Harry and Meghan may have cut so many ties with the Royal Family, but one move they have never countenanced is giving up their Duke and Duchess titles.
After all, the dynastic rank offers them much prestige in America – commanding a status and a deference that plain old Mr and Mrs Windsor could never muster.
While Harry has insisted that relinquishing the titles would make no difference, some observers increasingly believe it is time for them to do so, given that their life in California is so far from the ideals of selfless duty and service that holders of the rank should, ideally, embody.
And for an exemplar of how the holder of such a privileged title should conduct themselves, one need look no further than the Duchess of Edinburgh, Prince Edward’s wife and formerly known as Sophie Wessex.
For last week, while Meghan was swanning around her £12 million Montecito mansion as her favourite author Omid Scobie engineered another media circus with her at its core, Sophie was on a four-day state visit to Colombia.
With the controversy over his new book Endgame taking acres of newsprint, not a word appeared in any national British newspaper about Sophie’s trip, save from the standard, functional mention in the Court Circular notices of The Times.
Since Harry and Meghan quit Britain in 2020, Sophie has increasingly shouldered the weight of Royal responsibilities. Pictured: Sophie watches girls who had been affected by war dancing at a centre funded by the British Council in Cali, Colombia
Soft power: Sophie meets Colombian vice-president Francia Marquez on Tuesday
Harry and Meghan may have cut so many ties with the Royal Family , but one move they have never countenanced is giving up their Duke and Duchess titles
In the past three months, Sophie has also visited Canada and Ethiopia. There, too, she received scant media attention. Yet that doesn’t matter to those she meets as her presence is more than enough as recognition of their work.
Since Harry and Meghan quit Britain in 2020, Sophie has increasingly shouldered the weight of Royal responsibilities.
The mother of two is patron of more than 70 charities and organisations and last year carried out 138 engagements, including visits to schools, hospitals, military bases, charities and community groups.
Her workload is in sharp contrast to the lifestyle of the Sussexes – who have witheringly been described as ‘grifters’ by an executive of the streaming service Spotify.
Sophie made a 10,000-mile round trip to Colombia last week supporting Britain’s world-leading role in advancing the women, peace and security agenda, founded by the UN Security Council to help women in conflict zones.
Her visit was undertaken at the request of the Foreign Office to witness how the South American nation was faring since the 2016 peace accord which ended a decades-long armed conflict with FARC rebels that claimed 220,000 lives.
On Wednesday, the dressed-down Duchess travelled to the capital, Bogota, where she met former FARC fighters who now work on a coffee farm called the Tropicos Fruits of Hope which has retrained more than 130 former combatants.
Wearing a floral blouse, jeans and hiking boots, Sophie then visited a research laboratory to see how British DNA sequencing technology is used in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.
Later that day she met women and girls who survived sexual violence during the bloody conflict. Sophie listened attentively to the women’s testimonies and, clearly moved by their stories, warmly embraced them.
The visit had important diplomatic ties, highlighting Colombia’s role as vice-chair of the International Alliance on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, which was created last year at a conference hosted in the UK. The alliance, with 25 members including the UK and the US, aims to tackle how women are disproportionately targeted and how sexual violence is used as a tactic of war.
On Thursday, the hard-working Duchess met local ballerinas at a camp run by the British Council in the city of Cali. Sophie, who is patron of London’s Central School of Ballet, was told how the arts can heal communities and build peace.
She then attended a sustainable fashion show to highlight clothes made by designers recovering from the impact of decades-long conflict and organised crime, tying in with her role as patron of the London College of Fashion.
Photos from the visit were largely ignored by the media – something Sophie is well used to.
Inspiring: Duchess visits a coffee farm employing former rebel fighters as Colombia builds on peace. Pictured: On Wednesday
While Harry has insisted that relinquishing the titles would make no difference, some observers increasingly believe it is time for them to do so
However, those close to the Duchess say she is not concerned about chasing headlines as she knows the deeper value of her work. Nevertheless, the images proved popular on the Royal Family’s Instagram account.
One follower said: ‘Thank you for your inspiring presence’, while another added: ‘What important causes to shine a light on… so much admiration for her and the work she does.’
The previous week, Sophie was on Duchess duty for the state visit to Britain by the South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and she accompanied him to the Royal Society in London. She characteristically smoothed away a potentially awkward moment, laughing warmly when a rather gruesome ‘death mask’ of the legendary physicist Sir Isaac Newton failed to get more than a polite nod out of the slightly-stunned President.
Earlier last month, she made a five-day solo trip to Canada in her capacity as Colonel-in-Chief of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, a reserve infantry regiment of the Canadian army; and as patron of Toronto general and Toronto western hospitals.
Local media praised the Duchess for ‘bringing empathy’ to the patients and soldiers she met and welcomed her ‘deep knowledge of global health initiatives’.
In October, she visited Ethiopia to champion two other important causes. As global ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, Sophie visited the city of Hawassa to meet children being screened for eye conditions.
She then travelled to war-torn Tigray in Northern Ethiopia to meet women and girls who were internally displaced by conflict and living in a large camp alongside more than 16,000 others.
On social media, typical comments were, ‘She is such a credit to the Royal Family’, and ‘You are amazing, warm and genuine Duchess Sophie’.
How different from the tsunami of negativity that has greeted Meghan and Harry’s silence over claims they condoned Scobie’s new book which predicts the demise of the Royal Family.
At the time the couple broke from the Royal Family, ITN’s Tom Bradby – another journalist said to be favourable to Team Sussex – conceded that the couple ‘appeared philosophical about the prospect of losing their titles’.
But, when asked on US TV show 60 Minutes earlier this year about rescinding their titles, Harry said: ‘And what difference would that make?’
Certainly those who think the holders of such esteemed titles should do something to warrant them – as the Duchess of Edinburgh so selflessly does – will believe it will make as huge difference.