Meghan, Harry’s Lilibet purchase without Queen’s permission a big risk

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Royal births used to be nothing if not a wholly predictable business.

A mewling bundle of red-faced joy would arrive in the world; its parents would gamely present the tot to the world’s salivating press while trying to not look quietly terrified about this whole parenthood caper; and then back at home, ensconced in the comfort of a Sevres china and Gainsborough-stuffed sitting room they would pick a suitably musty Victorian name for the poppet.

“Used to,” that is.

The most recent royal delivery came with a flurry of finger-pointing, a media briefing war and the threat of a libel suit being flung about. In fact, the arrival of Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s two children over the last two years have, on each occasion, been an exercise in not so much tossing out the rule book but immolating it.

RELATED: ‘Unhinged’: Palace insiders slam Meghan

When Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor popped out into the world in 2019 it triggered a media maelstrom, the press having been bizarrely told the Duchess had gone into labour, hours after the wee mite had actually been born.

His parents’ abject refusal to present him to the media set off a fresh storm of clucking, only for the Sussexes’ christening plans (no media, no naming of godparents) leaving certain quarters of the public and press fuming for having been deftly excised from proceedings.

Somehow the birth of his little sister Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor on June 4 has been even more uproarious. (Those Sussexes really are a dab hand at outdoing themselves.)

Harry and Meghan’s decision to co-opt the Queen’s lifelong, personal nickname for their daughter immediately set off a firestorm, with debate raging whether their unusual choice was a touching tribute or a sneaky hijacking of the intimate sobriquet.

RELATED: Meghan’s power play over the palace

Today, that particular commotion is back in the news after the couple confirmed they had purchased “Lilibet Diana” and “Lili Diana” internet domain names before they had gotten the nod from Her Majesty to use the name.

Here’s how things played out.

On May 31, was registered and then on June 4, the day Lili was born, was purchased in the US. Two days later on June 6, news of her arrival was revealed to the world.

Within days, a storm soon erupted over whether Harry and Meghan had sought his grandmother’s OK to use her nickname for their daughter.

On June 9, the BBC reported the California-based couple had not asked the Queen’s permission and the palace refused to deny the claim.

Within hours of the BBC report breaking, lawyers for the Sussexes accused the national broadcaster of libel and instructed media organisations that the report was “false and defamatory”.

Harry and Meghan have “always insisted that they would not have used the name if the Queen had not been ‘supportive’ of their choice,” The Telegraph reports.

Which brings us to today’s confirmation of the domain name purchases, which raises questions about the timeline of this whole affair.

A spokesman for the Sussexes told the Telegraph: “Of course, as is often customary with public figures, a significant number of domains of any potential names that were considered were purchased by their team to protect against the exploitation of the name once it was later chosen and publicly shared.”

RELATED: Harry and Meghan’s $660k-per-day job

While this ‘they-said, palace-said’ back and forth will likely, exhaustingly, go on for decades (grudges being another thing the Windsors are very good at, just ask the Duchess of Windsor) this domain name news underlines one of the key things this naming kerfuffle is probably really about: Money.

Or at least, whether little Lili’s parents have any plans to use these domain names, and therefore Her Majesty’s epithet, as they set about making their fortune.

As the Express’ royal correspondent Richard Palmer put it this month: “I’m not getting the impression there’s much happiness at Windsor Castle about the choice of Lilibet as the baby’s name. It may have been an olive branch but there’s sensitivity because of any perceived attempt to use the Queen as part of the Sussex brand.”

In January 2020, Harry and Meghan first proposed a half-in, half-out model which would have seen them continue to occasionally represent the Queen while also working to become financially independent.

The prospect of monarchy rubbing up against money-making manoeuvring reportedly led the Queen to force them to choose between either staying put inside the royal embrace or to quit entirely.

Nearly 18 months and an estimated $180 million in deals later, their answer has been unequivocal.

Since landing in the US, Harry and Meghan set off a fresh round of furrowed brows and debate about whether they were using Archie for commercial gain after their debut – and thus far, only – Spotify podcast featured the toddler uttering his first words in public. Touching family moment or heaven sent means of currying global publicity?

So too did footage of the little boy feature in the couple’s Oprah Winfrey TV interview (while they weren’t paid for this, their ‘speaking truth to the establishment’ schtick has become the bedrock of their US brand) and in Harry’s mental health TV series The Me You Can’t See.

The Duchess’ recently released children’s book The Bench also features two illustrations which appear to show the Sussex family. Last week, the book topped TheNew York Times bestseller list.

Last year, they unveiled their post-royal brand Archewell, revealing that the Greek word ‘Arche’, meaning “sources of action,” was the inspiration for their son’s name.

Today, while the organisation encompasses a philanthropic arm, Archewell Foundation, it also includes Archewell Audio, which will produce podcasts for Spotify, and Archewell Productions, under whose auspices they will create content exclusively for Netflix.

In April, it was revealed the duo had lodged trademark applications in the US under Archewell, for things including a nutrition and general health website, downloadable magazines, audio books, motion picture films and television shows, fiction and nonfiction, calendars, posters, stationery, journals, paperclips, socks, rainwear, footwear and headwear.

A source told The Guardian at the time the lengthy list of trademarks was for “protection purposes only”.

Thus far, the eyebrow-raising intersection of their family and their business interests might have ruffled feathers but if they pursue a similar course with Lili, given the monarchical connotations of her name, they could face the full force of a riled palace bearing down on them.

One of the greatest sins in the eyes of the 95-year-old sovereign has always been using one’s royal status to make a crust; filthy lucre and monarchy are not meant to ever, ever mix. (Well, at least not in any sort of very obvious or crass fashion. What? One owns vast commercial holdings and there is a Buckingham Palace gift shop? Hush now.)

All of this might be a storm in a cup of vegan latte and those domain names may very well sit dormant for the rest of time.

But, if they don’t, if they are used for any sort of lucrative endeavour, the Queen could be forced to act to even more assertively cleave the Sussexes from the monarchy to try and protect the crown.

Having lost their ability to use their styling as His/Her Royal Highness, having lost their official royal patronages and Harry having lost his honorary military roles, the final remaining official tether is their Sussex title, which was gifted to them for their wedding.

Could there come a day when Buckingham Palace plays this – their final trump card – and consider using the threat of forcing their Sussex titles into abeyance to bend the renegade duo to their will? (Whether such a strongarm tactic would work is another question entirely.)

Sure, Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, might still be able to use her title even after having plumbed the depths of grasping business deals (branded juicers! Diet books! Fergie’s Farm ready meals, seriously, coming soon!) but Prince Andrew’s ex-wife is less of a monarchical threat than a comi-tragic royal footnote.

Would the palace be quite so lenient and so willing to turn a blind eye if there ever came a day that Lili’s name was used in conjunction with any sort of money-spinning outing?

The monarchy has endured for more than a millennium and has weathered the Norman Conquest, Napoleon, Wallis Simpson, the London Blitz and It’s A Royal Knockout.

That’s not an accident but a fact that belies a ruthless dedication to survival at all costs. How far might they be willing to go head off any new existential threat? We may well find out sooner rather than later.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.


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