There are some funny comments (and misinformation) on a royal message board, where one of the current topics is HRH The Princess of Hanover (Princess Caroline of Monaco.)
No, the HRH is not British. It is by pretense due to Caroline's marriage to HRH Prince Ernst August of Hanover, de jure King of Hannover. The Monegasque court styles the Princess as HRH The Princess of Hannover, as a matter of courtesy. Neither Prince Rainier III nor Prince Albert II created the HRH for Caroline. The Sovereign Prince of Monaco, a princely state, cannot give a higher rank than his own. The Prince of Monaco and male-line descendants are His or Her Serene Highness, which is lower in precedence than the HH.
In the early part of the 19th century, the HRH was largely confined to the children of the sovereign, and, perhaps, the grandchildren of the sovereign in the male line. Further generations were HH (His/Her Highness).
In 1864, Queen Victoria extended the HRH to the grandchildren of the sovereign in the male line. This was further defined in May 1898, when the Queen issued a new Letters Patent, extending the HRH to the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. The first three children of the Duke and Duchess of York had the rank of HH before this change. The HH remained for other male-line descendants of the Sovereign, i.e., the children of the Duke of Albany (the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) and Prince Arthur of Connaught.
But all of this changed in 1917 when George V issued a new letters patent regarding titles and styles for members of the Royal Family. The HRH was limited 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 Prince of Wales. This also applied to the title Prince or Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Nearly three-year-old HH Prince Alistair of Connaught, son of HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught (a grandson of Queen Victoria) lost his HH and the title Prince. He went from being a prince to Alistair Windsor (bearing the courtesy title Earl of Macduff, as his mother was the Duchess of Fife in her own right. In 1942, he succeeded his grandfather, HRH The Duke of Connaught) as the second Duke of Connaught. He was styled as His Grace, and not HRH.
|Engagement of Prince Ernst August and Princess Ortrud with the duke and duchess of Brunswick (all images: Marlene A Eilers Koenig collection)|
When William IV died in June 1837, his niece, Victoria, succeeded to the British throne, but because the Hanover succession was based on Salic law, the next in line, Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, became King Ernst August of Hannover. The Hannover royal family retained their British titles as well. After King Georg V (Ernst August's son) lost his throne in 1866, he and his family continued to use their German titles but following his death, his son, Ernst August, the new head of the family, was styled as Duke of Cumberland (his wife was Princess Thyra of Denmark, younger sister of the Princess of Wales.)
If you look at the Court Circular for this time period, you will notice that Georg V's daughter, Princess Frederica, was styled as HRH Princess Frederica of Hanover, but the children of the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland were styled as Princes and Princesses of Cumberland (in Britain) but on the Continent, they were known as "of Hanover."
In Britain, the children of the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland were HH as Princes and Princesses of Great Britain but were largely styled as HRH because they were also Princes and Princesses of Hanover, and the HRH was a higher rank. Their British titles were used when they applied for permission to marry as required according to the Royal Marriages Act.
In May 1913, Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia, only daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II, married HRH Prince Ernst August of Hanover, although he was mentioned in the Court Circular as HH Prince Ernest Augustus of Cumberland. Because he was a Prince of Blood Royal, a representative from the Home Office was present in Berlin, when Princess Viktoria Luise gave birth to the couple's first son, HRH Prince Ernst August, but HH Prince Ernest Augustus of Cumberland.
The 1917 Letters Patent meant that members of the Hanover royal family were no longer Princes and Princesses of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Titles Deprivation Act stripped the elderly Duke of Cumberland of his British peerages because he was on the enemy side during the first World War. (According to the Act, the loss of the title was not in perpetuity. The present head of the house could petition Parliament for restoration, but in the mid-1990s, Prince Ernst August stated publicly that he would not do this.)
So why does the family continue to use the title Prince or Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland? Very simple. Tradition. Family history. In 1931, the head of the house, Prince Ernst August, then head of the house, declared that he and his male-line descendants would continue to style themselves as such because they were the only male-line descendants of George III (not in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act.) The present Prince Ernst August of Hannover (1954) is the senior male-line descendant of George III.
This declaration was made by a German citizen, whose German titles had become a part of his legal surname. It can be said that British sovereigns have tended to look the other way in regards to the use of the older British title. There is no legal basis for the inclusion of the British titles.
It is apparent that the British sovereign treats the 1931 decision as a courtesy. In 1951, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth sent a congratulatory telegram to Prince Ernst August of Hanover and Princess Ortrud of Schleswig-Holstein, addressing them by their British titles. Queen Mary is the godmother of their eldest child, Princess Marie.
Most members of the Hanover royal family have asked for permission to marry, using the Royal Marriages Act although the Orders in Council usually do not include the British titles.
This is how it appeared in the Order in Council for the present Prince Ernst August's request. Notice the HRH, but no British titles. The British sovereign recognized Ernst August as an HRH and a Prince of Hanover, as a matter of courtesy.
"My Lords, I do hereby declare My Consent to a Contract of Matrimony between His Royal Highness Prince Ernst August Albert of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Her Serene Highness Princess Caroline Louise Marguerite of Monaco." When the new succession law becomes official (a few small hurdles left in Australia), members of the Hannover royal family will not need to seek permission from the British sovereign to marry.
Prince Ernst August's first marriage (to Chantal Hochuli) was dissolved in the United Kingdom. The divorce decree refers to Ernst August by his legal surname Prinz von Hannover, Herzog von Brunswick-Lüneburg, Prinz von Grossbritannien und Irland. No HRH.
Thus, the use of HRH is courtesy. In Germany, royal titles and styles are used socially, informally, but are not found on passports, birth certificates or other legal documents. It is not legal because Germany is a republic. Since 1919, titles are a part of one's surname.
This same courtesy is extended to other former sovereigns and their families. The Monegasque court recognizes Ernst August as a Prince and HRH. Thus, his estranged wife is accorded the HRH by virtue of her marriage and recognized by other royal houses. It may even be on her Monegasque passport.
Caroline's younger daughter, Alexandra's HRH and title, is also recognized in Monaco.