Prince Harry’s Hand Gesture: What Does It Mean?

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Getty Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle during an official photocall to announce their engagement at The Sunken Gardens at Kensington Palace on November 27, 2017 in London, England. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been a couple officially since November 2016 and are due to marry in Spring 2018.

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?

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during an official photocall to announce the engagement of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle at The Sunken Gardens at Kensington Palace on November 27, 2017 in London, England. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been a couple officially since November 2016 and are due to marry in Spring 2018.

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.

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Prince Harry arrives to a function at Admiralty House on June 7, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. Prince Harry is on a two-day visit to Sydney for the launch of the Invictus Games Sydney 2018. The fourth Invictus Games will be held in Sydney from 20th to 27th October, 2018 and will include over 500 competitors from 17 nations competing in 10 adaptive sports events.

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.

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Prince William (L) and his younger brother, Prince Harry, arrive to take their seats in the Royal Box in the gardens of Buckingham Palace 03 June 2002, for the second concert to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

Now, the theories:

It’s a Self-Protective Barrier

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Prince Harry with Amanda Pullinger, Chief Executive Officer of 100 Women in Finance and Sonia Gardner (L) attend 100 Women in Finance Gala Dinner in aid of Wellchild at the Victoria and Albert Museum on October 11, 2017 in London, England.

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?”

prince harry hand in jacket

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry take part in a vigil at Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme during Somme Centenary Commemorations on June 30, 2016 in Thiepval, France.

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

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Prince Harry visits the KPH Projects, an organisation which encourages cross-collaboration and support between young people with start-up businesses focused on solving societal issues across the city on October 25, 2017 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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.

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Prince Harry laughs during a function at Admiralty House on June 7, 2017 in Sydney, Australia.

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

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Prince Harry poses with U.S. first lady Melania Trump for the first time as she leads the USA team delegation ahead of the Invictus Games 2017 on September 23, 2017 in Toronto, Canada

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, 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

prince harry meghan markle

Prince Harry (R) looks on as his fiancee US actress Meghan Markle talks to a man as they leave the Terrence Higgins Trust World AIDS Day charity fair at Nottingham Contemporary, as part of their first set of official public engagements together, on December 1, 2017 in Nottingham, England.

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

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Prince Charles, Prince of Wales arrives at the National Technical Training Centre to meet residents of Barbuda who have been displaced by the Hurricanes of September on November 17, 2017 in Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda.

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.