Speculation mounts Prince Harry, Meghan Markle stripped of royal titles

There is speculation Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have lost their royal titles after a statement from the Queen didn't refer to them as Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Following crisis talks at Sandringham estate on Tuesday, Queen Elizabeth released a statement confirming Prince Harry and Meghan would step down as full-time royals and become more independent. The couple forced the issue after releasing a "personal message" of their own last week highlighting their desire to step away from the family.

While the Queen announced the pair would now split their time between the United Kingdom and Canada, her statement didn't address whether they would retain their royal titles. 

However, many have picked up that the statement referred to the pair as "Harry and Meghan" rather than the "Duke and Duchess of Sussex". The statement does once informally say "the Sussexes" - something not used before.

Previous statements and tweets from the Queen and her The Royal Family social media account nearly always refer to family members by their titles rather than their first names. For example, last week's now-infamous statement from Buckingham Palace noting discussions about Prince Harry and Meghan's departure were only in an early stage referred to them by their titles. 

A search of press releases on the royal family's website shows the last time Prince Harry was referred to by his first name was before he and Meghan received their Duke and Duchess titles in 2018. Even the announcement of the birth of the pair's son referred to them by their titles.

Royal commentator Victoria Arbiter said it was "very striking" that a statement from the Queen didn't refer to the pair by their official titles. 

However, other social media users have suggested that it's possible the Queen called the pair by their first names to create a more personal connection and show her support for her family, rather than just members of the institution. 

"I think they keep the titles--Harry & Meghan might've requested that verbiage to emphasize the change (sic)," said one person.

"Statement clearly used plain 'Harry and Meghan' instead of their Royal title. That says something," said another. 

Any change to royal titles won't affect Prince Harry and Meghan's son Archie, who wasn't given a title when he was born.