|The Duchess of Cambridge. Image: Wikimedia Commons|
Marlene Eilers Koenig, a leading expert in the field of royal history, has written a comprehensive article on this issue.
I have also written an article about how to properly address members of the royal family who were not born into royalty.
Take the case of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark. Princess Marina was married to Prince George, Duke of Kent, in 1934. On their wedding day, she became a British princess by marriage and she took the feminine form of her husband’s title. While in Greece, she had all the right to style herself Princess Marina, her marriage to a British prince automatically made her HRH The Princess George, Duchess of Kent.
In 1961, when her eldest son, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, married Miss Katharine Worsley, who automatically became HRH The Duchess of Kent, Princess Marina requested Queen Elizabeth II to allow her to revert her princely title, rather than be addressed HRH The Dowager Duchess of Kent and create confusion. However, the Queen did not issue any letters patent that should have made her aunt a British princess in her own right, although she allowed her to use the title as a courtesy, instead. Thus, until her death in 1969, Princess Marina was styled HRH Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent.
An article published in Hello’s website discussing the Duchess of Cambridge’s title contained errors.
Hello writes “Direct descendants of the monarch are typically given a dukedom or, in the case of a younger son they become an Earl.” Not necessarily an earldom. In fact, until Prince Edward was given an earldom, all the younger sons of a British sovereign were given a dukedom.
Queen Victoria – Duke of Edinburgh (second son ), Duke of Connaught (third son) and Duke of Albany (fourth son)
King George V – Duke of York (future King George VI), Duke of Gloucester, Duke of Kent
Queen Elizabeth II – (except for Earl of Wessex) the Duke of York
A Letters Patent gazetted on December 11, 1917 and signed by King George V serves as the bible of royal titles. The Letters Patent restricted the use of the style Royal Highness and the titular dignity of Prince (or Princess) of Great Britain and Ireland to the children of the sovereign, the male-line grandchildren of the sovereign and the eldest-living son of the eldest-living son of a Prince of Wales.
According to the Letters Patent: "Titles of Royal Highness, Highness or Serene Highness, and the titular dignity of Prince and Princess shall cease except those titles already granted and remaining unrevoked."
The King’s relatives who are members of the British Royal Family but fighting on the German side during World War I, like Prince Ernst August of Hanover, 3rd Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale (the most senior male-line great-grandson of George III) and Prince Carl Eduard, Duke of Albany and reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (a male-line grandson of Queen Victoria), were cut off; their British peerages suspended by a 1919 Order in Council under the provisions of the Titles Deprivation Act 1917. However, Prince Charles Edward remained a Prince of the United Kingdom, a title that was his by virtue of his birth.
The title Prince and Princess, according to Hello, is “inherited through male descendants.” Not really. Any son or daughter of sovereign is called a Prince or Princess. Furthermore, the title Prince or Princess is only transmitted to a male-line grandchild of a sovereign. That means, the children of a sovereign’s son are entitled to use Prince and Princess before their name plus their father’s territorial designation. This precedence could of course be by-passed upon the sovereign's discretion.
For example, Prince George, Duke of Kent is the fourth son of King George V. When his children were born, they were allowed to use the title and style HRH Prince (Christian name) plus the territorial designation “of Kent,” as with the case Prince Edward of Kent (who inherited his father’s Dukedom upon his death in 1942), Princess Alexandra of Kent and Prince Michael of Kent. The same rules apply to the daughters of HRH The Duke of York, Princess Beatrice of York and Princess Eugenie of York.
But are they still prince or princess of United Kingdom? Or, are they just mere princes and princess “of Kent” or “of York”? They are actually Prince of United Kingdom, but the designation “of Kent” and “of York” signifies that are not children of a sovereign. They derive their title not from the sovereign but from their parents.
What about Prince William? He was born Prince William of Wales. But how come he became Duke of Cambridge?
When Prince William was born, he was not yet a son of a sovereign, but the son of the Prince of Wales, who is the heir to the throne. Thus, he derived his title from his father’s. When he got married in 2011, Queen Elizabeth II created him Duke of Cambridge. By right of his birth, he is a Prince. But by the will of the sovereign, he was created a royal duke—not just any other duke who belongs to the nobility.
You can be a Princess and not use the title. True. But Hello used the wrong example. “Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, is technically the Princess of Wales. But out of respect for the late Diana, Princess of Wales, she has never used that title. Instead she uses her husband Prince Charles' Dukedom.” Yes, Camilla is by all means the Princess of Wales and a Princess by marriage but even if she uses the titles Princess of Wales, she cannot style herself Princess Camilla. “Princess Diana” is in fact wrong. She was Diana, Princess of Wales, or simply the Princess of Wales, but never Princess Diana.
The children of the Earl and Countess of Wessex are by all means Prince and Princess of the United Kingdom: Princess Louise of Wessex and Prince James of Wessex. However, the Earl and Countess declined using royal titles for their kids, rather, they wanted everyone to address them as the son and the daughter of an earl. Note, the Earl holds a royal earldom, bestowed upon him by his mother when he married in 1999. If he wasn’t given an earldom, his wife would simply be style HRH The Princess Edward. Take the case of Princess Michael of Kent, the former Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz. Prince Michael does not hold any title of nobility, as such, his wife is known as Princess Michael.
So are the Earl and Countess of Wessex’s kids no longer Prince and Princess of United Kingdom? They are still Prince and Princess of United Kingdom and some time when they grow up, they can choose to be styled that way. The Queen never signed a letters patent revoking their royal status. Another example of Princess Patricia of Connaught. When he married the Hon. Alexander Ramsay, a younger son of the Earl of Dalhousie, she made it known that she no longer wanted to use her royal titles and styles and became known as Lady Patricia Patricia taking precedence before the all the marchionesses in England.
Meanwhile, the eldest or the only daughter of the sovereign is usually accorded the title Princess Royal of Great Britain. Princess Anne currently holds the title—and she will remain Princess Royal for life. Other Princess Royals include: Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood (only daughter of King George V), Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife (only daughter of Edward VII) and Victoria, the Empress Frederick of Germany (eldest daughter of Queen Victoria). However, one cannot assume the title unless the preceding holder has passed away. Queen Elizabeth II, as the elder daughter of a sovereign, never assumed the title, given that her aunt, Princess Mary, was still alive during her father’s reign. The same was the case of Princess Mary, who did not become Princess Royal until 1932, a year after the death of her aunt, Princess Louise. However, inheriting the title is not automatic. The Empress Frederick died in 1901 but Princess Louise did not assume the title until her father, King Edward VII declared her so. Princess Mary died in 1965 but it was only in 1987 that Queen Elizabeth II awarded the title to Princess Anne.
• The Duchess of Cambridge is a British princess, though not in birth, but by marriage.
• Ladies who married members of the Royal Family take the feminine form of their husbands’ title. Kate Middle—HRH The Duchess of Cambridge; Sophie Rhys-Jones—HRH The Countess of Wessex; Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz—HRH Princess Michael of Kent.
• Male-line grandchildren of a sovereign are British princes and princesses, only that they use their parents’ territorial designation. Examples: Prince Henry of Wales, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York, Prince Michael of Kent.
• Former members of the Royal Family have lost their rights as royals, although by courtesy, they are allowed to use their husbands’ titles. However, they lose these titles when they remarry. The Princess of Wales became Diana, Princess of Wales while the Duchess of York became Sarah, Duchess of York, minus the HRH.
About the Author
Christian George Acevedo is a book worm, mentor, and scholar of wide-ranging interests. He has authored hundreds of articles for various websites, and his expertise ranges from online marketing and finance to history, entertainment and many more. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Tumblr. Contact Christian at firstname.lastname@example.org.