Will Harry and Meghan be the first royals to sign a prenup?

There is more than a little of the Edward and Mrs Simpson about the latest royal love story to dominate the front pages of the tabloids. Eighty years apart, there is no mistaking the similarity between the life and loves of the fifth in line to the British throne and his great-great Uncle.

Both were known for their love of flouting royal convention with their partying habits and attracting media attention that caused red faces in the corridors of Buckingham Palace. And both have chosen to marry an American divorcee.

Of course, in the 1930s, Edward VIII was forced to choose between Wallis Simpson and the crown, and his decision sparked one of the biggest constitutional crises in history. Today, we live in a more accepting and enlightened age, and nobody bats an eyelid. But the controversy doesn’t end there.

Defying convention at every step

William and Kate might be media darlings themselves, but they are nevertheless very conventional in royal terms in the way they conduct themselves. Harry and Meghan cut a far more modern dash. Meghan hit the headlines again last week for signing an autograph – unheard of in royal terms – but it is the rumour that Harry and Meghan might be the first royal couple in history to enter into a prenup that has really set tongues wagging.

Inequitable wealth

A prenup sets out in concrete terms what will happen in the event of marital breakdown. While it might discuss important topics such as living arrangements and childcare, which would apply to anyone, most people immediately associate it with the division of wealth. Historically, prenups have been particularly common where one party is bringing more wealth into a marriage than the other.

In the case of Harry and Meghan, both have significant wealth. But while Meghan’s estimated net worth is £3 million, Harry is thought to be worth approximately ten times as much.

A family lawyer speaking to the Daily Express said that any couple in Harry and Meghan’s position should consider a prenup, but that Harry should be guided by his family.

Actions speak louder than words?

If Harry is guided purely by the advice from his brother, father and grandmother, then a prenup will be nowhere near the table. According to a close friend, Prince Charles was adamant that such an agreement was out of the question when he married Camilla in 2005, despite the ugly collapse of his first marriage to Diana. Similarly, a prenup “was not even discussed,” when William and Kate wed in 2011.

However, if we know one thing about Harry, it is that he is not afraid to forge his own path and tread on royal toes if he has to. Edward and Wallis Simpson lived happily ever after following their controversial marriage, and remained together till Edward’s death in 1972. Harry and Meghan will, like all newlyweds, hope that theirs is also a marriage that will stand the test of time.

But the young couple are also realists. They have seen the strains that can be put on a marriage in the constant media spotlight. Charles and Diana were the obvious example, but both Charles’ brother, Andrew, and sister, Anne, have had similarly messy divorces.

The people’s prince

When the media gets a snap of Prince Harry having a crafty cigarette outside a pub or getting a little boisterous with his friends, it only makes us all the fonder of him. The exchange in which a well wisher attracted his attention and asked: “How does it feel being a ginger with Meghan?” and he answered: “It feels great – unbelievable, isn’t it?” perfectly summed up his “people’s prince” persona.

The 21st century family dynamic

If he and Meghan do decide to go down the prenup route, it will be another indication of how Harry is doing his bit to drag the royal family kicking and screaming into the 21st century. It might well encourage others to follow his lead, and given the uncertain and fractured dynamics of modern families, that can only be a good thing.

After all, every married couple sets out to be an Edward and Wallis, or indeed an Elizabeth and Phillip. But we never know what the future holds, so hoping for the best but preparing for the worst can never be a bad strategy.

Whatever the shape of your own family, if you would like some advice about prenups, postnups or even no-nups, we have a friendly team here at Hylton Potts who would be happy to help. We pride ourselves on giving no-nonsense, practical advice, so call us on 020 7381 8111, or get in touch via email at law@hylton-potts.com.

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