For years, the cameras have captured Prince Harry using a strange hand gesture, in which he tucks his hand inside his coat or suit jacket, or lays it right on top of it, covering his abdomen.
The Prince sent conspiracy theorists into overdrive when he used variations of the hand gesture while being photographed with Melania Trump and, more recently, during his engagement announcement with fiancee Meghan Markle. Even many casual observers wondered: Why does Harry make the hand gesture, and what does it mean?
The theories bandied about to explain the Harry hand gesture range from the plausible to the completely bizarre. However, past photos of Prince Harry from over the years show that he tends to use the hand gesture in formal settings; there are many, many photos of him in polo shirts and other more casual gear not using the hand gesture.
Similarly, he often wears unbuttoned suit coats without a tie, giving him no ability to slip his hand inside the jacket in the first place. Furthermore, he doesn’t always position his fingers the same way. In some photos, you can see all of his fingers, in some none, and in some a few. Sometimes, he puts his hand or some fingers inside his coat, and sometimes he rests his hand on top of it. What the gestures share in common: Hand placement over or near the abdomen. The hand gesture seems to be something that Harry’s done more as he’s grown older: younger photos of him, including at his mother’s funeral, don’t usually show it. Now and then, Prince William also places his hand to the abdomen in photos. However, it’s possible to find some photos of a younger Harry making a similar sign.
Now, the theories:
It’s a Self-Protective Barrier
Body language experts have analyzed the Harry hand gesture, and many of them seem to believe it’s a self-protective barrier that Harry is placing between himself and the crowd, a sign that he’s not quite comfortable in the setting. That would fit with him tending to do the gesture in formal settings.
Traci Brown, body language expert and author of Persuasion Point: Body Language and Speech Influence, told Good Housekeeping that the gesture might be “a type of coping mechanism.” The site quoted her as saying: “He’s covering his solar plexus area (the vital organs) and protecting it which just says he’s not quite comfortable in the situation. Who would be with all those photographers around and people like myself analyzing him?”
Another body language expert concurred. “Prince Harry’s arm placed across his abdomen serves as a barrier to separate or distance himself from something that he makes him uncomfortable,” said Blanca Cobb, body language expert and author of Method of the Masters, to Good Housekeeping. “In this case, it could be having photos taken.”
It’s Just a Habit or Tick
Some people think the Harry hand gesture debate is silly; many people have a nervous tick or habit that they aren’t that aware of; some people twirl their hair, for example. Maybe the Harry hand gesture is just a tick or habit he’s developed. Nothing more to it than that.
According to Marie Claire, “This behavior is equivalent to twirling your hair, biting your nails or even, repeatedly tapping your leg.” However, those can also be ways of coping with stress, which goes back to the theory that Harry feels stress in formal settings where he’s seen using the gesture as a subliminal way to protect himself.
It’s an Illuminati or Devil Horn Sign
The most bizarre conspiracy theories say that the hand gesture is a secret signal that represents the Illuminati or Masonic beliefs. Others believe that the gesture is sometimes a devil’s horn gesture, especially in the way Harry made it while standing next to Melania Trump. However, there is no evidence for those claims. That hasn’t stopped some people on social media from making the bizarre allegations.
The Illuminati hand signal theory has been applied to many other world leaders, including Donald Trump, and Angela Merkel, by conspiracy theorists. However, those hand gestures don’t look like Harry’s.
The hand tucked in a coat symbol is said by some sites to represent the Illuminati. It’s been used by leaders from Napoleon to Stalin over the years. The posture is one of Napoleon’s most famous.
According to ZestyThings.com, the Hidden Hand Illuminati sign is also known as “Hidden Hand of the Men of Jahbuhlun (Jahbulon, Jabulon), Sign of the Master of the Second Veil.” The site says, “The hidden hand Illuminati sign is a much older gesture that’s used not nearly as often as it used to be. As a result, many of the images pre-date modern photography. The sign was supposed to signal allegiance to the Illuminati. An alternative interpretation was that the gesture represented the hidden hands making decisions behind the world stage. The gesture also has roots tracing back to free masonry.”
You can see pictures of many famous people using that hand gesture as well as others supposedly representing the Illuminati here. According to the site IlluminatiSymbols, “The hidden hand sign is used in York Rite Masonry’s 7th degree, the Royal Arch Degree. The Grand Master of the Second Veil, or Junior Overseer is one of nine officials necessary to form a Royal Arch Chapter. During the Royal Arch initiation ceremony, he is responsible for teaching new initiatives the meaning of the hidden hand sign.”
The Belleville News-Democrat reports that some believe “that it is a sign that the men all had achieved the Royal Arch Degree of Freemasonry and that they secretly were telling fellow initiates that they practiced the occult philosophy. They say it’s based on Exodus 4:6-8 in which Moses is instructed to put his hand in his cloak (or bosom) as a sign from God.”
It’s a Sign of High Class
Others say the hand in coat gesture is a common one, and has been for hundreds of years, for men in a higher social class. “Back in Napoleon’s time, the hand-in-the-coat portrait was simply the way important men were painted — even to the point where the pose almost became a cliche,” the Belleville News-Democrat reports.
According to the newspaper, author Arline Meyer argues that “you can find the hidden-hand pose dating back to ancient Greek and Roman statues and that painters in the 1700s rejuvenated it. Originally, she wrote, it was recommended by ancient writers as a useful posture for speakers. In fact, Aeschines of Macedon, who wrote an important book on oratory circa 350 B.C., suggested that speaking with your arm outside your toga was ill-mannered.”
He Learned It From His Dad
It’s not hard to find photos of Prince Charles with hand in coat. Maybe Harry was just emulating his dad when it comes to social graces.