to defy royal tradition, so that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Unlike Kate, she tends to push back against the rules. Meghan wears more daring outfits, against the tradition that royals should dress “modestly.” She’s even been seen wearing dark nail polish, which is usually a royal no-no.
It seems likely that Meghan will raise her son to be a bit of a rule-breaker too. Atkins told Fabulous magazine, “I think she will be proactive in passing on her values and beliefs to her son Archie with an authoritative style of parenting, modeling healthy living, exercise and the importance of talking about problems and feelings.”
And Meghan is definitely raising Archie to be a feminist, as is Harry. In August 2020 the duchess did a Q&A session with activist Gloria Steinem, and during it she said, “I look at our son and what a beautiful example that he gets to grow up with: a father who is so comfortable owning [feminism] as part of his own self-identification.”
Another way Meghan differs from Kate is her use of technology for parenting. Kate and William are trying to keep their kids away from screens, but Meghan may be doing the exact opposite. Apparently, the gray-and-white nursery is also a very high-tech one, featuring cameras, a sound system and a “mood screen.”
In January 2019 an anonymous person told Vanity Fair magazine, “[The Sussexes] are going all out with the refurbishment of the house, and as Harry loves his gadgets, it’s going to be very cool. They’ll be able to control everything from their smartphones.” William and Kate, of course, went the total opposite way there.
Back in February 2020, parenting expert Martina Mercer told the Daily Express that she believed Kate and Meghan were both doing fine when it came to motherhood. “When comparing the parenting styles of both Meghan and Kate, it’s clear that although vastly different, there are no right or wrong ways to bring up a child,” she said.
Mercer went on, “Neither way is wrong. However, Meghan and Harry would have constantly met criticism from the public for their non-traditional parenting style if they hadn’t chosen to remove themselves from royal life. It was clear that Harry and Meghan’s heart[s] ruled their heads as soon as Archie was born, and they wanted to follow their natural maternal and paternal instincts without the rigidity of royal life.”
As for the other duke and duchess, Mercer said, “Kate and William obviously adore their children, yet they also understand the huge responsibility that comes with being a royal family… Kate’s style of parenting ensures their children embrace the royal way of life from the outset while ensuring the children carry on tradition and grow to be respected royals in the public eye.”
Some other parenting experts also contributed to the Daily Express piece. Angela Spencer, the founder of website Babyopathy, said, “I think it’s extremely hard to be a parent in this decade because in this age of social media every move we make is under scrutiny, but for a mom in the royal spotlight, that’s even worse.”
And she’s not wrong – Meghan’s been criticized constantly. In July 2019 the Duchess attended a polo match with Archie, but many people on social media complained that she was holding him wrongly. She most likely was, but only for one brief moment. It was a mistake that many new mothers could and will have made.
And of course, Meghan was slammed for her decision to leave the royal family too. Another parenting expert, Elizabeth Notugu, told the Daily Express, “Although many will criticize the Duchess of Sussex for her decision to raise Archie away from royal traditions, for those of us who aren’t of royal descent this could be quite similar to the way we raise our children and is that so bad?”
Notugu also said, “After all, Archie is not an heir to the throne; why should he have to be shackled to the same traditions as his cousins? I think Kate is a fantastic mother and she is doing the best that she can in her situation and position of power. In the end, both mothers want what is best for their children and we cannot say one is better than the other, as their situations are vastly different.”
That says it all really. Although Meghan and Kate now live quite separate lives, what with Meghan having left the royal family while Kate very much remains, they still may be able to bond over parenting. After all, both of them are completely devoted to making sure their children have good lives.