Americans Talk About an "Article V Convention"—Britons About the "George V Convention"

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For those interested in the subject (and not just the label), check out this post at the UK Constitutional Law Association, Craig Prescott: Modernising the Monarchy: Moving Beyond the 1917 Letters Patent and the "George V Convention":

In March 2021, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, gave one of the most extraordinary interviews ever held with a member of the Royal Family. It may have a profound and long-lasting effect on the monarchy, an institution that remains central to the UK's constitutional arrangements. Already, there are calls for reform. This blog focuses on the section of the interview that discussed the lack of princely status for Archie, the Sussexes' eldest child.

The aim is not to address the Duchess's specific points, as the media have scrutinised them in great detail. Instead, the issue of Archie's status is the key that opens the door to a range of issues that the monarchy faces as a political institution. The fallout from the interview creates the opportunity to reflect on how the titles of prince and princess should be distributed in the future while considering the changing role of the Royal Family and Prince Charles' preference to "slim down" the institution.

(1) What is the "George V Convention"?

The first issue is the rules themselves. The "George V Convention" as discussed by Meghan, takes the form of Letters Patent issued by the King in 1917. Letters Patent (where the plural is also the singular) is a legal document, effectively an open letter, that expresses the Royal Will. In this context, Letters Patent confer the "style, title or attribute of Royal Highness", together with the "titular dignity" of prince or princess prefixed to their Christian names. A title or dignity is an incorporeal hereditament, a form of intangible property….

Thanks to Paul Twyman for the pointer.

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  1. If only the States had passed the “Titles of Nobility Amendment” back when it was proposed. It’s probably too late now– 26 states probably won’t consider this important enough to debate at this point so they won’t vote. (There are also some downside as the amendment was written. But at least it could have prohibited someone from “being a royal” with a suitable definition of “royal”. Reigning monarch and “prince/princess” out to fit that bill.)

    If the amendment has passed as written, at least Meghan would have had to chose between accepting title of Duchess and retaining American citizenship. Likewise, a similar choice would exist for Archie. As it stands, they want him both to be a royal Prince and an American citizen. That’s strikes me as not what Americans should want.

    1. Yes, that struck me too, that Meghan seems to have expected she could gain a title with no effort required other than cutting a few ribbons, while Harry … well, maybe being second fiddle didn’t agree with him and he wanted an outside life, but still wanted the title and all its accouterments. Neither seems to have much self-esteem or know what they want in life. I pity poor Archie most of all. He’ll grow up thinking he’s still a royal who has been abandoned by his British cousins.

    2. Interesting link to the proposed amendment — if I’d ever known of it, I had forgotten. This description in Wikipedia sure seems similar —

      One theory for why the Congress proposed the amendment is that it was in response to the 1803 marriage of Napoleon Bonaparte’s younger brother, Jerome, and Betsy Patterson of Baltimore, Maryland, who gave birth to a boy for whom she wanted aristocratic recognition from France.

      I don’t understand the attraction of a noble title. If someone from Britain decided to make me a Sir or pass on a royal title like Duke of The Alphabet”, sure I’d accept, what a funny thing to laugh about with friends, and astonish strangers who pass through town. But lust after, like Meghan? Good God no.

      1. I can understand an attraction to the title. Whether or not they should be many people are impressed. The title can grease skids for invitation to society which can have very real financial benefits in many fields.

        I think the difficulty for American’s isn’t just “any old title”. A meaningless hereditary ‘title’ that has no tie to any governing function shouldn’t matter. Someone is probably the official “heir” to the former Serbian monarch and I have no problem with people keeping track of that as there is no longer a ruling monarch. But a title that carries with it formal connection to a reigning monarch along with possible duties (even if ceremonial) or allowance to live on or in exchange for governmental duties is something we shouldn’t want an American to accept or retain. For that matter if the title of prince did give Archie special protection as a “royal” that is something an American shouldn’t have– at least, perhaps, not after the American has achieved majority and has the opportunity to make a choice between the title and US citizenship.

        So Meghan’s title and Archie’s potential titles are precisely the sort that American’s should not hold. We allow it though. I just wish we didn’t.

      2. “Duke of The Alphabet”
        Now that is a grand title to rival Admiral of the Ocean Seas

    3. “they want him both to be a royal Prince and an American citizen. ”

      Yes, the plan is to get Archie elected President and then invade UK, put him on the throne and reunite USA/UK.

      Meghan plays a very long game.

    4. Nonsense. Americans adore royalty. Ask any newspaper publisher.

      And, anyway, this is all precedented. A natural born American citizen was at one time the maternal grandfather of the heir to the throne of a European principality. His natural-born American daughter was the princess. All were wildly popular, and fondly remembered today. All over the world royal figures aspire to Americanize themselves, and sometimes their countries. Let them do as they please.

      With few exceptions, royalty has little to do with sovereignty anymore. Even in the time of George III, the colonists got themselves worked up thinking he was tyrannizing them, while the sovereign power the colonists were trying to overthrow was already in parliament. King George might not have wanted to aid the colonists, but even if he did, he might have been powerless to make it happen.

      1. Steven Lathrop,
        Prince Albert renounced his US citizenship.

        Monaco is also tiny. The smallness of Monaco would likely not be a factor in any amendment barring being a royal from another nation and keeping US citizenship, but it would be a factor in people’s minds with respect to appropriateness of holding both.

        1. But did his neice, who is a princess of Hannover as well as a princess of Monaco? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Alexandra_of_Hanover_(born_1999)

      2. King George had plenty of power then. Had he not wanted it, there probably would have been no war. Had he not wanted to continue it, it would not have continued. It only finally ended after Cornwallis lost at Yorktown and he could no longer push Parliament around, and then he stalled the peace negotiations for two years. He also had a big hand in pushing Parliament with the Stamp and Intolerable Acts.

      3. You wish. It’s only a small amount of folks like you who fancy European royals. Most find discussion of it repugnant to our republican ideals. You may win in this fierce battle to “royalize” America, but then again maybe not.

  2. I read about half that link before laughing too much to want to continue. It’s so funny how these goddish royals have been gradually tamed down over the years into mere ribbon cutters, so close to being mere employees who can only be fired as a group by Parliament deciding to abolish the monarchy and/or become a constitutional republic.

    And “Meghan, Duchess of Sussex” — what a moniker! I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to them, but their recent semi-withdrawal from royal responsibilities has been hard to avoid, and it’s amazing how Harry can’t seem to shed the entitled personality he must have grown up with, while Meghan — good grief, who knows what she wanted other than a royal title. Her complaint, which is the subject of that link, that her precious Archie is not styled “Prince”, is the epitome of my perception of why she married Harry — no idea why Harry married her. She seems to want the trappings of royalty, its benefits on her social calendar, without any of the duties that go with the job.

    I’d like to say “what a mess” but I read an interesting factoid a few years ago, that providing security to Obama cost $1.4 billion, no idea whether over 4 years or 8 years or just one year; while the entire royal family cost $100 million, including security. They had a cost breakdown for just Obama’s golfing trip to Hawaii, the one which disrupted a wedding with no notice, and it was mind boggling how much it cost. Two 747s? One as Air Force One, the other to carry all the SUVs and personnel.

    Somehow I can’t help but wonder how many Brits are laughing up their sleeves about who got which end of that 1776 stick.

    1. I can still clearly remember the breakdown in JFK’s security; not to mention the fallout. I can understand how Obama’s security could cost big bucks. I suspect current pols like Biden and the congress will wind up with a bill that dwarfs what was spent on Obama.

      Truth be told I am not sure Biden is really that much of a target since he is viewed as something of a figurehead by those who would target him. On the other hand there are six dem senators from states with pub governors. As close as the Senate is I am sure they need very heavy security; a single replacement would be a legislative earthquake.

      I also have to wonder about how much security Harry and his far from blushing bride need. While there is clearly dislike of the two by some I doubt it reaches the level of violence towards them.

      There seems to be a difference between those who need real security (like the six dem Senators) and those who need the trappings of security to keep away paparazzi.

      1. “there are six dem senators from states with pub governors”

        Are you saying that there are six democratic senators from states with republican governors? That’s wrong. There are 15. What are you thinking?

        Are you saying that these dem senators from states with republican governors are at risk, personally, because they are in states with republican governors?

        If so, you are out of your blinking mind! That’s the wackiest progressive conspiracy theory I’ve ever read on VC.

        1. The point I was trying to make is that the Senators from GA, AZ, WV, and MT are from states where the pub gov would like appoint a dem. I do get your point that there are more dem Senators from states from pub gov. If it makes you feel any better I will stipulate to the 15 number.

          Given what happened at the softball game and what Pelosi has done in DC I am saying there seems to be agreement all congress critters are at risk; and some are at risk more than others. If Pelosi was shot I doubt the dems would change much of what they are doing. If Sanders was shot the pub gov would likely appoint someone with a liberal viewpoint. On the other hand WV would almost for sure appoint a pub to replace Manchin. GA and AZ might well do the same; MT as well.

          As an aside I have not seen Kelly raise his head since he was elected. Sinema has made it a point of bucking the dems in several areas.

          Bottom line is the congress critters on both sides of the aisle have massively bumped up their security; and even more so since 6 Jan, 2021. Anyone who thinks there are not reasons for this is living in a fools world.

    2. I agree that we have invested the presidency with far too much of the trappings of royalty.

      That doesn’t make the absurdity of actual royalty any less obscene.

      1. Thank God George Washington tried to limit it, otherwise we would be bowing and curstying to the president by now.

        1. Agreed. Vice President Adams suggested that Washington be addressed as “His Electoral Majesty” or “His Mightiness”. The U.S.—and, extension, the world—is fortunate for our first president’s more refined Republican sensibilities.

          1. Instead the President gets styled Mr. President for life, as if he somehow gets his actual given name taken away when he is elected.

  3. This royal family bullshit will soon have me snoring
    It’s a real soporific ’cause its so boring

    1. People always ask me why I yawn so much
      It’s ’cause they’re always going on about dukes and such

      [refrain]

      Oh, so boring
      Oh, oh, so boring
      Oh, so boring
      It puts me to sleep

  4. I always thought it odd that some think their biggest accomplishment in life is being born to the right parents.

    As for Prince Spare and the Duchess of Prima Donna, they are good proof that anyone can be famous, no matter how vapid.

  5. The 1917 Letters Patent are referenced in detail in S1:E3 of “The Crown,” an episode entitled “Windsor.” (Pointedly not “Mountbatten.”)

  6. If there were an Article V Convention today, what amendment would achieve 75%+ approval? I would propose electoral reform, which would destroy how Congress operates, which would destroy how the FCC operates, which would destroy the corporate status quo.

    If you’d like to play delegate and/or critique other proposals you can @ articlevconvention.org

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