How Meghan and Harry Ripped Up Royal Tradition on Birthday Photos of Archie

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have kept their fans on tenterhooks for rare sightings of their children, Archie and Lilibet, after moving away from the royal tradition of the birthday portrait.

The couple's son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, turned three on May 6, leaving many waiting optimistically for a photograph of him to be released.

Since quitting their royal duties, Harry and Meghan have had more control over when and how their children are seen by the public and media.

The outcome is that there is no longer any guarantee of a classic royal birthday portrait, though pictures of the children do at points emerge.

Archie and Lilibet Pictures So Far

There has been only one picture of Lilibet, on their 2021 Christmas card (which can be viewed here), which also gave a rare glimpse of Archie as a toddler.

Strikingly, it was the world's first sight of her, six months into her life, when royal babies are usually shown in their parents' arms within days or even hours of the birth.

Archie was photographed as a newborn at Windsor Castle, and then again when Meghan took him to the polo and on a tour of southern Africa with his parents in 2019.

However, Harry and Meghan rubbed up against the media right from the first moments of their son's life, with disputes relating to everything from when he had been born to whether his godparents would be publicly named at his christening.

Since Harry and Meghan quit royal duties, official portraits have been rare. But Archie was included in a video for Save the Children to mark his first birthday in May 2020.

That December, the couple opted for an illustrated image of them as a family for their Christmas card, meaning fans were left without an actual photograph of the toddler.

Supporters did not have to wait long, however, as the couple released video of Archie for their bombshell tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey last year.

The footage showed him playing on a beach in California and running between Prince Harry's legs.

They then released a picture of Archie in which his face was not visible for his second birthday in May 2021. The image showed his back to the camera while he held a bunch of balloons.

Harry and Meghan's New Approach to Pictures of Archie and Lilibet

Historically, royal children have been photographed regularly by the media themselves either at royal events or at the invitation of family members—meaning picture agencies have a stock of images of royal children down the years.

However, Harry and Meghan's new status as former working royals gives them control over when their children appear in front of the camera.

Archie and Lilibet do not appear at their work events, and the pictures they do release get sent to news organizations with clear restrictions on their use.

The result is the prolific use in the media of the few images taken of Archie by accredited photographs during Meghan's and Harry's time as working royals.

One in particular of Archie meeting Archbishop Desmond Tutu during the couple's 2019 tour of South Africa is in constant use, even though he is now unrecognizable compared to his four-month-old self.

Meghan, Harry and Archie
Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and Archie Mountbatten-Windsor meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town, South Africa, on September 25, 2019. The image has been used prolifically because it is one of the few that international picture agencies like Getty can licence. Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage

That said, some of the braver news organizations, with deeper pockets than their rivals, do flout copyright over the family pictures the Sussexes release themselves but none have yet faced any consequences for doing so.

Prince Harry complained in an ongoing libel lawsuit against The Mail on Sunday about the newspaper using a gratuitous number of images to illustrate a story about his police protection.

A court filing, seen by Newsweek, read: "The Online Article was published by the Defendant [the Mail] as an 'Exclusive' and given huge prominence as the lead story on its home page.

"Further, it included numerous gratuitous photographs of [Prince Harry] and his wife and family."

Among the four used was the Sussex 2021 Christmas card released to media organizations with permission under copyright for one-time use only.

However, despite protestations filed by Harry's lawyers on his behalf in the context of an ongoing lawsuit, the duke did not actually enforce the family's copyright over the image. The case accused the newspaper of a separate defamation unrelated to the family photo.

The decision to limit the grounds for the case to libel was taken despite Meghan successfully suing The Mail on Sunday for copyright infringement over its publication of a letter she sent her father.

Pictures of Archie and Lilibet Taken Without Consent

Harry and Meghan may not have sued for overuse of images they authorized for release, but they have sued over images taken by paparazzi agencies without permission.

The couple sued Splash News for long-lens images of Archie as a baby in a public park with Meghan while they were living in Canada briefly at the start of 2020.

A U.S.-based picture agency, X17, was also forced to apologize to the couple after using a drone to photograph Archie playing with Doria Ragland, his grandmother on Meghan's side, on the private grounds of director Tyler Perry's Los Angeles mansion.

Those images were published in German mass-market tabloid magazine Bunte.

There have also been pictures posted online unwittingly by friends, which were hastily deleted after being picked up by fans on social media and spotted by news organizations.

For now, the situation remains that there is only one photograph in the public domain of Lilibet, and it is the one Meghan and Harry chose to release and have copyright over should they choose to enforce it.

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