What happens when a royal marries a celebrity, as in the case of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle? What kind of prenuptial agreement do they sign? You may have heard some rumors about Meghan Markle’s prenup around the time when these two got married back in 2018. But spoiler alert: They didn’t actually sign one!
If you’re thinking about a prenup yourself, reading about the rumors behind this high-profile couple’s prenup journey (despite the fact that they never actually ended up getting one) can help you understand the dynamics at play in prenuptial agreements and divorce settlements, making you better-informed as you navigate your own prenup process. Plus, let’s be real: Who doesn’t love a bit of royal gossip? So, here’s the scoop.
Rumor has it that the Queen insisted on a 500 million dollar prenuptial agreement to protect her son’s fortune. Three out of her four children have divorced. One of them, Prince Charles, had a very public divorce. She wouldn’t be wrong for learning from that experience and suggesting her grandson get a prenuptial agreement.
As the story goes, Meghan was very open to the idea of a prenup because she wanted to show goodwill and prove that she wasn’t intending to take anything from Harry. After all, she is a well-off celebrity herself who was paid $50,000 per episode of Suits. But although Markle was allegedly willing to sign on the dotted line (if that discussion ever even happened), allegedly no contract was ever written up.
We can’t credibly comment on whether this or any of the other rumors surrounding Harry and Meghan’s prenup (or lack thereof) are true, but we can say that this part of the rumor is particularly relevant to modern-day prenup and marriage dynamics. It is now very common for parents to ask their children to sign a prenup. Boomer parents have been through a lot. They experience very high divorce rates, and so they want to make sure their children are prepared in case they meet the same fate.
They also have a lot of wealth they will transfer to the younger generation as inheritance. This is set to be the greatest generational wealth transfer of all time, and they want to make sure the family fortune is protected. They also often have concerns about the fact that since their children’s generation is marrying later, they have more assets at stake when they reach the altar.
Although their concern may seem overbearing at times or even downright unfriendly or untrusting of a child’s partner, they’re ultimately just trying their best to look out for their kids. Again, we don’t know if this story of the Queen insisting on a prenup is true or not, but although this would be unlikely in a royal family, it’s becoming increasingly common in regular families. Like yours!
In case you want to hear the rest of the story, the next part of this grand prenup rumor is that Harry initially refused to sign a prenup, despite the supposedly strong convictions. Actually, it’s not common at all for royals to sign prenups. Rich celebs? Yes. Rich royals? Nope, prenups are simply not a thing in Britain’s royal family.
This is partially because of the broader context: Prenups are not legally enforceable in Britain, although they are often taken into account during divorce proceedings. But it’s also because royal divorces tend to be settled mostly outside of court. These days, royal divorces are typically described as ‘amicable’ in order not to fuel negative PR, and then arrangements are made behind closed doors, and the spouse who is leaving the royal family is still well taken care of financially. For example, when Princess Diana and King Charles divorced, Diana was offered a new title, a financial settlement, and entitlement to royal security protection (though she declined it).
Prenups are also not as necessary for royals as they are for the rest of us. At the time of Meghan and Harry’s prenup (or no-nup), the Queen was still alive, and most of the royal wealth and properties belonged to her. Although a royal like Harry is indeed rich (as of 2018, his net worth was about 30 million British pounds) and would indeed be poised to inherit a large sum of wealth on top of that, it’s not like Windsor Castle or other important royal properties would be divided were he to divorce. They’re not his to begin with, so they wouldn’t be impacted by what happens in his marriage.
However, that’s not how it works for the rest of us non-royals. We stand to lose a lot to divorce, and that’s why we sign prenups. They help couples make arrangements in advance that are fair (and hopefully will never need to be enforced), and they provide priceless peace of mind, which allows people to start their marriages off without the specter of ‘what if’ hanging over their heads.
Although we believe they didn’t get a prenup, here are some of the rumors floating around out there. Star Magazine reported that a “palace insider” had said that the Queen intervened at the last minute! According to this version of events, when Harry and Meghan went into the antechamber just before the ceremony in order to sign the marriage registry, they also signed the prenup. “The prenup” allegedly specified that what Meghan would be entitled to in the event of divorce would depend on whether or not she had children with Harry, stipulating that she could get next to nothing if no kids were in the picture at the time of divorce. The “insider” source apparently said that this prenup was signed under pressure from the Queen and that Harry and Meghan had little choice in the matter.
Pause for a moment: What? So here’s something important you should know about prenups in America: An agreement signed under duress or coercion is invalid and unenforceable. So yea, this might not fly in America. If you’re feeling pressured to sign something that doesn’t feel right to you, don’t. And if the court finds that you were coerced, the whole thing could be thrown out.
Unpause. Aside from the one outlined above, there are other major factual problems with this story that decrease its credibility. Firstly, Harry and Meghan signed their marriage registry during the ceremony. Not “in the antechamber” beforehand. This can be easily fact-checked. Secondly, more credible reports state that the first time Meghan and Harry saw each other on their wedding day was at the altar. Not before.
If you thought the last of the story sounded unlikely, the rumors get more incredible still. According to another royal source, the Queen actually intervened during the ceremony itself, asking Meghan to sign the prenup at that (very inappropriate) moment. Obviously, this is even more unlikely.
Yet Another source says that courtiers (not the Queen) advised Harry to get a prenup, and he said no.
Kensington Palace has been asked to comment on this whole debacle, but they declined to do so.
There’s actually a lot of wisdom to be gleaned from this crazy set of stories that are probably not true. Here are a few key takeaways.
- Your parents might have something to say about your prenup. While it is indeed important to establish healthy boundaries surrounding family members and their roles in your relationship, you might consider leaning in and listening to what they have to say. They have a lot of life experience with marriage, and they really might have something to share that could prove useful to your marriage.
- Do not sign a prenup under duress or coercion. Do not coerce your partner to sign something. This will sow distrust and can result in your prenup being rendered invalid. Just don’t do it.
- No, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry did not sign a prenup. It is not conventional among royals to do so. However, if you’re reading this, you probably live in the U.S.A. Here in the U.S., prenuptial agreements are quite normal, and they’re becoming rapidly more commonplace by the day. So yes, you should sign a prenuptial agreement. It will help you clarify financial roles and expectations in marriage, give you a customized contingency plan you both think is fair, and will probably help you sleep a little better at night.
- In addition to being a legal document, a prenup is also a symbolic document, and it can encourage accountability and inform the financial relationship between spouses. In Meghan and Harry’s case, a prenup could have helped them decide how they agree to split assets were they ever to divorce. Having details like that down on paper in advance makes couples more likely to have fast and less expensive divorces, assuming they are ready to be accountable for what they agreed to.
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Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]