Fact Check: Are Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Launching Their Own Awards to Rival Queen's Honors List?

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry face reports they plan an awards scheme to rival Queen Elizabeth II's honors system—but the couple deny the claim.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have this year been setting up their nonprofit Archewell, with projects including a talk they gave for Time100 about digital technology.

However, the trademark process has led to press reports detailing what plans might be in store from Archewell in the future.

Among them is the claim they intend to launch a "woke" awards scheme similar to the honors list, which twice a year sees the royal family bestow knighthoods, damehoods and other honors on the great and good of British society.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, WellChild
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend the WellChild awards pre-Ceremony reception at Royal Lancaster Hotel on October 15, 2019 in London, England. They are not launching an awards service to rival Queen Elizabeth II's honors system. Toby Melville/WPA Pool/Getty

Toya Holness, press secretary for Archewell, told Newsweek: "We look forward to sharing more about Archewell's work in the weeks ahead but any suggestion that it is intended to rival the U.K. honors list is false.

"Furthermore, the trademark application has followed the normal course of business for the U.S. Trademark process and any suggestion otherwise is also false."

The Claim

The Sun claimed the couple were planning to launch their own honors list to reward people and charities who champion the causes they believe in.

Each year, Queen Elizabeth II hands out a range of awards, or honors, to the great and good of British society, including predominantly OBEs, MBEs and CBEs, as well as some knighthoods and damehoods.

The pun headlines on The Sun's story reads: "SNOW-B-E? Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are planning their own woke honours list from America."

The newspaper mocked up a joke image of a snowflake medal, in reference to the newspaper's assertion the award would be for liberal causes.

In a follow-up online story, The Sun reported how ex-CNN host Piers Morgan covered the issue in his ITV show Good Morning Britain.

Morgan said: "They have applied for their own rival Honours List. Who are these people?"

The claim was also picked up by websites for other U.K. newspapers including the Daily Mail and the Daily Express.

The Facts

The Sun's story is based on a genuine application on behalf of Archewell to the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office.

The application seeks to trademark Archewell for "providing recognition and incentives by the way of awards to entities and individuals who have made significant charitable contributions; providing recognition and incentives by the way of awards to demonstrate excellence in the field of community service and charitable giving."

The newspaper's claim that the nonprofit will seek to award "woke" candidates comes from other sections detailing the organization's general focus on "charitable service, education, science, literature, racial justice, gender equity, environmental stewardship, youth empowerment, health and mental health."

However, trademark applications merely protect the rights of an organization to put its name to certain activities and do not necessarily indicate the existence of a plan or an intention to follow through.

In this case, Harry and Meghan's spokesperson has stated they do not plan any awards to rival the U.K. honors list.

The Ruling

Mostly false.

Archewell's trademark application will give the nonprofit the legal authority to set up an awards ceremony in the future, should Harry and Meghan decide they wish to.

However, it does not constitute a plan to create one and does not indicate what specific form any project might take or whether it will be similar to the U.K. honors system.

A Sussex source told Newsweek there currently are no awards planned and the move simply was designed to protect a range of future options.

They said it was part of the routine procedure in filing trademark applications.

The source said: "Could Archewell at some point in the not too distant future give out grants to another organization, could it give out prizes?

"Of course it could. But we haven't got that in the planning. If you're creating a new philanthropic organization, to rule that out would be silly but it's not something that is in development."