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Prince Harry, Meghan Markle to give up 'Sussex Royal' brand along with royal responsibilities

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LONDON - Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced Friday that they will give up their "Sussex Royal" branding along with their royal responsibilities this Spring.

Whether they could themselves "royal" - and make money while doing so - had been one of the most contentious questions about their nontraditional future and a subject of discussions with the queen.

"While The Duke and Duchess are focused on plans to establish a new non-profit organisation, given the specific UK government rules surrounding use of the word 'Royal', it has been therefore agreed that their non-profit organisation, when it is announced this Spring, will not be named Sussex Royal Foundation," their spokeswoman said on Friday.

"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex do not intend to use 'SussexRoyal' in any territory post Spring 2020," she said.

That means Harry and Meghan will abandon the "Sussex Royal" they have been using to promote themselves on Instagram and their new website. The spokeswoman said that trademark applications have also been withdrawn.

Robert Lacey, a royal biographer, said a distinction is being teased out between "Royal" with a capital R and "royal" with a small r.

Harry and Meghan aim to 'step back' as senior royals and split time between Britain and North America

Technically, the couple will still be royals. Prince Harry will still be a prince. He will still be sixth in line to inherit the throne from his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

He and Meghan will continue to be styled as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and, if they want, could also refer to themselves as the Earl and Countess of Dumbarton and the Baron and Baroness Kilkeel.

But Harry and Meghan will no longer be considered "senior royals." They will retain his and her "Royal Highness" titles but won't be allowed to use them.

Dickie Arbiter, the queen's former press secretary, said it was right to drop "Sussex Royal," too.

"They are going commercial, and they can't use the term 'royal' for commercial purposes," he said.

They certainly have plenty of commercial potential. To take one example, British Vogue said its September issue, guest-edited by Meghan, sold out in 10 days and was the best-selling issue of the past decade.

But the couple has not said how they plan to capitalize on that - only that they "value the ability to earn a professional income" and want to set up a new nonprofit while also becoming financially independent. Last year, in addition to accepting money from the taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant, they got $6.5 million from Harry's father, Charles, through his Duchy of Cornwall estate.

"Using the term 'Sussex Royal' would have involved strings back to the palace that were neither practical nor proper for a young couple operating in the field of social welfare and development in North America or internationally," he said.

Lee Curtis, a trademark lawyer, noted that Harry's father set up Duchy Originals - an organic food company known for its tea, biscuits and produce sold at British grocery stores - but that its profits are funneled back into charities. Curtis added, "'Duchy Originals' doesn't have the term 'royal' in it, so there isn't that very strong association."

Trading on the reputation and celebrity of the British royal family doesn't tend to wash well with the queen or the British public. The queen's eldest grandson, Peter Phillips, recently raised eyebrows when he appeared in a milk commercial on Chinese television, where he was introduced as a "British Royal Family member."

In Harry and Meghan's case, the value of their brand isn't necessarily reliant on the name "Sussex Royal" or whether they represent the queen, said David Kippen, chief executive of Evviva Brands, a brand agency.

"In three years' time, it will be their star power and what they do that ultimately creates or destroys the follower base they've created, not the equity associated with the name," Kippen said.

The couple, who are living with their son, Archie, on Canada's Vancouver Island, will return to Britain for a handful of events in the coming weeks, including the March 9 Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey, which they will attend alongside the queen and other senior royals.

Their spokeswoman said Harry and Meghan will close their office at Buckingham Palace at the end of March. After that, they will be represented in Britain by their foundation.

She added that the situation will be reviewed in a year. "As there is no precedent for this new model of working and eventual financial independence, the Royal Family and The Sussexes have agreed to an initial 12-month review to ensure the arrangement works for all parties," she said.

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