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Meghan at the 2021 Global Citizen Live concert at Central Park in New York - CAITLIN OCHS /REUTERS

Meghan at the 2021 Global Citizen Live concert at Central Park in New York – CAITLIN OCHS /REUTERS

The Duchess of Sussex could only be stopped from running for US President under her royal title by a 211-year-old constitutional amendment proposed to stop Napoleon’s nephew from ever seeking power, experts have said.

The little-known constitutional amendment could technically be revived to halt any serious attempt from the Duchess to run for high office.

Although she has never publicly expressed a wish to run for president since marrying into the Royal Family, she has recently been cold-calling US politicians to lobby for paid leave, and has campaigned to encourage Americans to vote.

Her biographers believe it is “possible…even likely” that she will one day run for office, with one noting she is the “embodiment of the American dream”.

Royal-watchers and critics have argued her continued use of her title is inappropriate when it comes to political or business matters, which have seen her introduce herself as “Meghan, Duchess of Sussex”.

Her allies have always insisted it is simply her legal name, having changed it from Meghan Markle when she married, leaving her with no option but to use it.

Constitutional experts said there was no technical reason why the Duchess could not run under her title, despite the lack of precedent and a “very controversial” decision.

They pointed to an 1810 tweak to the constitution, proposed and passed in Congress, called the Titles of Nobility Amendment. It stated that anyone who “accepts, claims, receives or retains a title of nobility bestowed by a foreign power” would be barred from holding federal office.

The amendment was sent out to the individual state legislatures, and three quarters needed to vote in favour for it to become law. While 12 did, the required number at that time was 14, and the amendment never passed. But it was never thrown out either, and has remained on the table for more than two centuries.

It followed a period of nervousness in America, which was surrounded by foreign superpowers: Canada was occupied by Britain, Florida by Spain and Louisiana by France.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s younger brother Jérôme had married American socialite Elizabeth “Betsy” Patterson in what was the sensational tabloid story of the day, and there was fevered speculation that their son Jerome might run for office and that the US would be subsumed into the French empire.

Constitutional experts have told The Telegraph that were the amendment to be revived, the 12 votes in favour are likely to still count, meaning that 26 states outside those which have voted already would be the new threshold for the amendment to pass.

‘More intrusive than anything a royal would dare do in Britain’

“It wouldn’t take long for people to look at this as an opportunity,” said John Kowal, the co-author of a history of constitutional amendments, ‘The People’s Constitution: 200 Years, 27 Amendments, and the Promise of a More Perfect Union.’

“I’m not aware of any precedent, where someone who is publicly known and publicly uses a noble title from another country has run for political office,” he said. “I think it would be very controversial.

“Britain has a very strong tradition of keeping royals out of politics and so this is perhaps more intrusive than anything a royal would dare to do in Britain. Meeting with senators to lobby for a bill – this is her injecting herself into US politics.”

As things stand, the Duchess is eligible to run because she is a native-born citizen, but many questions remain unanswered, including which party she would belong to.

“She clearly seems to have progressive politics and so maybe she would run as a Democrat, but what if she ran as an independent?” Mr Kowal said. “Then you would have Democrats and Republicans all eager to prevent her from running by using this and there might be a rare bipartisan consensus if she were to run as an independent.”

If there was a groundswell of demand for states to pick up the legislation and vote on it, the electoral map of America is currently leaning in the Republican’s favour.

When the state legislatures convene in January 2022 (almost all are out of session now), Republicans will control 30 states versus 17 for the Democrats. In three states (Minnesota, Virginia, and Alaska), control of the two legislative houses will be split.

But timing could be an issue.

“One obstacle, I think, would be just acting quickly enough, because you need to get 26 more states to ratify in what would probably be a short period of time. But I would give this a fair chance of moving forward and maybe being ratified,” added Mr Kowal.

The idea of the Duchess running for the presidency is not far-fetched.

After being given the private phone numbers of Republican senators Shelley Capito and Susan Collins she phoned them out of the blue to press her case for paid parental leave being signed into law. The US does not have a federal paid parental leave programme, and the Duchess said on an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show: “I will do everything I can to make sure we can implement that for people.”

Prospect of Duchess running for president ‘possible’ and ‘likely’

Tom Bower, who is currently working on an unauthorised biography of the Duchess, told Closer magazine: “The prospect of Meghan running for president is possible and I’d even say likely. I really believe it’s where she sees herself going.”

Omid Scobie, the co-author of the book Finding Freedom, the biography which the Duchess did co-operate with, said: “Meghan is the embodiment of the American dream. One day we may see Meghan become president.”

Last year, one unnamed friend told Vanity Fair that “one of the reasons she was so keen not to give up her American citizenship was so she had the option to go into politics.” The Duchess “would seriously consider running for president,” they added.

The Duchess, who is expected to be in Washington in the coming weeks for a dinner with female senators who have backed the campaign for paid parental leave, may decide against a run for the top job.

In the early 1800s, the fears of Jerome Bonaparte’s ascension were never realised. Instead, he became chairman of the Maryland Agricultural Society and founded one of the oldest private member’s clubs in America.

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