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Are Prince Harry and Meghan Markle breaking royal protocol by urging Americans to vote?

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·5-min read

WATCH: Harry and Meghan encourage Americans to vote

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have dubbed November’s US presidential election “the most important of our lifetime” as they urged Americans to vote, sparking a debate about whether they have broken royal protocol.

The royal couple appeared during a special Time 100 event to celebrate the magazine’s annual list of 100 people who are influential in their fields.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were themselves on the list in 2018, but are not on this year’s 100.

In a video message recorded in a garden, Meghan, who has been vocal about the importance of voting in the last few months, said: “Every four years we are told the same thing – that this is the most important election of our lifetime.

“But this one is.

“When we vote, our values are put into action and our voices are heard. Your voice is a reminder that you matter, because you do, and you deserve to be heard.”

Harry, 36, added: “This election I’m not going to be able to vote here in the US.

“Many of you may not know that I haven’t been able to vote in the UK my entire life.

“As we approach this November it’s vital we reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity.”

Harry and Meghan have urged Americans to use their vote in November. (PA)
Harry and Meghan have urged Americans to use their vote in November. (PA)

Read more: Meghan Markle leads tributes to US Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg

After the video emerged, Piers Morgan tweeted: “Prince Harry poking his woke nose into the US election & effectively telling Americans to vote against President Trump is completely unacceptable behaviour for a member of the Royal Family.”

Royal Family members are not explicitly banned from voting, but they tend not to do so, to avoid any concerns about their political neutrality.

However, Harry and Meghan are not the first members of the Royal Family to urge people to participate in democracy.

Even the Queen has weighed in on issues before. In 2003, she raised concerns after a low turnout at the Welsh Assembly elections.

In a speech to Welsh Assembly members, she said: “It is vital to the health both of the United Kingdom and of Wales that our democratic institutions flourish and adapt.

"Elections are the fundamental means by which everyone can participate in the business of government.

"I share your concerns that we must encourage all our people to exercise their right to vote. This is a real challenge now before us all.”

She is also reported to have told well-wishers outside Crathie Kirk in Scotland to “think very carefully” before the Scottish referendum in 2014.

MOON TOWNSHIP, PA - SEPTEMBER 22: President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Atlantic Aviation on September 22, 2020 in Moon Township, Pennsylvania. Trump won Pennsylvania by less than a percentage point in 2016 and is currently in a tight race with Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
US president Donald Trump at a campaign rally at Atlantic Aviation in September 2020 in Pennsylvania. (Getty Images)

Since Harry and Meghan moved to the US, after leaving their senior royal roles, Meghan, 39, has joined forces with a number of organisations to encourage Americans to vote.

While she has not explicitly voiced support for Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, she has talked about how excited she was to see Kamala Harris named as his running mate.

Before joining the Royal Family, Meghan was critical of Republican president Donald Trump, who is running for a second term in office.

Harry was reportedly caught making comments about Trump when he was called in March by Russian hoaxers Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, who posed as Greta Thunberg and her father. However, Buckingham Palace has not confirmed it was Harry's voice on the recording.

This is the first time Harry has addressed voting since the couple’s move to the US. The Daily Telegraph reported in August that he would not be joining the voting campaign out of respect for his family’s position on the global stage.

Buckingham Palace said it would not comment, adding: “The Duke is not a working member of the Royal Family and any comments he makes are made in a personal capacity.”

Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks at the Detroit Pistons Practice Facility in Detroit, Michigan on September 22, 2020. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
Meghan has said she is excited about Kamala Harris, here on her campaign trail, being the Democrat vice presidential candidate. (AFP)

Read more: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle donate $130,000 to charity on his birthday

A spokesman for the duke added: “The duke was talking about the tone of debate in the run-up to an election which is already quite febrile.

“He is not talking about any candidate or specific campaign.

“He is building on a lot of stuff that he’s said before about online communities, how we engage with each other online, rather than specifically making any political points.”

As well as addressing the election, earlier in the video Harry praised the work of the people on this year’s Time 100 list, saying: “You work tirelessly to create a better world, a better global community for all of us and we thank you and celebrate you tonight.”

Meghan added: “You’re playing a critical role for our future and that of our children. Seeing our world through the lens of community is so important because we need to redraw the lines of how we engage with each other, both online and off.

“What we’re exposed to online seeps into how we engage with each other offline. It can train us to be kind, or it can train us to be cruel.”

Harry said: “When the bad outweighs the good, for many, whether we realise it or not, it erodes our ability to have compassion and our ability to put ourself in someone else’s shoes.

“Because when one person buys into negativity online, the effects are felt exponentially. It’s time to not only reflect, but act.”

People on this year’s list include Michaela Coel, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Harry and Meghan’s friend Tyler Perry.

The royal couple stayed in Perry’s home in LA when they first moved to the city in March, crossing from the Canadian border as it was about to close because of coronavirus.

The duke and duchess are now financially independent, having signed a deal with Netflix (for an undisclosed sum) to produce documentaries, children’s programming and scripted series.

They also paid off the £2.4m renovation bill for Frogmore Cottage, which remains their UK home.