I remain amazed by the kerfuffle over the question whether the Duchess of Cambridge is a princess or not. This question not only flummoxed several British journalists, but also a few people who work for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. One staffer said there were no "hard and fast rules" for titles.
I think those who work at Clarence House and Kensington Palace need to invest in a few good reference books, including Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage and Burke's Peerage and Baronetage. Some jobs require college degrees. Other jobs require examinations or writing tests. Applicants who want to work as a press officer in the offices at Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, and Kensington Palace, should be required to take a test in British history, peerages, titles, precedence, as well as having good writing and communication skills.
Yes, the rules are "hard and fast." The rules are simple, although many may seem them as complicated.
In the United Kingdom, a wife takes her husband's rank, unless her own rank is higher. As with I comes before E except after C, there are a few exceptions. Daughters of higher ranked peers move down if they marry a peer of a lower rank. The daughter of a duke marries an earl: she takes his rank and precedence, but if she marries a commoner, she keeps her rank and precedence. Women cannot pass their ranks and titles to their children unless they are peeresses in their own right .. or have succeeded to the throne as Queen.
Princess Elizabeth could not pass her rank and title to her children when she married the Duke of Edinburgh. Shortly before the birth of Prince Charles, George VI issued a Letters Patent that gave the HRH and title of Prince or Princess to Elizabeth's children. Thus, Charles and Anne were styled as HRH Prince Charles and HRH Princess Anne of Edinburgh until Mummy became Queen when their titles changed due to her ascension to the throne.
If this Letters Patent had not been issued, Charles would have been styled as The Earl of Merioneth and Anne as the Lady Anne Mountbatten until their mother became Queen.
When a British prince marries, his wife becomes a princess, even if he has been given a dukedom. The ducal title does not change the prince's rank as Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Thus, the wife of a prince is a princess. Because she is not a British princess by birth, the wife bears her husband's name and titles. This is why Catherine is not Princess Catherine. She is not a British princess in her own right. She is a princess by marriage.
Only two marriages made by British princes were in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act. Neither prince sought or received permission to marry, and their wives and issue were not entitled to their rank and titles. The marriages were also considered invalid in the United Kingdom.
Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843), sixth son of George III, was in Italy when he met Lady Augusta Murray, daughter of the 4th Earl of Dunmore. They fell in love, and were married in secret in Rome on April 4, 1793. After returning to London, the couple went through a second marriage at St. George's Church, Hanover, Square on December 5, 1793. This marriage was also conducted in secret.
Prince Augustus's marriage was annulled by the Prerogative Court in August of 1794. He and Lady Amelia remained together until 1801. He left her after Parliament granted him an allowance of £12,000 a year.
Lady Augusta was given custody of their two young children, Augustus Frederick and Ellen Augusta Emma, who were given the surname d'Este. Five years later, by Royal License, Lady Augusta was able to change her surname from D'Ameland from Murray, and was known as Lady Augusta D'Ameland.
Their two children were considered illegitimate. Augustus (1794-1848) was originally registered with the surname Hanover. As a side note, Augustus d'Este was the first documented case of Multiple Sclerosis, based on the entries in his personal diary. He never married.
Augusta D'Este was the second wife of 1st Baron Truro. They were married in 1840 after the death of his first wife. Neither of Prince Augustus' children had issue.
It was only after his marriage was annulled that Augustus was created Duke of Sussex, Earl of Inverness and Baron Arklow. He married for a second time in 1831, again in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act, to Lady Cecilia Buggin, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Arran, and the widow of Sir George Buggin.
This marriage, too, was invalid in the United Kingdom. By Royal License, Cecilia was allowed to use the surname Underwood, which was her mother's maiden name. Queen Victoria had a soft spot for Lady Cecilia, and, in 1840, she created Cecilia as Duchess of Inverness in her own right.
The only other member of the Royal Family to marry without permission was Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge (1819-1904), whose youngest sister, Princess Mary Adelaide, was the mother of Queen Mary, consort of George V.
The Duke of Cambridge held the view that "arranged marriages were doomed to failure" so he purposely avoided his parents' choices for a bride. He was one of the early front runners for a marriage with his first cousin, Queen Victoria, but she preferred another first cousin, Prince Albert.
Although his relationship with Sarah Fairbrother was considered rocky, they were married at St. John's Church in Clerkenwell, London on January 8, 1847.
This marriage was also in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act, as George did not ask for permission to marry. Sarah eventually adopted the surname FitzGeorge. At the time of the marriage, Sarah was pregnant with Prince George's third child. Their first two sons, George and Adolphus were born in 1843 and 1846, respectively. The third son, Augustus, was born six months after the wedding. Prince George's sons were surnamed FitzGeorge.
Sarah died in 1890. The Duke of Cambridge had numerous liaisons, most notably with Louisa Beauclerk, who was considered his great love. He and Sarah were buried near Louisa's grave at the Kensal Green Cemetery.
The British monarchy is not the first to use the male name as a part of the title. This was most noticeable in German royal, princely and ducal families. When Princess Alexandra of Schleswig-Holstein married Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia, she became Princess August Wilhelm of Prussia. She did not lose her maiden title, but as a member of the Prussian royal family, she was styled by her husband's name. This was the pattern for styling wives of German royals, and, the style remains the norm in the United Kingdom.
The future George VI became the first male member of the British royal family to marry a British girl since 1771, when Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn, a younger brother of George III, married Anne Luttrell, daughter of Simon Luttrell, who was created Earl of Carhampton, some years after his daughter's marriage. By the time of her father, who served many years in the House of Commons, was elevated to the earldom, Anne was a royal highness. She was also Lady Anne Luttrell, due to her father's peerage.
It was this marriage that led to creation of the Royal Marriages Act. The marriage was legal because it took place before the promulgation of the Royal Marriages Act. Thus, Anne became HRH the Duchess of Cumberland and Strathearn.
[After the passage of the Royal Marriage Act, Henry's older brother, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, announced that he had married Maria Walpole, widow of the Earl of Waldegrave, in 1766. This marriage, too, was legal because it took place before the Royal Marriages Act. Maria was officially styled as HRH The Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh. They had three children: Sophia, Caroline and William. They were Princesses and Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, but styled as "of Gloucester".
At that time, the HRH was not extended to the collateral branches, the three children were born with the HH. It was not until 1816, when Prince William, by then the Duke of Gloucester, was given the HRH on his wedding day. He married his first cousin, Princess Mary, daughter of George III. The Prince regent bestowed the HRH on his first cousin and brother-in-law. The following day, the Prince Regent gave the HRH to William's sister, Princess Sophia. Caroline died in infancy.)
Queen Victoria extended the HRH to the grandchildren in the male line of the sovereign in 1864 after the marriage of her eldest son, the Prince of Wales. This change allowed for the children of her sons to be HRH Prince or Princess. In 1898, the HRH was extended to the children of the Duke and Duchess of York (George VI). The future Edward VIII and two of his siblings were born the with rank and style of HH Prince or Princess.
In 1905, King Edward VII bestowed the title Princess Royal on his eldest daughter, Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife. He also issued a Letters Patent extending the HH to her two daughters, Lady Alexandra and Lady Maud Duff. In 1912, HH Princess Alexandra succeeded her father as Duchess of Fife, and was styled as HH The Duchess of Fife. A year later, she married her mother's first cousin, HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught. Although Alexandra was a peeress in her own right, after her marriage, she became HRH Princess Arthur of Connaught.
Prince and Princess Arthur had one son, Alastair Arthur, who was styled as HH Prince Alastair of Connaught from his birth until 1917, when George V issued the new Letters Patent. This Letters Patent defined and limited the use of the HRH and the title Prince or Princess to the children of the sovereign, the grandchildren of the sovereign in the male line, and the eldest son of the eldest son of the Heir apparent. Prince Alistair lost his royal titles and became known as the Earl of Macduff, the secondary title for the Fife peerage, as he was heir apparent to his mother's dukedom.
(Alistair, who had many learning disabilities, among other issues, died in 1943, in Ottawa. The new heir to the Fife dukedom was Princess Arthur's sister, Princess Maud, who married in 1923, Lord Carnegie, heir apparent to the Earl of Southesk. He succeeded to the earldom in 1941.)
Maud never officially renounced her titles, although she preferred to be styled, first as Lady Carnegie, and the Countess of Southesk. At times, she was styled as Princess Maud, Countess of Southesk. She also served as a Counselor of State several times before her death in 1945. It was her son, James, Lord Carnegie, who succeeded Princess Arthur as 3rd Duke of Fife, in 1959. His son, Charles was styled as Earl of Macduff, until 1992, when his grandfather, the Earl of Southesk, died. The Duke of Fife, who was born in 1929, succeeded to his father's earldom, but as he was already a duke in his own right, a higher grade in the peerage, it was announced that his son would bear the title Earl of Southesk (but not as a peer of the realm), and his eldest son is now styled as Lord Carnegie. Lord Southesk is also the Earl of Macduff, but is no longer styled by this title.
[I expect a similar thing will happen with the Mountbatten and Brabourne titles. Lord Brabourne is also heir to the Mountbatten earldom. Following the precedence of Fife and Southesk titles, the Brabourne title will be used by the heir apparent, rather than Lord Romsey, which is the secondary title for the Mountbatten earldom.)
If the Fife heirs die out, although Lord Southesk has three sons, the dukedom will become extinct, although there are plenty of heirs to the Southesk earldom. The same can be said for the Mountbatten earldom, which is limited to the male line descendants of Lord Mountbatten's two daughters. There are other heirs to the Brabourne barony, which come after the sons and grandsons of the present Countess Mountbatten of Burma and the Lady Pamela Hicks.
The Hon. Hugh Carnegie, 20, is the last heir at this time to the Fife dukedom. Ashley Hicks is the last in line for the Mountbatten earldom, although several of his male first cousins have sons. A special remainder was extended to the Duke of Fife and the Earl Mountbatten to allow the titles to pass to their daughters and their male line descendants.
It was during the first World War, that King George V and Queen Mary decided that it would be acceptable for their children to marry members of British noble families.
On July 17, 1917, the king wrote in his diary: "I've also informed the [Privy] Council that May and I decided some time ago that our children would be allowed to marry into British families. It was quite a historic occasion."
The King's aunt, Princess Louise, married the Duke of Argyll, and his sister, Princess Louise, was the wife of the Duke of Fife. His first cousin, Princess Patricia of Connaught, a very shy and retiring woman, married the Hon. Alexander Ramsay of Mar. She chose to relinquish her royal titles and style of HRH, and was styled as The Lady Patricia Ramsay after her marriage. She did not cease to be a Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. She chose, with the King's permission, to be styled as Lady Patricia with the precedence before the Marchionesses of England. She did not carry out official engagements nor was she included in the Civil List.
After the wedding of the Duke of York to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in April 1923, Buckingham Palace released this statement:
"In accordance with the settled general rule that a wife takes the status of her husband Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon on her marriage has become Her Royal Highness the Duchess of York with the status of a Princess."
This meant that the three sisters-in-law, the Duchess of York, the Duchess of Gloucester, and the Duchess of Kent, were of equal rank, as British princesses by marriage.
The Duchess of Kent was a Greek and Danish princess by birth, but the foreign title gave her no special privileges as a member of the British royal family. If Prince George had not been given his ducal title before the wedding, Marina's British title would have been HRH The Princess George. NOT HRH The Princess Marina. Why? Princess Marina was the Greek title, not a British title. She had a Greek HRH, but in Britain, she was also HRH, derived from her husband's position.
Marina did look down on her two sisters-in-law, alleging referring to them as "those Scottish girls," Lady Elizabeth and Lady Alice came from noble families far older than Greece's monarchy.
In 1961, following the marriage of her elder son, the Duke of Kent, the Dowager Duchess of Kent announced in the Court Circular that she would be styled as HRH Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent. She didn't want to be called Dowager (who would), but she could not use the Princess Marina without the permission of the sovereign.
Queen Elizabeth II did not create her aunt as a British princess in her own right. She allowed Marina to be STYLED as HRH Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, rather than HRH The Dowager Duchess of Kent or HRH The Princess George, Duchess of Kent. This same courtesy was extended to the Duchess of Gloucester in 1974, following the death of her husband, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester. Alice was briefly styled as the Dowager Duchess of Gloucester in the Court Circular, but this changed after the Queen granted her request to be styled as HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. She was not created a Princess in her own right. All of this was confirmed in several letters to me from the Queen's private secretary in the mid-1990s.
Yes, the rules are stringent as Alexander II of Russia learned when he butted heads with Queen Victoria concerning the titles of his daughter, Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna. The battles began even before the wedding took place.
Queen Victoria wanted Grand Duchess Marie to come to England to meet her before the wedding. The Emperor refused her request, and Victoria, equally obstinate, would not travel to the Continent for a meeting.
Victoria wrote to Lord Granville: "The Russian Court & family are known to disregard the feelings of everyone but their own. They always are accustomed to have every thing their own way." In another letter, as tensions increased between the two families, as Victoria dismissed the request to meet Marie at Cologne as "simply impertinent but it is just what is to be expected from people who have Asiatic ideas of their Rank."
The marriage finally took place on January 23, 1874. Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, was the only of Victoria's nine children to marry outside of his country. The marriage to the Tsar's daughter took place in St. Petersburg, in two ceremonies, according to the rites of the Russian Orthodox and Anglican churches.
It was not long after the wedding that a question of Marie's precedence and title in the United Kingdom. As the daughter of the Emperor of all the Russias, Marie wanted precedence over the Princess of Wales, a mere Princess of Denmark by birth. Alexander II paid a state visit to Britain in May 1874, and, he agreed with Victoria on this issue. Alexandra was the wife of the heir to the throne. Marie was not entitled to precedence over the Princess of Wales. This battle lost, Marie then demanded precedence over her sisters-in-law, the daughters of Victoria. This battle was also lost, as was the battle on how Marie wished to be styled in the United Kingdom.
Although she was an Imperial Highness and her husband a royal highness, Marie (and her father) demanded that she be styled in Britain as Her Imperial Highness and Royal Highness the Duchess of Edinburgh.
Queen Victoria put her foot down, and said no. In Britain, royal highness would come first. Marie's style was Her Royal and Imperial Highness the Duchess of Edinburgh. This was how she was styled officially, including in the Court Circular. Although Alfred succeeded his paternal uncle, Ernst II, as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, he did not lose his British peerages. He and his family remained members of the British royal family.
His wife was styled in the United Kingdom as Duchess of Edinburgh until her death. She received an annual allowance from the Civil List after the death of her husband, due to her marriage treaty.
Unlike the Dowager Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz -- Princess Augusta of Cambridge -- the Duchess of Edinburgh did not lose her appanage after the start of the first world war, even though she had not lived in England since the early 1890s. For many years, Grand Duchess Augusta, who preferred London to Strelitz, maintained a residence, Mecklenburg House, in London. Unlike Grand Duchess Marie, who loathed the England and the English, Augusta, whose niece was Queen Mary, never forgot she was a British princess by birth.
In 1932, King George V "took the view" that the use of "foreign titles of nobility" by citizens should be discontinued. On April 27, 1932, the king "revoked the Royal Warrants" that had been allowed "the use of foreign dignitaries and titles" held by British citizens. Several exceptions were allowed for living persons and their heirs, such as the Duke of Wellington's Conde di Vimiera, a Portuguese title. The 6th Duke of Wellington, who died in 1943, was the last member of the family entitled to be recognized in the United Kingdom with Portuguese countly title.
Thus, a person with a foreign title who seeks and receives British nationality can no longer have their foreign titles acknowledged. According to the Home Office, "the Secretary of State thinks it is right to point out that if you become a British citizen, your foreign title will not receive official recognition in this country and that in accordance with the established practice it will be omitted from the certificate. I am to request that you will specifically acknowledge your acceptance of this position."
Princess Marina received a British passport after her marriage to the Duke of Kent. Her passport reflected her British status. In 1947, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark went through the naturalization process before his marriage to Princess Elizabeth. He renounced his Greek and Danish titles, and his place in the Greek succession, and adopted the surname Mountbatten. This naturalization was not necessary because Philip was born with British nationality as a descendant of the Electress Sophia of Hanover. This was due to the Sophia Naturalization Act (1705), which gave British nationality in perpetuity to Sophia's descendants. The act was superseded in 1949 by the passage of the British Nationality Act, but there are descendants of Sophia who are eligible for nationality under the SNA.
Prince Philip actually began the process of renouncing his Greek and Danish titles in 1941, three years after joining the Royal Navy. This was done in a private letter to King George II, then in exile, in December 1941. The king accepted the renouncement "reluctantly," due to Philip's desire to serve in the Royal Navy. There was never an action taken by the Greek government after George II returned, but the decision was accepted by the Greek king. It became moot by 1947, due to the Nationalization process, when Philip was required to renounce his foreign titles. George VI created Philip as HRH Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, & Baron Greenwich on the day of his marriage to Princess Elizabeth. Although the media and others continued to refer to Philip as Prince Philip, he had lost his princely title at the time of the naturalization (or in 1941, when he wrote to King George II.) He became a Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1957.
The information about the action in 1941 was confirmed to me by the Duke of Edinburgh's office, again, in the mid-1990s.
Philip's cousin, Princess Katherine of Greece and Denmark, married a Briton, Richard Brandram, in 1947, as well. When she came to live in the United Kingdom, she was styled as The Lady Katherine Brandram, with the status of a duke's daughter. She acquired British nationality, and, was required to renounce her Greek and Danish titles.
There is an exception to this: in 1964, King Gustav VI asked the British Foreign Office to allow his granddaughter, Princess Margaretha, who recently married a Briton, John Ambler, to be allowed to use her title in the United Kingdom. Permission was granted, and the Princess was listed in the Court Circular as Princess Margaretha, Mrs. Ambler.
(This article states that the Prince of Hanover was the first to use the law to prove he was a British national. It was Prince Friedrich Georg, a son of Crown Prince Wilhelm, who was acknowledged as a British national in the late 1940s. His daughter, Antonia, is married to the Marquess of Douro, heir apparent to the Duke of Wellington.)
In Britain today, the Princesses of the Blood Royal are: Anne (styled as HRH The Princess Royal), HRH Princess Beatrice of York, HRH Princess Eugenie of York, Princess Alexandra, the Hon Lady Ogilvy, and HRH Princess Louise of Wessex, who is STYLED as the Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor.
Princesses by marriage:
* Camilla: the wife of the heir apparent, Prince Charles, whose primary title is the Prince of Wales. He is also the Duke of Cornwall, Earl of Chester, Duke of Rothesay (in Scotland) and a few other titles. Camilla is STYLED as HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. She is also the Princess of Wales, the Duchess of Rothesay (in Scotland), and a few other titles, too, as well as Princess Charles.
* Catherine: The wife of the Duke of Cambridge achieved the rank of Princess when she married Prince William, the second in line to the throne. William was created Duke of Cambridge on his wedding day, which means he is OFFICIALLY STYLED as HRH The Duke of Cambridge. His wife is OFFICIALLY STYLED as HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.
* Sophie: the wife of Prince Edward, the Queen's youngest son. He was created Earl of Wessex on his wedding day, but he didn't stop being a prince. Sophie is styled HRH The Countess of Wessex
* Brigitte: The Danish-born Brigitte van Deurs is the wife of Prince Richard, who is styled HRH The Duke of Gloucester. Until the death of the late Duke of Gloucester, Brigitte was styled as HRH Princess Richard of Gloucester, and had expected to remain as Princess Richard as her husband was the younger son. Prince Richard became the heir apparent after his older brother, Prince William was killed in a plane crash in August 1972.
* Katharine; The daughter of a Yorkshire baronet, Katharine Worsley became a British princess in 1961, when she married Prince Edward, styled as HRH The Duke of Kent. She is now HRH The Duchess of Kent, although she eschews the use of the title for non-royal events, such as when she taught music to underprivileged children.
* Marie Christine. The Czech-born Baroness von Reinbitz (although Karlovy Vary was Carlsbad, Germany at the time of her birth) is married to HRH Prince Michael of Kent. Although he is in remainder to the Dukedom of Kent, Michael has no other title, which means that his wife is styled as HRH Princess Michael of Kent.
In closing: in Britain, if you are married to a prince, you are a princess, even if your Prince Charming has another title, such a duke or earl. This has been clarified by different Letters Patent, common law, and that statement from Buckingham Palace in 1923.
The late Diana, Princess of Wales, and Sarah, Duchess of York, were also princesses of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, before their divorces.
OMG! This post has been linked on New York Magazine's website.