As soon as news broke that Prince Harry was dating Meghan Markle, every move the couple made was put under a microscope. In fact, you probably know more than you think about the royal couple – whether you want to or not. And when it comes to Harry and Meghan, nothing seems to escape the most eagle-eyed members of the media. They even found out about a change to Archie’s birth certificate – although, to be honest, 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. Still, while Meghan’s press team warned against paying it too much attention, the swap did raise eyebrows for a reason.
And the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have since blasted the speculation off the front pages with a happy piece of news. On Valentine’s Day 2021, the pair brought the love after announcing 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.
It was May 6, 2019, when Harry and Meghan welcomed son Archie, their first child. A few days later, the new dad spoke to the press outside Windsor Castle, lauding his wife’s strength in delivering their baby. 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.”
But Meghan and Harry quickly found they didn’t want to share as much as the press wanted to know about them. By April 2020 the couple announced to specific tabloids in the United Kingdom that they wouldn’t deal with their publications going forward. A lot of it had to do with how they had treated the Duchess during and after her pregnancy.
In the October 2019 ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, the Duchess explained how the publications had made her feel while with child. 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.”
It wasn’t just Meghan who felt overwhelmed by tabloid attention, either. Harry went on the defensive to protect both her and especially their son, Archie, because he knew first-hand how hard it was to grow up in the spotlight. The rest of the world found out about his desire to keep the baby out of the public eye when the royal parents held his christening behind closed doors.
A royal source told the Daily Express newspaper, “He is fiercely determined to protect his newborn from the glare of public opinion which he has had to bear – which became especially oppressive when he lost his mother Diana.” They were, of course, referencing the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.
The source continued to say 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 insider said, “Meghan, who has lived a large part of her life in front of cameras, agrees wholeheartedly.”
Although the private christening brought this information to light, it wasn’t the first time that Meghan and Harry had made it clear that they wanted their son to lead a relatively normal life. Another clue had come with the infant’s birth announcement: he was neither given a Lordship nor a courtesy title from his great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.
In the future, though, it could be that Archie will receive the title of “Prince” if and when his grandfather, Prince Charles, ascends to the British throne. At that point, Archie will be sixth in line to become King himself and subject to the royal rules that his parents have tried to sidestep by skipping his title.
But royal experts have noted that the family has become more lax with its rules and traditions in recent years, so there’s a good chance that neither Archie nor his parents will have to worry about his place in the line of succession – or the Windsors’ control over certain aspects of his life. Still, they may have tried to exert some of that power over the baby’s birth certificate.
Archie’s original birth certificate hit the press on May 17, 2019, nine days after he came into the world. The document shed light on a few interesting details about the baby’s delivery. For one thing, it confirmed where Meghan had given birth, and it was in a different location than had been speculated.
Some said that Meghan and Harry had chosen to have Archie at their Windsor, England, home. But the baby’s birth certificate confirmed that he was born at Portland Hospital in Westminster, a private medical facility in London where Sarah, Duchess of York, had previously given birth to her two daughters, Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice.
Another interesting detail on the original birth certificate was what Meghan had listed as her job. The document said that her occupation was “Princess of the United Kingdom,” which was, of course, true. But the public found it quite entertaining to see in print.
And, while this detail caught people’s attention, it wasn’t the one that turned heads when Archie’s new birth certificate was issued a few months later. It all had to do with how Meghan’s name was listed on the baby’s revised document. On the original, it listed his mother as “Rachel Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.”
But according to a report in The Sun newspaper, the second issuing of the birth certificate listed Archie’s mother as only “Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex.” The changes had been made in June 2019, but the press only discovered them in early 2021. And, at that time, they had a field day with who had made the edits – and, perhaps more importantly, why.
That information wasn’t made available to the public right away, either. So, speculation ran wild as to why Meghan’s name might have 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 apparent rift between them.
On January 8, 2020, Meghan and Harry announced in a statement to the press that they had decided to “step back as senior members of the royal family,” instead splitting their time between the United Kingdom and the United States. The couple said they wanted to be financially independent of the Windsors, although they would continue to “fully support Her Majesty The Queen.”
By March 2020 Meghan and Harry had moved halfway around the world, putting down permanent roots in her home state of California, eventually purchasing a home in Santa Barbara. When they landed in America, a royal insider 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.”
But that path meant that Meghan and Harry lost some of the perks that came with full-time work as part of the royal family. In February 2021 it was announced that the pair wouldn’t return to their roles within the Windsor clan after a 12-month post-departure probationary period. The duo had lost their His/Her Royal Highness titles in the aftermath, too.
Now, it may seem as though that explained Meghan’s name change on Archie’s birth certificate: her role within the family changed, so the document did, too. That would have made sense – but only if the edits had come in early 2021. Yet as we said previously, the shortened birth certificate was approved in June 2019.
So, why did Meghan’s name, in particular, get the chop from her son’s birth certificate? There were a few ideas, and most of them had to do with the speculation surrounding the Sussexes relationship with Harry’s brother, Prince William, and his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
Now, Kate’s name appears on her children’s birth certificates, so outsiders wondered if Meghan had removed her forenames as a way to differentiate herself from her sister-in-law. Others wondered if the supposed tension between the two couples had ended with the changes. Indeed, the Sussexes had left a joint charity venture with the Cambridges just before the change on Archie’s birth certificate appeared.
Others thought that perhaps Prince Harry had orchestrated the changes to his wife’s name on their son’s birth certificate in honor of his late mother. Princess Diana appears on his birth certificate as “Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.” So, maybe removing Meghan’s first and middle names was an homage to the mom he lost years ago.
Writer and royal watcher Lady Colin Campbell was the one to notice the change, and she spoke to the Daily Express about it in February 2021. She opined, “It is extraordinary and raises all kinds of questions about what the Sussexes were thinking.” Meanwhile, Ingrid Seward, a royal expert, called the move “unprecedented” and said, “To remove forenames is remarkable.”
What all this speculation seemed to miss, though, was the fact that it wasn’t just Meghan’s name that got changed in the June 2019 update to Archie’s birth certificate. Previously, the baby’s document listed his father as “His Royal Highness Henry Charles Albert David Duke of Sussex.” But the updated version added the word “Prince” in front of his first name.
As Vanity Fair magazine’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.” Plus, there was precedent for adding that p-word to the paper. Vanderhoof continued, “The title is included on the birth certificates of Prince William’s three children.”
And there was a seemingly logical explanation for Meghan’s change of name, too. Her first and middle names, Rachel Meghan, were not part of her official title. So, while Harry got his “Prince” added, she may have had her forenames removed so that he document matched the way she was meant to be addressed at that 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. Indeed, the changes appeared just a few weeks after Archie came into the world. But the Duchess of Sussex didn’t make them – and she wanted to make that clear to all of the speculators who pinned the edits on her.
Meghan’s press officer 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.”
But that wasn’t all – the Sussexes had a message for the media outlets who had printed conspiracy theories regarding the change. The statement 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.”
As previously noted, there was one final sting in the tail of Meghan’s team’s retort – and it advised everyone poring over Archie’s birth certificate to use their time on something more meaningful. The statement concluded, “There’s a lot going on in the world; let’s focus on that instead of creating clickbait.”
Still, Meghan’s statement wasn’t the last one regarding Archie’s birth certificate. A Buckingham Palace insider told the website of newspaper the Daily Mail in February 2021 that the couple’s former aides had supposedly changed the document. They 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.”
Meanwhile, another source told the same publication that Meghan’s U.S.-based team were mistaken, diplomatically suggesting that the truth of the matter had become “lost in translation.” The same person felt that the Sussexes did wrong by releasing their own statement on the topic because it seemed angry and created questions, rather than answering them.
Ultimately, neither party took responsibility for the changes. And they may not have been more than a correction to the fact that Meghan and Harry’s titles were written incorrectly. The same insider noted to the Daily Mail’s website, “These are civil documents, there is no protocol.” So, it may not have been as big a deal as the press made out.
Since then, no one has spoken out further regarding the birth certificate. As previously intimated, though, the Sussexes have made another announcement: they are expecting their second child together. As expected, the two happy parents were “overjoyed” with the news, a spokesman for them told People. And, of course, the new addition would make Archie a big brother, too.
For now at least, the family continues to call California home – thousands of miles distant from the rest of the royal family. But Harry is said to be returning to the U.K. in the summer of 2021, when he and his brother, William, will honor their own mother with a statue they commissioned in London.