Amid preparations for Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral, Buckingham Palace’s decision on which members of the royal family will be allowed to wear military uniforms to the official events has caused controversy.
On Monday, the Palace briefed media outlets that only working members of the royal family who hold military ranks will be permitted to wear uniforms during the four funeral ceremonies over the next week — with one key exception. Prince Andrew, Duke of York, will be allowed to wear an official uniform to one event; Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, will attend all events in civilian dress.
Here’s what’s going on and why it’s raising some eyebrows.
There are two nonworking members of the royal family: Prince Andrew and Prince Harry. Both are military veterans. Andrew served in the Royal Navy for 22 years and fought in the Falklands War as a helicopter pilot. Harry served in the British Army for 10 years (including two active-duty tours of Afghanistan) and rose to the rank of captain.
There are two very different reasons for their departures from royal life.
Andrew was forced to step back as a working member of the royal family following a disastrous November 2019 BBC interview in which he attempted to defend his longtime friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and deny accusations that he had sexually assaulted one of Epstein’s victims. Andrew was officially stripped of use of his honorary military ranks, patronages, and the use of his “HRH” (His Royal Highness) title in January after the woman sued him for sexual assault in US federal court. (Andrew, who has always maintained his innocence, settled the case for a reportedly multimillion sum.)
Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (aka Meghan Markle), chose to leave official royal life in January 2020, later saying that the intense (and, they said, racist and unfair) media coverage and lack of support from royal family members and the institution prompted the move. This decision caused them to lose their official royal patronages, use of their “HRH” titles, and, in Harry’s case, his honorary military ranks — most notably, his title as captain general of the Royal Marines. (The duke reportedly took this loss with difficulty and even successfully sued the Daily Mail for articles claiming that he had not been in touch with the Royal Marines after he was forced to cede his role as their ceremonial head.)
Harry’s brother William, Prince of Wales, and Andrew’s siblings King Charles III, Anne, Princess Royal, and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, all hold honorary military ranks and will be in full military regalia for every one of the Queen’s funeral ceremonies. (It should be noted that this fact in and of itself has raised eyebrows. While William and the King both served in the military, Edward dropped out of the Royal Marines and Anne has no military experience.)
Buckingham Palace confirmed on Monday that Andrew will join his siblings in military dress — likely his Royal Navy uniform, since he was stripped of his honorary ranks — for the Queen’s final vigil in Westminster Hall “as a special mark of respect.” He will wear a morning suit to all the other ceremonies.
On Tuesday, Harry’s spokesperson confirmed that he will not be wearing his uniform for any of the funeral ceremonies in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
“Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, will wear a morning suit throughout events honouring his grandmother. His decade of military service is not determined by the uniform he wears and we respectfully ask that focus remain on the life and legacy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”
This perceived double standard has sparked debate on social media.
Deciding who could wear military uniforms was also an issue during the planning of Prince Philip’s funeral last April. In the end, none of the members of the royal family wore uniforms.