34

It's been in the news recently that Prince Harry has been banned from wearing a military uniform at the events surrounding the late Queen's funeral, since he was stripped of his honorary military titles when he stopped being a working royal.

However, he is a veteran who served ten years in the British military and was deployed to Afghanistan. Why can't he wear the uniform of his former rank and unit in his capacity as a retired officer, rather than wearing the uniform of his (now removed) honorary titles in his capacity as a member of the Royal Family?

5
  • 5
    Good question. His "stopping being a working royal" did also not deprive him of his right to the throne (as of now).
    – PMF
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 10:43
  • 2
    "Can" is a vague word. The relevant law is the Uniforms Act 1894, which prohibits wearing of current military uniforms by anyone not serving in the military. But you'll have to check the fine print. In any case, the law is very rarely enforced, and you're only likely to be prosecuted if you're up to no good. (Also, there may be separate rules for royalty that aren't covered by law, and branches of the military may have their own guidelines - I'm not sure if you're asking about them, but since this is the law forum I assume you are asking about English law not etiquette or other rules.)
    – Stuart F
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 13:44
  • @StuartF it may not be enforced often, but people are still occasionally questioned by the police on its basis: telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/…
    – Tristan
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 9:01
  • It gets complicated: Just read a newsfeed saying that Harry is probably going to wear the uniform during the official ceremony. We'll see.
    – PMF
    Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 15:12
  • @StuartF, I like your disclaimer about "can". Being a Prince, I would expect not many with the capacity to enforce the law would question him about his choice of clothing. As a veteran and one schooled from his infancy about etiquette and protocol, I would think he would be sensitive about the messages he would be sending either way. If he does wear a uniform, it would be a very deliberate message.
    – spuck
    Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 18:03

1 Answer 1

50

By Army regulations, no, he's not allowed to wear that uniform.

Prince Harry technically isn't a "retired officer". Rather, he resigned his commission in the Army, effective 19 June 2015. See the London Gazette for 11 August 2015, Supplement 61319, page 14838, under "Captain H. C. A. D. WALES 564673".

According to the Army Dress Regulations 02.45a (page 101 of the PDF), "It is to be noted that those who resigned their commissions are not authorised to wear uniform under any circumstances."

Moreover, under the Uniforms Act 1894:

(1)It shall not be lawful for any person not serving in Her [sic, now His] Majesty’s Military Forces to wear without Her Majesty’s permission the uniform of any of those forces, or any dress having the appearance or bearing any of the regimental or other distinctive marks of any such uniform: Provided that this enactment shall not prevent . . . . . . F1 any persons from wearing any uniform or dress in the course of a stage play performed in a place duly licensed or authorised for the public performance of stage plays, or in the course of a music hall or circus performance, or in the course of any bona fide military representation.

(2)If any person contravenes this section he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding [F2level 3 on the standard scale].

Clearly Prince Harry is not currently serving in His Majesty's Military Forces, and "His Majesty's permission" would by default be granted only through the Army Dress Regulations promulgated in his name. If Prince Harry were to wear the uniform anyway, then in principle he would be in breach of the regulations and thus the law, and liable for the prescribed fine.

Of course, if he had worn the uniform, it would presumably have been because his father the King had in fact granted him permission to do so (on which point His Majesty would presumably have solicited the advice of his ministers). But as a matter of politics and optics, that was probably not likely to be given. Throughout the prince's active military service, there was a concerted effort to make it appear (accurately or not) that he was serving under the same conditions as any other officer of the same rank, without receiving preferential treatment. So it would fit with that practice for him to comply strictly with the Army regulations, even though they could certainly be waived for his benefit.

16
  • 7
    Are Army regulations law? That is to say, if someone chose to wear a uniform they are not entitled to wear would they be committing any crime? Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 7:07
  • 5
    @JackAidley This reply from UK Ministry of Defence indicates that it is legal to wear army uniform as long as you do not use it to mislead or behaving in a way that can bring contemp to it. Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 10:03
  • 5
    @Revolver_Ocelot it's hard to argue that appearing at an official function like a state funeral doesn't give the impression that the use of the uniform was endorsed by the force that issued it, so I think misleading would be inevitable
    – Will
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 13:51
  • 6
    @DarrelHoffman - The film "Battle of Britain" was in shot in 1968/1969 partly on working RAF bases. An issue arose that the real RAF personnel were used to saluting officers on sight (the uniforms hadn't changed that much since 1940). Should they salute the actors? The solution was that they would salute anyone wearing an officer's uniform, and they were expected to return the salutes. Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 15:39
  • 4
    @Frog as it happens, it appears he will be appearing in uniform tomorrow at the King's request. It seems pretty safe to assume that the King has the military authority to sanction this, and the existence or otherwise of such a move would not be such common knowledge that an observer would know straight away whether this occurrence was authorised or not.
    – Will
    Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 10:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .