London: Buckingham Palace was forced to distance itself from Prince Harry, as he risked a diplomatic row after joining a voting drive in the US presidential election.
Venturing into the political arena for the first time since leaving the Royal Family, Harry urged Americans to "reject hate speech" as "we approach this November".
Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Credit:AP
His intervention will cause deep concern both for the reputation of the Royal Family and the diplomatic "special relationship" between Britain and America, and his comments were described as "unwise". In a joint video message, the Duke and Duchess urged US citizens to vote, with Prince Harry warning they must reject "hate speech, misinformation and online negativity" in the lead-up to the November election.
"We're just six weeks out from election day, and today is National Voter Registration Day," Meghan said, in a joint video played to the Time 100 awards.
"Every four years, we're told, 'This is the most important election of our lifetime.' But this one is."
Harry added: "This election, I'm not going to be able to vote here in the US.
President Donald Trump has inflamed hatred in the US.Credit:AP
"But 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 that we reject hate speech, misinformation, and online negativity."
A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said there would be no comment on the Duke's words.
But in a striking statement distancing the Palace from the Sussexes, he added: "The Duke is not a working member of the Royal Family and any comments he makes are made in a personal capacity."
It is the first time the Palace has been compelled to make a significant public intervention relating to Harry's decisions since his move from the UK to Los Angeles.
Meghan's own campaigning in the past has been seen by insiders as less controversial, given her position as a US citizen whose political views are already well known. But the Duke's decision to join the voter registration crusade has raised eyebrows, described variously as "crossing the line", a "diplomatic incident", and "a problem".
While they did not endorse a party or candidate, the comments were interpreted as criticism of the incumbent president, Donald Trump, and his supporters.
It follows a series of campaigning appearances from the Duchess, who spoke of the importance of voting for "change", alongside notable Democrat supporters.
Until now Harry, the grandson of the Queen, has felt an obligation to remain outside of any political discussion, having made an undertaking to uphold the values of the Queen when he left the working Royal family in January.
A source close to the Duke said his words were not party political or aimed at any individual, including President Trump, but referred only to the level of online debate surrounding the election.
"The Duke was talking about the tone of debate in the run-up to an election which is already quite febrile," the source said.
"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."
Senior members of the British Royal Family do not vote by choice and convention, believing it is essential for the Queen – and therefore her close relatives – to be scrupulously above party politics.
Meghan has previously been outspoken in her criticism of Donald Trump, calling him "divisive" and "misogynistic", and did not meet him during his official visit to Buckingham Palace while she was on maternity leave.
Harry joined his family to host the President and First Lady with the Queen in June 2019, but appeared to hang back before the cameras, to avoid being photographed close to Mr Trump.
The couple's intervention did not go unnoticed in the US.
Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager, said: "They made Britain great again by leaving. I hope they do the same for us."
Tobias Ellwood MP, the former foreign minister, said: "Harry is unwise to venture down that road.
"Whatever the technical relationship with the Palace, the couple are still seen very much as part of the Royal fraternity. This is an unwise encroachment into politics."
Joe Little, the managing editor of Majesty magazine, said: "Harry is no longer a working member of the Royal family but he remains a senior member of the Royal family – and with that comes responsibilities."
Harry is not the first Briton to weigh in on a US election in recent years.
Brexit Party MP Nigel Farage appeared in person in Mississippi alongside Donald Trump urging Americans to back the US candidate in 2016.
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