Have I told you that the people who read the blog and follow on Insta and Twitter are the best? You guys are so smart and funny and thoughtful and I’m so thankful for you. Every time I get questions from you guys I think, “Wow, my readers really are the best.” Just thought I’d remind you. I have an awesome question to discuss today.
An interested reader asked: Regarding Meghan’s political ambitions, what about Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution? Do you think that (for federal office) she would be required to relinquish her title? And regardless, is she being clear-eyed about the consequence of having a title? I.e., wouldn’t any political opponent have a fairly easy time arguing that a duchess (former or not) was out of touch with the people?
This question is so much fun!!!!
Article I, Section 9 of the US Constitution states:
First of all, thank you to this reader who brought this section of the US Constitution to my attention. I’m not American, so I am less than familiar with it and wouldn’t have known about it otherwise.
There are a few different ways we can interpret this paragraph of the Constitution. The first sentence is clear: the United States of America don’t give titles of nobility. That’s still true and doesn’t impact the Meghan running for office situation, as she hasn’t been bestowed a title by the States.
Let’s lay out the second part of the paragraph.
So, in regular people terms: if you’re an elected official, you can’t accept a title or money or power from a foreign state. This part of the Constitution is called the Emoluments clause. (Emolument means profit.)
This clause is supposed to protect America and Americans from having someone “represent” the USA when actually they’re working for or giving preference to another state on the low because of personal gains. Basically, you don’t want any traitors to the USA pretending they’re working for America but actually getting their orders from somewhere else. And you also can’t even have the appearance of working for America but seeming to get your orders from somewhere else. It’s a good clause.
Fun fact: this is the clause under which Donald Trump could have been impeached for having taken money and clout from a number of countries that aren’t America. People have also brought lawsuits against Trump for violating the Emoluments clause. This is why: In order to curry favour with Trump and, by extension, the US government, other states have been “encouraged” to spend lots of money at Trump-owned properties. Like Trump’s hotel in Washington, DC, or his Mar A Lago resort in Florida. So in Trump’s case it’s not a title that would prove valuable, but money in his own pocket straight from other countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Anyway.
Here are three arguments that Meghan could make to get herself out of this clause:
Strategy 1: The verb tense of the clause could give Meghan a loophole
The clearest argument that Meghan could make from this (although it probably wouldn’t hold legally and people would get really angry if she made it) would be “I received my title(s) from Queen Elizabeth before I became an elected official, so technically I didn’t break any rules.” Good luck to her if she uses this reasoning, lol. I think it’s pretty clear that the intention of this clause is to prevent people from having ties/affiliations with other countries that could make them not be dedicated 100% to the USA. The conflict/appearance of conflict is there regardless of if she was given the title before being elected or after.
Strategy 2: Meghan could gain dispensation from Congress
The second argument that Meghan could make would be, “I will just obtain consent from the US Congress to continue using my title as an elected official.” Congress would never pass this request, period. So that’s strike two.
Strategy 3: “Everyone knows I hate the British Royal Family”
The flimsiest argument Meghan could make (legally flimsy, not politically flimsy) would be: Everyone knows that I hate the British Royal Family. I gave up life in a literal palace and carriage rides and Christmas with the Queen specifically so I could leave and never see those people again. This makes me the best possible choice for (insert political office). I have publicly rejected my former UK home and am now 100% devoted to America and its people.”
I mean, this isn’t a legal argument. It’s an argument that seeks to gain public approval. And it might work for a significant part of the American public. Everyone loves a romantic movie where the girl picks the wrong guy, breaks up with him, and makes her case to the right guy! America could be the one Meghan left for the UK, but then she came back! It could be a shrewd political strategy. But it still won’t save her from intense scrutiny from lots of political staff and possible legal challenges.
So, what is Meghan’s best option if she wants to run for Congress, the Senate, or even the office of President of the United States?
I think it can be interpreted/inferred from this section of the Constitution that keeping and using titles is not going to fly if you’re an American running for public office.
She needs to give up her titles and honorific (Her Royal Highness) or, at the very least, stop using them publicly. Even if she gives up her title as The Duchess of Sussex and goes by her pre-marriage name (Meghan Markle), she will still be a princess by marriage. If the Queen (or a future monarch) were to strip Meghan of her Sussex title, she would then formally be known as Princess Henry of Wales (the title given to the wife of Prince Harry – his official name is Henry). Harry, stripped of his Sussex title, would formally be known as Prince Henry of Wales.
I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but it doesn’t exactly scream “modern feminist” to have your name be “Princess” “name of your husband” “name of your husband’s family”. But, unless she divorces Harry, that will be her name. So even if it’s not a “title”, it’s still awkward and a clear sign of her unAmerican-ness.
The last question would be if there was public support to proceed with a lawsuit/constitutional challenge to her political office based on her royal links. If there’s no public support for it and a political opponent would lose popularity by lodging such a complaint, then opposing politicians would be less likely to lodge the complaint in the first place.
It’s tricky, but if Meghan really wanted to run for office and decided to fully give up use of all royal titles and styles, there’s a chance she could get away with it – if she had broad public support. And I think Meghan does have broad public support in America. America loves an underdog story. And it also loves a revenge story. America was built on telling England to sod off. So Meghan telling the British Royal Family to sod off and then showing up on America’s doorstep at 3am in the pouring rain to apologize and come home…could be just crazy and romantic enough to work. We’ll have to see how it plays out if she does run.
That’s it for today! Tell me your thoughts on this topic, I can’t wait to hear from you. Stay safe and wear a mask.