In Depth

Could Prince Harry and Meghan Markle become king and queen of Canada?

Loopholes in Canadian law mean Duke and Duchess of Sussex could be crowned

The announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex plan to move to Canada has been met with enthusiasm in the North American nation.

One poll found that 60% of Canadians would like Prince Harry to become their next governor general, while some called for a change in the line of succession so he becomes king of Canada when Queen Elizabeth II dies. Others have suggested this could technically happen even sooner.

Will Prince Harry ever be king in the UK?

Harry is sixth in line to the throne - behind Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis - so it is unlikely he would ever become the monarch. While he and Meghan Markle wish to step back from the royal family, the BBC says it would “take an Act of Parliament to remove a person from the line of succession” and so far this has not been proposed.

What about Canada?

“Thanks to a series of tiny loopholes in Canadian law, it’s technically possible that Canada could immediately crown Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as king and queen of Canada,” the country’s National Post newspaper revealed in 2018.

Philippe Lagasse, an associate professor at Ontario’s Carleton University who specialises in the Westminster system, says Canada’s Constitution is clear that the executive authority is “vested in the Queen” but does not specify who that monarch must be.

“According to the federal government’s interpretation of royal succession in Canada, we could arguably make Harry the king of Canada with a simple parliamentary statute,” Lagasse writes on his blog.

However, federal government lawyers might put a spanner in the works, says the National Post.

In 2003, a republican attempted to legally challenge the exclusion of Roman Catholics from the throne of Canada, a rule that is still maintained in the UK and that would bar Catholic-raised Markle.

Federal lawyers argued that, while it is not explicitly stated, Canadian law is tied to the notion that the monarch should be the same as the one in the UK: that is, Queen Elizabeth.

In its judgment, the Court of Appeal for Ontario stood by the words of Louis St. Laurent, Canada’s prime minister from 1948 to 1957, who said: “Her Majesty is now Queen of Canada but she is the Queen of Canada because she is Queen of the United Kingdom. It is not a separate office... it is the sovereign who is recognised as the sovereign of the United Kingdom who is our sovereign.”

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Another “speedbump” is that Harry would also have to consent to be king, which seems very unlikely, notes the National Post. 

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” says the Toronto Star. “‘King Harry’ isn’t going to be a thing. At this point it’s quite enough to roll out the welcome mat for Harry, Meghan and young Archie. Go ahead: make yourselves at home.”

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