What’s Up With Meghan and Harry’s Big Rebrand?

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images,

Like so many enterprising freelancers, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle recently updated their website for the new calendar year, debuting a sleek URL: In several respects — the royal-blue-and-cream color palette; the use of crests — this new landing page resembles that of, the site the couple was obligated to ditch four years ago, when they renounced their roles as working royals and with it their right to brand themselves as such. Instead, they soldiered forward with an exciting normie pivot under the ambiguous umbrella of Archewell, the name for their charity–slash–media conglomerate.

Now, however, what used to be the Archewell website routes back to, where the couple appear to be reintroducing themselves under a familiar framework. Meghan, according to the lengthy “About Me” section linked on the home page, is not “Markle” but “the Duchess of Sussex.” The couple now have an “office” to speak for them, language that evokes the media machinations of the palace they left. Their children are apparently going by the surname “Sussex” now. In short, they are leaning heavily on their titles, packaging themselves not as a pair of go-getting media-mogul celebs but as royals who work. To me, it looks less like a rebrand and more like a 360-degree revolution back to basics; a renewed embrace of their single largest selling point. And, per usual, it raises a whole raft of questions, such as “What are they up to now?” and “Are they even allowed to do that?”

What’s this new website saying?

It states that “the Office of Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, is shaping the future through business and philanthropy,” and (by way of two detailed bios) it reminds us that Meghan is a onetime intern at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires; an ex-blogger; a former guest editor of British Vogue; and a New York Times best-selling author (?), in addition to having been on Suits. Prince Harry’s bio, meanwhile, touts his time in the British Armed Forces, nods to the many foundations he’s headed, and tips its hat to the 1.4 million copies of his memoir, Spare, that sold on its first day on shelves. also includes fresh links for the Archewell Foundation and Archewell Productions, and it features the Sussex crest, which — especially in miniature, as it’s rendered in the website heading — looks not unlike the royal crest. Really, open and in side-by-side tabs on your browser, and tell me you aren’t confused by the thumbnail.

Rather than the crown’s lion and unicorn, however, the Sussex coat of arms depicts a lion (symbolizing Harry) and a large white songbird being choked by a crown (Meghan??) on either side of a shield. The Sun reports that Meghan collaborated with the College of Arms to release the crest in 2018, after the couple’s wedding. Its use on the website has infuriated some royal experts (“They are cashing in on their royal connections that they say they hate so much,” Angela Levin, who’s written a biography on Harry, complained to the Sun), and, well, it certainly is cheeky.

Why cheeky?

Because Harry and Meghan were explicitly told to refrain from branding themselves as royals when they announced their decision to “step back” in January 2020. At the time, they shared the big news abruptly, in the manner of a celebrity breakup, via a statement posted to their @sussexroyal Instagram account. The couple said that they were “starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution,” relinquishing their role as “senior” members of the family in favor of financial independence. Splitting their time between North America and the U.K., they said they would continue “to honour [their] duty to the Queen, the Commonwealth, and [their] patronages,” but make their own money. A clarification posted to further explained that they were “transitioning to a new working model,” in which they would forgo their annual allowance from the Sovereign Grant — a pool of taxpayer money that the monarch divvies up among the working royals so they can cover the costs of their official duties — and subsidize themselves instead.

The most immediate problem with the plan was that the queen hadn’t approved it and never would. Senior royals are routinely deputized to fulfill official duties on behalf and at the behest of the monarch. As journalist and royal expert Tina Brown explained in a 2022 interview, a hybrid existence in which Harry and Meghan would generate their own income while also working for the crown constitutes a significant conflict of interest, because the monarchy is supposed to be about “unremunerated” duty and service. “Whatever they might say about keeping these interests separate, in their commercial activities, they would be leveraging the crown,” Brown said. “That’s why commercial opportunities would come their way, and did come their way; it was about the fact that they were royal.”

The queen vetoed the proposal, ruling that Harry and Meghan would be either all in or all out. She did not strip them of their HRH — His/Her Royal Highness — titles, but statements issued by both Buckingham Palace and the Sussexes stated that the couple would not use them “as they are no longer working members of the Royal Family” and could not “formally represent” the crown any longer. Which is to say, they were not welcome to position themselves as royal, and they wound up retracting the trademark application for Sussex Royal they submitted days after their departure announcement. Up to that point, they appeared intent on launching their second act using the old Sussex Royal website and Instagram account.

So they aren’t supposed to call themselves royal, but they can call themselves duke and duchess?

Yes. Dukedom is a peerage, and it is an honor the queen granted to the couple when they married in 2018. Removing it would require an act of Parliament: As the House of Lords itself notes, it is “very difficult to deprive the holder” of a peerage once the title has been awarded.

To be clear, it doesn’t look like anyone is seeking to strip these two of the duke and duchess titles; certain monarchy-loving individuals are merely upset that the couple continues to actively play up Harry’s royal background in spite of his late grandmother’s wishes. But while their fresh branding does look eerily like Sussex Royal 2.0, as the BBC notes, the copy on the website carefully avoids mentioning any other members of the royal family — except, of course, for Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet.

Right, what’s the deal with the babies’ titles?

The Sussexes’ decision to style their children as prince and princess has kicked up a bit of a fuss on a few other occasions, but despite its being a little weird given their many beefs with the palace, the couple is within their rights here. Per the BBC, grandchildren of the monarch may be called princes and princesses. Archie and Lilibet became eligible when Charles became king, and Buckingham Palace currently refers to them as Prince Archie of Sussex and Princess Lilibet of Sussex on its line of succession page. While we’re here, yes: Harry and his offspring are still part of that. Currently, he’s fifth in line to the throne.

So Sussex is actually their last name?

Eh! What are any of these people’s last names, really? Mountbatten-Windsor, technically, but royals of this rank don’t seem to use it. Harry, for example, went by Harry Wales when he was younger, a reference to his father’s then-title. (The royal website confirms this, noting that “Prince Harry was known as Officer Cadet Wales,” then Captain Wales, during his time in the army.) Now, of course, Harry’s older brother, William, is the Prince of Wales; his children go informally by George Wales, Charlotte Wales, and Louis Wales in settings that require a last name, like school. (Before that, they went by Cambridge, in line with William’s then-dukedom.)

Still, Buckingham Palace notes that while “members of the Royal Family who are entitled to the style and dignity of HRH Prince or Princess do not need a surname,” if they — and specifically, if King Charles’s grandchildren — are ever called upon to provide one, “that surname is Mountbatten-Windsor.” To me, it sounds like the little prince and princess would still be enrolled in kindergarten as Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor and Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, but … none of my business!

Why are the Sussexes even rebranding, anyway?

Only they know for sure, but it’s probably not irrelevant that they had a rough 2023. There appeared to be some turmoil, or at least turnover, among Archewell leadership: The production company’s content lead (an Oscar-nominated producer), head of marketing, head of audio, and president all left their posts. The Wall Street Journal reported that Taylor Swift snubbed Meghan when the latter sent Swift a handwritten letter asking the pop star to come on her podcast, Archetypes, which Spotify opted not to renew after its tepidly received first season. The couple ultimately lost their multimillion-dollar Spotify deal, reportedly because they hadn’t met their output goals; one of the company’s execs publicly called the pair “fucking grifters,” which must have stung. Meanwhile, the Sun reported that Netflix was prepared to withhold half of the $100 million deal it struck with the Sussexes after their big step back. Although the duo’s six-part docuseries, Harry & Meghan, revealed very little in the way of new information, it broke streaming records for the platform. But subsequent projects — a series about various influential figures and a series about Harry’s Invictus Gamesfailed to find their audience. In the end, however, Netflix didn’t actually renege, and the pair apparently have a number of scripted and non-scripted projects in the pipeline.

But on top of all that, the Sussexes became embroiled in an exceedingly suspicious high-speed chase through Manhattan and found themselves the subject of tabloid divorce rumors last summer — bad PR all around. And to my mind, one lesson that emerges from a year of bad headlines is that the Sussexes succeed when they are selling their story. The royal connection is their most valuable asset, the reason they get media deals, and the reason for their celebrity. Why wouldn’t they lean into it?

What’s Up With Meghan and Harry’s Big Rebrand?