A Brighton campaigner urged councillors to snub Prince Harry and his wife Meghan – the Duke of Sussex and Duchess of Sussex – as he presented a petition this afternoon (Thursday 19 December).
The petition, started by Charles Ross, attracted 3,881 signatures.
It said: “The petition aims to establish a precedent that Brighton and Hove City Council will no longer afford official hospitality to those with royal or aristocratic titles nor make usage of those titles in official documents as these titles are arbitrarily and unfairly acquired.”
At a meeting of the full council at Hove Town Hall, Mr Ross said: “I believe that many of you will be tempted to throw this out of the council chamber – not for any moral reasons but for a reasonable and justified fear of being hounded and bullied by the right-wing pro-royal press and the fear that it might affect your future electoral chances.
“While I would obviously make an appeal to your moral integrity, I would also point out that there is a very strong republican sentiment in the city of Brighton.
“For those who doubt that strong republican sentiment then look at the facts.
“This is the third most signed petition in the history of Brighton petitions – nearly 4,000 people have signed it.”
He said: “What if Prince Andrew was the Duke of Sussex or next in line to be king? Would you still be in favour of the monarchy?
“Are we still obedient serfs or are we ready as a forward-thinking town to throw out these perverse ceremonies and traditions which enshrine the class system and let many sleep in shop doorways while others sleep in palaces.”
Mr Ross said: “In no way is my petition intended to be any sort of personal attack on Harry Windsor or Meghan Markle. Indeed, I respect his army service and her acting career.
“I would hold no objection if Harry Windsor were to be invited to Brighton for his actions as a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan – but then call him Harry Windsor and not the Duke of Sussex.”
He added: “This is an ideal opportunity to put this city on the map as a forward-thinking and modern city that rejects archaic and outdated feudal ceremony and doffing our caps to the aristocracy in favour of social justice and fairness for all.
“Indeed it would be a fine honour and a proud moment if our good councillors would have the courage today to set Brighton on the path to beig the first openly republican city in the United Kingdom.”
The Labour leader of the council Nancy Platts said that stripping royals of their titles was not a matter for a local authority as the power rested with the crown.
Councillor Platts said: “We have more pressing issues – of homelessness, the climate crisis and the effect of austerity and ensuring the economic wellbeing of our residents.
“We respect the views on both sides but, given the pressing issues we have got, we need to make good use of council resources.”
The Green group convenor, Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, said that the petition was “fantastic” and said that he was a republican with a “small r”.
He had to be careful, he said, given his accent. He comes from Northern Ireland.
Councillor Mac Cafferty said: “We have to respect that more than 3,000 people supported this petition.
“My personal preference would be to send this on to the decision-making structures for a report to understand what we can do.
“But I don’t think the rest of the council is with us.”
Conservative group leader Steve Bell said that it was important to respect both sides but questioned whether nearly 4,000 people in Brighton and Hove represented the 1.8 million people who live in the wider county of Sussex.
He said: “As Conservatives, we are very proud to have a Duke and Duchess of Sussex and will welcome them any time they chose to come here.”
Labour and Green councillors agreed to note the petition.
The Conservatives and two Independent councillors voting against noting it.