For the ultra-rich and famous, it’s increasingly considered sensible to sign a pre-nuptial agreement before marriage. In the event of a divorce, it ensures the property the couple owns will be divided fairly. But although both are children of divorced parents, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are reportedly not interested in signing one, no matter the huge sums at stake.
From the outset, it was clear that the Harry-Meghan relationship was not going to be a conventional royal romance. For a start, Meghan wasn’t British – she was American. And she was already reasonably famous in her own right, being an actress who has starred on the show Suits for almost seven years.
Moreover she was also divorced, and in times gone by that would have been a big no-no for the royals. The Queen is head of the Church of England. And famously, one of the biggest crises in the history of British royalty happened because of divorce. In 1936, when King Edward VIII was told he couldn’t marry his mistress – divorcee Wallis Simpson – he chose to abdicate.
Obviously, times have changed since then. Quite a few royals are now divorced, including heir to the throne Prince Charles. But the royals still regard it as a very delicate subject. When Prince Charles remarried to his current wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, the Queen didn’t attend the church ceremony.
But on November 27, 2017, a long-expected announcement came. Prince Harry was to wed Meghan, with the wedding to take place sometime in 2018. Royal fans were thrilled. Harry even gave Meghan a ring made from the jewelry of his late mother, Princess Diana, who tragically died in a car crash the year after divorcing Prince Charles.
As soon as she began to appear in public with Prince Harry, Meghan’s popularity grew. Occasionally she bent unspoken rules of royal etiquette – neglecting to wear tights, or styling her hair in a messy bun – but that only seemed to make her more popular with the general public. Clothes in which she was pictured flew off the shelves.
But the big thing that every royal fan currently anticipates is, of course, the wedding. There are so many exciting questions. What will Meghan wear on her big day? The frontrunners for her wedding dress design are currently Ralph & Russo, Erdem, Misha Nonoo, and Roland Mouret. But she may yet surprise everyone.
Other ceremony details have been similarly scrutinized. When the wedding cake was chosen, it was a departure from those of old. For a start, the chef selected was a Californian, not a Brit. And the wedding cake itself will be a lemon elderflower one with buttercream, rather than a traditional fruit cake with icing.
Furthermore, the cake tradition is far from the only one the couple plans to break, it seems. An anonymous insider told US Weekly magazine in January 2018 that Meghan apparently wanted a maid of honor rather than a chief bridesmaid – an American touch. She even reportedly asked her mother to walk her down the aisle, not her father. It remains to be seen if that seismic departure from royal tradition will actually come to pass, however.
The unnamed source explained to US Weekly, “Harry has never been one to follow instructions and both he and Meghan are extremely independent individuals. I wouldn’t imagine for one second that they plan to sit back and be told what to do.”
Yet there is one modern touch that the couple seem to be avoiding – the often awkward subject of a prenuptial agreement. Harry and Meghan have a vast amount of money between them. As a member of the royal family, Harry’s personal fortune is estimated to be $40 million. Thanks to her work on Suits and other ventures, meanwhile, Meghan is probably worth $5 million.
Pre-nups are prevalent among rich American couples. Take entertainment megastars Jay-Z and Beyoncé, who married in 2008. Reportedly, before the wedding Jay-Z signed a document agreeing that he would pay Beyoncé $10 million if the marriage failed before two years passed, and an extra $5 million for every child the couple had together.
Other couples have reportedly included even more complicated things in their pre-nups. Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake, whose combined net worth is put at $248 million, have allegedly included an “infidelity clause” – if he ever cheats, she receives $500,000. And Nicole Kidman’s deal with husband Keith Urban is said to be worth $600,000 per year if he avoids using illegal substances.
Despite the fact that pre-nups can be useful, however, they simply never took off in the U.K. the way they did in America. In fact, it was only in 2010 that the Supreme Court ruled them enforceable. And among the public at large, they’re still not very popular.
They’re not popular among royals either; this is one tradition that Harry and Meghan aren’t breaking. None of the major royals have signed pre-nups before a wedding. Harry’s brother, Prince William, didn’t when he married Kate Middleton. His father Prince Charles didn’t either, although his marriage to Diana famously did end in a messy divorce.
In fact, it took almost four years to confirm the details of the divorce of Charles and Diana. Some of the disagreements focused around money, of course. Diana eventually walked away with a sum that was never made public, but was believed to be about $25 million. The most difficult thing, though, was deciding what title Diana should hold after the couple were officially split.
Diana wanted to keep the title “Her Royal Highness” and the Queen agreed. But allegedly, Prince Charles refused to let her. According to Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell, the young Prince William was upset on seeing his mother treated so shabbily. Burrell’s tell-all book A Royal Duty claims William told Diana he would give the title back to her “one day when I am king.”
Could a pre-nup have prevented all that distress? In the end, we’ll probably never know. But one thing is for certain: Prince Harry is determined his relationship with Meghan won’t suffer the same fate. “There was never any question in Harry’s mind that he would sign a pre-nup,” an anonymous source told newspaper the Daily Mail in March 2017. “He’s determined that his marriage will be a lasting one.”
And there certainly seems to be plenty of reason to be optimistic about Harry and Meghan’s relationship. Every time they’re seen in public, they seem to have big smiles on their faces. And in the post-engagement interview the couple did with the BBC, they laughed and joked with each other as they talked about how they fell in love.
The wedding of Harry and Meghan will take place on May 19, 2018, and the whole world will be watching. It’ll be watching for long after that, too, curious to see if any cracks in the marriage arise. But it’s seems unlikely Harry will regret not signing that pre-nup. Everything indicates this couple are marrying purely for love.