As with any major negotiation, the devil is in the detail.
And the more that we study the new template for 21st century reluctant royalty, the more issues that arise – from heraldry to trademarks and some very odd new titles.
The Queen has certainly kept to her side of the bargain, having said last week that she wanted to resolve the future of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex ‘in days’.
This has been serious royal reform conducted at record speed.
The Queen has certainly kept to her side of the bargain, having said last week that she wanted to resolve the future of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex ‘in days’
Uppermost in the Queen’s mind, I understand, were two previous members of the family whose drawn-out unhappiness backfired badly on the monarchy itself.
The first was Princess Margaret, whose hopes of marrying her late father’s divorced equerry, Peter Townsend, were put on hold for two years until she no longer required the Queen’s permission (by which time, she was having second thoughts anyway).
The second was the Princess of Wales, who spent three years inside the royal fold while separated from the Prince before finally seeking a divorce.
In both cases, the Queen let things drag on and on in the hope of some sort of happy resolution. In both cases, it merely prolonged the agony for everyone.
This time, the Queen has decided to apply a different strategy: speed and pragmatism – with a return ticket included, just in case things do not go to plan.
There has been a lot of talk about ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ from last week’s Sandringham summit, as the Palace pointedly refuses to call it (‘it was a family meeting,’ says a spokesman).
Sporting analogies rather miss the point since both sides can claim to have won, yet no one is feeling remotely triumphal.
The Sussexes have secured the new existence they yearned for, though certainly not on the terms they had envisaged.
They had hoped to create a hybrid arrangement, mixing official duties with private commercial work. However, as this paper has made clear in recent days, any aspiration to be half-in/half-out could never work.
In her statement Her Majesty The Queen praised how Meghan had swiftly become part of the family and thanked the couple for the work they had done
The Sussexes will pay back £2.3million of taxpayers’ money spent on renovating Frogmore Cottage (pictured) in Berkshire
The couple will now be post-royal rather than semi-royal.
In the process, they have also quashed one of the regular charges thrown at them, namely the use of public money.
Having agreed to repay the £2.3million of Sovereign Grant spent on the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, they are in the clear.
For her part, the Queen has deftly reasserted her authority at the age of 93 and averted a family schism.
Even so, it has been a painful process for a worried grandmother. And she is acutely aware this is not an issue that can now be put to one side. Rather, this is just the start.
For as one set of negotiations is resolved, a whole new chapter of awkward and perhaps insoluble dilemmas now opens up.
For now, the answer to most of these questions is ‘wait and see’. By sensibly announcing a ‘review’ of the Sussexes’ arrangements after 12 months, both sides have bought themselves some breathing space. Nothing is final, for now.
The public may want answers sooner than that, however.
Take the question of how we should refer to the couple. A royal spokesman has said, once the new arrangements take effect in ‘the spring’, they will be known as ‘Harry, Duke of Sussex’ and ‘Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’.
When I put this to a distinguished authority on protocol yesterday, he replied with astonishment: ‘What? So, they are already divorcing?’
For the only people who put a Christian name before a title are either divorced wives or widows of hereditary peers.
They do so, by tradition, to distinguish themselves from the current holder of the same title. (It was for this reason that, say, the Countess Spencer became Raine, Countess Spencer on the death of her husband, the last Earl Spencer.
We can surely expect to see a rebranding and relaunch of ‘sussexroyal.com’ in the near future, although it is going to cost the couple a small fortune as they apply for new trademarks for every aspect of their fledgling empire
That way, there could be no confusion with the wife of the new Earl Spencer who was automatically the new Countess Spencer).
So, ‘Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’ would only be correct if Meghan was either widowed or divorced. As for ‘Harry, Duke of Sussex’, no such male title has ever existed.
Some might dismiss this as arcane stuff for pedants and Downton Abbey addicts. However, the whole point of protocol and etiquette is that people want to know the rules.
At every royal event I have ever attended, the most frequent questions from the guests are: ‘How do I bow/curtsey?’ and ‘What should I call them?’
So what should we call a couple who will no longer call themselves ‘HRH’ but will, nonetheless, retain the style of ‘HRH’? For their royal status is, in effect, mothballed rather than abolished.
They will both remain ‘HRH’ on their passports and in official documents. Again, this might seem a minor point. But try telling that to the host who is just about to introduce Harry or Meghan at some gala event.
They can hardly begin with the usual: ‘Your Royal Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen…’ Nor would it be correct to say ‘Your Grace’ – the form of address for an ‘ordinary’ duke. A Palace adviser admits there is, as yet, no definitive answer but suggests using plain ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’.
As for bowing or curtseying, the official advice is: ‘Don’t’. But if some people do, Harry and Meghan are not going to complain.
Money-wise, there is a serious problem at the heart of their new, independent operation: Sussex Royal. They have spent months establishing it as a charitable, corporate and digital entity. But the name is, surely, a non-starter.
If you are not going to trade on your royal connections – and they have forsworn not to – then you simply cannot create a new brand for yourself with ‘royal’ in the title.
We can surely expect to see a rebranding and relaunch of ‘sussexroyal.com’ in the near future, although it is going to cost the couple a small fortune as they apply for new trademarks for every aspect of their fledgling empire.
I even see trouble ahead with something as simple as their stationery. They will want to keep their cypher – their initials entwined under what looks like a crown – which appears on everything.
But some people will argue that this is another example of trading on their royal status.
This is not true, since the ‘crown’ in question is actually a coronet, a heraldic device which applies to all members of the peerage.
In other words, hundreds of peers do the same. However, to a wider world with little time for such niceties, it may just look like another example of trading on royal links.
All these are issues which will keep officials inside all the royal households busy for months.
None of this, I suspect, will weigh as heavily on the Duke’s mind as the loss of his military patronages.
He was immensely honoured to be appointed Captain-General of the Royal Marines, in particular, and his loyalty to the wider family of the Armed Forces has been exemplary. But he must relinquish the ceremonial role.
One close to him acknowledges that occasions like Remembrance Sunday will ‘hit particularly hard’.
For there seems little chance of Harry being invited to line up behind his father at the Cenotaph to lay a wreath.
He will, of course, be welcome to join the Queen and other members of the family on the balcony overlooking Whitehall but for such a dedicated ex-Army officer it may feel too much like a demotion.
I would not be surprised to see him attending other commemorations on his own.
However, it is significant that none of his current stable of military organisations will look for a replacement during the 12-month review of the new arrangements. Read between the lines and the Queen has kept as many bridges open, in case of a change of plan.
He remains a passionate president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust – with Meghan as vice-president. Meghan is also patron of one of the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
Spread across all 53 member states of the ‘family of nations’, these are charities which can be promoted and supported just as easily, whether the patron happens to be in Windsor, Ontario, or Windsor, Berkshire.
I fully expect to see Harry – and possibly Meghan, too – alongside the Queen at the annual Commonwealth Day service in Westminster Abbey in March. It is an event packed with charities from all over the Commonwealth.
It is also an occasion which, in future, may act as a bridge between the Sussexes and the rest of the family.
Harry does, of course, have unfinished business before his new ‘independent life’ can start. Today, he will hold a series of bilateral meetings with the presidents of Malawi and Mozambique plus the prime minister of Morocco.
The Government’s UK-Africa Summit is kicking off in London and Foreign Office ministers are keen to play the royal card as much as possible.
Before the events of recent days, Prince Harry had agreed to welcome some of the heads of state.
Later on, all 21 African delegations – plus spouses – will head for Buckingham Palace where the Duke of Cambridge will host a special summit reception.
It is not only the first big Palace bash of the year. It will also be the first time the Queen has asked Prince William to host a major state occasion inside royal HQ, another stepping stone in the long preparation for the top job that will one day be his destiny.
Prince Harry will not be at his brother’s party.
I am told that it is simply down to a ‘diary clash’. No doubt, he would once have made a point of being on hand to help his brother with a big event like this. In the present circumstances, of course, it would eclipse the entire summit if he did show up.
Today will be another reminder of just what the monarchy and the UK are about to lose. For the Duke himself, it will be a reminder of the position he is about to abandon.
Canada may have its appeal but no one is going to ask him to spend a day schmoozing with heads of state – as Harry will this afternoon.
There are so many pitfalls ahead, so much to be regretted.
Just as well, then, that the wise Queen has left so many doors ajar.