1917 was a big year in royal history. As World War I raged and anti-German sentiment exploded, King George V hastily changed the name of the royal house from the decidedly Teutonic House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the House of Windsor.

His Majesty then backtracked on offering political asylum to his first cousin the Tsar of Russia after he was overthrown in a revolution (a situation which did not turn out particularly well for the Romanovs).

Lastly, George got out his fountain pen and swiftly undid nearly 200 years of royal tradition and thus restricted who could be titled as an HRH (His or Her Royal Highness).


Those changes that George put into place more than a century ago are still in effect today, but this year those three pesky letters have caused the Queen no end of trouble.

The tricky issue of who should and should not be allowed to style themselves as an HRH came into focus when the Queen took the unprecedented step and determined that Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, should no longer be allowed to use theirs (they also lost the ability to brand themselves as Sussex Royal post-their split).

Queen Elizabeth II during a ceremony to mark her official birthday at Windsor Castle. Photo / AP
Queen Elizabeth II during a ceremony to mark her official birthday at Windsor Castle. Photo / AP

A quick royal lesson: The ability to style oneself as an HRH is given at the discretion of the monarch, generally to their children and grandchildren though there are exceptions. Princess Anne's children do not hold any titles or the styling as per her choice. While Prince Edward's children do, their mother Sophie Countess of Wessex recently revealed they will most likely not use them in adulthood.

While Harry and Meghan still very much retained their titles, the loss of their ability to use their HRHs would surely have carried a particular sting, especially given it echoed the decision in 1996 that his mother Diana, Princess of Wales would no longer be able to have hers after her divorce from Prince Charles. According to Diana's former butler Paul Burrell, a young Prince William told his mother when she was upset over the loss, "Don't worry, Mummy. I will give it back to you one day when I am king".

While some viewed the Queen's move regarding the Sussexes' HRHs as punitive, the reality was that this was Her Majesty's decision was most likely driven by a need to create a very clear distinction between the royal house and the couple's future commercial ventures. Basically, so the royal family could never be accused of earning a quid off their royal status.

Except there is one great big contradiction here in the form of a currently unemployed, 60-year-old duke who's a dab hand at negotiating Kazakhstani contracts.

Prince Andrew. Photo / AP
Prince Andrew. Photo / AP

Within days of Andrew settling into a gilt chair in November last year in a calamitous attempt to explain away his former friendship with Jeffrey Esptein, a convicted sex offender, he announced he was stepping from public life for "the foreseeable future".

Essentially, Andrew was being relegated to toff purgatory, left to while away the hours in his Royal Lodge, his 30-room house.


And this is where the question of HRHs comes into play. If the Sussexes, now that they were no longer "employees" of the Firm, are not allowed to use theirs, then why should Andrew, who is also not a working member of the royal family, still be allowed to use his HRH?

For the Queen, this is a predicament where she cannot simply employ that powerful royal tactic of aloofly ignoring her son's shortcomings.

If Andrew, who is currently spending his days as unofficial 2-I-C to ex-wife Sarah Ferguson as she does her bit to help frontline workers, is allowed to continue to use his HRH despite no longer being a working Windsor, then it would immediately give rise to accusations of a double standard.

If Her Majesty does not, in some fashion or another, address this contradictory situation, it will start to make her decision regarding the Sussexes' look not only petty and deeply unjust but it could take on a racist hue.

However, the good news here is that for the Queen there is significant strategic value in stripping Andrew of his HRH. Over the course of nearly a decade, Andrew has managed to mire the royal family in a shocking, grimy saga courtesy of his ties to Epstein.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, leave Windsor Castle after their wedding. Photo / AP
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, leave Windsor Castle after their wedding. Photo / AP

He has become a global joke, the buffoonish, Cheshire cat-grinning Prince, the living embodiment of the egotistical, pompous royal who can't start the day without having his underpants ironed and three footmen on hand to deliver his Fruit Loops.


If his mother were to decide that he could no longer use his HRH it would be one concrete step she could take to placate the public who clearly thinks very, very poorly of this man (current approval rating: 13 per cent).

If Andrew were to lose this honorific, it would signal that he has paid a price besides being denied the opportunity to open regional golf courses on behalf of the Queen and get to spend so much time doing whatever it is he does when he pops over to Bahrain.

While this highly symbolic and public move might once have seemed unlikely, the Sunday Times reports that: "The Queen has been privately supportive of Andrew, but is acutely aware of the public mood on the matter."

According to the report, senior courtiers were "dismayed" at Andrew's recent legal war of words with US prosecutors hoping to interview him about Epstein. Nor were they reportedly impressed that this was all going at the same time as the Duke of Edinburgh's 99th birthday.

A source told the Sunday Times: "The idea that the Queen will simply indulge Prince Andrew … is wide of the mark. Her patience has been wearing thin for a long time. She had resisted this slimming down of the monarchy but it's fair to say she is not now standing in the way of that in her lifetime."

While Andrew might be the Queen's favourite child, Her Majesty is by all accounts a pragmatic leader. As the world wrestles with centuries of racial injustice and prejudice and with a global conversation raging about inequality, surely the Queen will be on the right side of history.


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