From “Princess” Diana to “Duchess Kate”: The Incorrect Way of Referring to a Royal Consort

Royal consorts have been victims of incorrect references made by the press. 

Many times over, we have heard people say “Princess Diana” in reference to Diana, Princess of Wales, first wife of Prince Charles and mother to princes William and Harry. Months after her wedding, Catherine Middleton, who assumed her husband's title Princess William, Duchess of Cambridge, has been victim of the press' display of disrespect and lack of knowledge on how to correctly address a royal consort. The same is the case with the Countess of Wessex, wife of Prince Edward, who is sometimes wrongly called by the press as “Sophie Wessex.”

The late Princess of Wales was popularly but incorrectly called Princess Diana. 
So how do we properly address these royal consorts? 

Royal Consorts Married to Blood Royals with Substantive Titles

Substantive title is a title of nobility or royalty that an individual holds which he either acquires by grant or by inheritance. Usually, heirs apparent are known for their substantive titles, as with the case of Prince Charles, who is known for his substantive title Prince of Wales, and Infante Felipe of Spain, the Prince of Asturias.

The British press loves to call the Duchess
of Cambridge "Duchess Kate,"or worse,
 only "Kate."
The British monarchy also assigns substantive titles to the younger sons of the sovereign, which are usually inherited by their elder sons.

The younger sons of Queen Elizabeth also hold substantive titles. Prince Andrew is the Duke of York, while Prince Edward is the Earl of Wessex. The same is applied to the queen's male-line cousins. Prince Edward, being the elder son of Prince George, inherited the title Duke of Kent. Meanwhile, Prince Richard, as the sole surviving son, assumed his father Prince Henry's title, as the Duke of Gloucester.

Now, let us go to the titles of their wives.

The late Princess of Wales was born Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer. Because she was not born a royal, she was not entitled to carry the title “Princess” before her name. Thus, calling her “Princess” Diana is technically incorrect, although she is popular referred as such. The rightful reference to her should be Diana, Princess of Wales, or the Princess of Wales.

The Countess of Wessex is sometimes
 called "Countess" Sophie Wessex.
In 1996, the Prince and Princess of Wales divorced but Diana was allowed to continue using her title, although her style as Royal Highness ceased, since she was no longer a member of the British Royal Family. She died in 1997. In 2006, the Prince of Wales married Camilla Parker-Bowles. Technically, she should have assumed the title Princess of Wales since she is the wife of the prince, but to avoid confusion and in respect to Diana, who still enjoyed the love and admiration of the Britons, she assumed her husband's second title, which is Duchess of Cornwall. In Scotland, she is referred as the Duchess of Rothesay, because the prince's official Scottish title is the Duke of Rothesay.

Moving forward to Prince William's wife, Catherine Middleton officially assumed the title Duchess of Cambridge upon her marriage to Prince William, who was proclaimed Duke of Cambridge. As such, she should be officially referred to as HRH the Duchess of Cambridge, not as “Duchess” Catherine, as what most British tabloids call her. Her complete title and style is Her Royal Highness Princess William, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, Baroness Carrickfergus.

The Baroness Marie-Christine Von Reibnitz is
popularly known as Princess Michael of Kent
 after she wedded Prince Michael, a royal
 prince who doesn't hold a substantive title.
The same is true with Sophie, Countess of Wessex. She isn't “Countess” Sophie Wessex, but the Countess of Wessex, her complete title and style being The Princess Edward, Countess of Wessex, Viscountess Severn.

Royal Consorts of Princes with Territorial Suffix By Virtue of their Parent's Title

Prince Harry (official known as Prince Henry of Wales), Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York, Prince Michael of Kent, and Princess Alexandra of Kent fall under this category. These blood royals are usually younger sons or the daughters of a royal prince who happens to be the younger sons of sovereign who carries a substantive title. Prince Harry uses the territorial suffix “of Wales” since Prince Charles being the Prince of Wales. The same is true with Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, daughters of the Duke of York, and the Queen's cousins, Prince Michael and Princess Alexandra of Kent, the younger son and the daughter of King George V's youngest son, Prince George, Duke of Kent.

In the case that bride weds a royal prince with territorial suffix, she assumes her husband's name and title. This is the case of Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz who is popularly known as Princess Michael of Kent, after her wedding to Prince Michael. 


  1. "Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge" would only apply if she were divorced from the Duke. She should currently be called only the "Duchess of Cambridge." Think.... "Sarah, Duchess of York" or "Diana, Princess of Wales." The first name is only used by a divorcee and only as long as she does not remarry.

  2. So much incorrect information in this article.

    -There is no such title as 'Crown Prince' in Spain. Before becoming King, Felipe was 'The Infante Felipe, Prince of Asturias'.
    -As already commented, Catherine is only 'HRH The Duchess of Cambridge'. Putting her name before that indicates she is a divorcee.
    -And she is not "the" Princess William (that article is only used for children of the sovereign).
    -The Countess of Wessex IS "the" Princess Edward, etc., as her husband is the son of the sovereign.
    -Princess Alexandra hasn't been "of Kent" since she married in 1963. (Princesses cease using territorial designations upon marriage.) She is HRH Princess Alexandra, The Hon. Lady Ogilvy.
    -Marie-Christine is not "the" Princess Michael of Kent. Her husband is not the child of a sovereign.

    1. We have made the necessary corrections. Thank you.


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