On Tuesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex appeared on the TV broadcast seemingly from the back garden of their Santa Barbara home, where they congratulated this year’s Time winners and discussed the importance of voting in the presidential election.
“Every four years, we are told the same thing, that 'This is the most important election of our lifetime’. But this one is. When we vote, our values are put into action and our voices are heard. Your voice is a reminder that you matter. Because you do. And you deserve to be heard,” Meghan said.
After acknowledging that he will not be voting, as he is not a US citizen, nor has he ever been able to vote due to royal protocol, Prince Harry implored Americans to rise above negativity ahead of the election.
“This election I am not able to vote in the US. But many of you may not know that I haven’t been able to vote in the UK my entire life,” he said. “As we approach this November, it’s vital that we reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity.”
Despite not endorsing a specific candidate, some took offence with the royal couple’s video statement, including Piers Morgan, who again expressed his belief that the duke and duchess should be “stripped” of their royal titles for their “brazen disregard for royal neutrality”.
Although there are no laws against it, members of the royal family typically do not vote in elections in an effort to remain politically neutral.
“By expressing themselves in such a brazenly partisan manner, they've crossed a massive line which should now have serious consequences for the couple who specialise in wanting their royal cake and the freedom to eat it,” the TV host wrote in a column.
Elaborating on his opinion on Twitter, Morgan, who said he believes the couple’s message showed support for Joe Biden, said that he would feel the “same way” if Prince Harry endorsed President Trump.
“I would feel the same way if Harry encouraged people to vote Trump. He can’t show political bias as a member of the Royal Family. End,” he wrote.
One member of the Trump administration also reacted negatively to the couple’s message, with senior campaign manager Corey Lewandowski telling the DailyMail he hopes the couple leaves the US.
“They made Britain great again by leaving, I hope they do the same for us,” he said.
“It’s time to not only reflect, but act.” This #NationalVoterRegistrationDay, join #Time100 alumni Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, in taking action for the future. pic.twitter.com/JerXHxiZK3— ABC (@ABCNetwork) September 23, 2020
The duke and duchess faced backlash over the perceived break in royal protocol from Joe Little, the managing editor of Majesty magazine, as well.
“You can understand Meghan getting involved as an American citizen, although she is now a member of the British royal family. But I think people will struggle a lot more with Prince Harry because as a prince of the blood it’s not seen as the done thing to talk about politics, be it British or American,” Little told The Guardian.
“He may be thousands of miles away, but yet he is still a member of the royal family, the Queen’s grandson, and it’s something he wouldn’t do were he still in the UK.”
In a statement to the outlet, a spokesperson for Buckingham Palace said it would not comment on the duke’s message as he is “not a working member of the royal family and any comments he makes are in a personal capacity.”
Following the criticism, James Holt, a spokesperson for the royal couple, defended Harry on the basis that he was “not speaking about a candidate or a party,” but rather about the “tone” of debate.
Prince Harry was “not speaking about a candidate or a party, he is speaking about the tone of debate - especially online,” Holt told The New York Times. “It was a call for decency and respect, and for people to consider how they access information to keep informed.
“This is a topic he has been speaking about for some time.”
Since stepping back from their roles as senior members of the royal family, the duke and duchess have become increasingly vocal about issues important to them, with Meghan announcing in August her intention to vote in the upcoming election.
The Independent has contacted a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan for comment.