I am sure everyone knows that the Duchess of Sussex is expecting a baby in the spring. The new little sprog will be 7th in line to the throne, pushing Great Uncle Andrew down one notch.
There have been discussions on both sides of the Pond about how the couple's children will be styled. Will the child be royal or will he or she be styled as a child of duke. It is a conundrum that will be be answered before the Duchess gives birth.
The style of Royal Highness and the title of Prince or Princess of the United Kingdom are not governed by legislation, unlike Succession laws. It is the purview of the Sovereign who is the fountain of all honors. The Sovereign does not decide on the day of birth to grant royal status. Elizabeth II did not give royal titles to the Duke and Duchess of York's daughters. The reason why they are Princesses is due to the Letters Patents of Queen Victoria (1864) and King George V (1917.)
Victoria clarified who was a royal highness and who was a highness (a lower style).
|The full Letters Patent|
|How it was published in the London Gazette|
Victoria's Letters Patent gave children of the sovereign and grandchildren in the MALE of the sovereign the rank of Royal Highness. Great grandchildren (and further on) were given the rank of Highness.
The title of Prince of Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland would continue in the male line with no end. Only the children of the sovereign and the grandchildren in the male line of the sovereign were entitled to the HRH.
Fast forward to 1898. Queen Victoria has three great-grandchildren in the male, the children of the Duke and Duchess of York, who, from birth, were styled HH Prince Edward of York, HH Prince Albert of York and HH Princess Mary of York.
With the stroke of Victoria's pen, Edward, known as David, Albert, known as Bertie, and Mary, became royal highnesses. David succeeded to the throne in January 1936 as King Edward VIII. Eleven months later, he abdicated "for the woman he loved" in favor of his brother, Albert, the Duke of York, who became King George VI/
The only other male line grandsons to have issue were HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught, only son and second of three children of HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and HRH Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Albany, who succeeded his paternal uncle, HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in August 1900. His children were HH Prince or Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duke or Duchess of Saxony and HH Prince or Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Prince Arthur and his wife, HH Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife, were married in 1913. Their only son was born a year later. For the first three years of his life, Alastair was styled as HH Prince Alastair Arthur of Connaught. The little prince was heir to the Connaught and Strathearn and Fife dukedoms.
Alexandra and her younger sister, Maud, were the children of HRH Princess Louise, eldest daughter of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. On the same day in November 1905 that Edward VII created Louise as Princess Royal, he gave the rank of Highness and the title of Princess to Louise's children. She was married to the Duke of Fife. The two girls were styled from birth as Lady Alexandra and Lady Maud Duff. Following her marriage to her mother's first cousin, HH The Duchess of Fife was styled as HRH Princess Arthur of Connaught.
The King's decision to bestow royal status on his two granddaughters was not supported by his son, George, the Prince of Wales, the future George V. He did not think that his sister's daughters should have royal status. HRH Princess Arthur of Connaught was a respected and hard working member of the Royal Family, championing a number of charities. She became a registered nurse and ran her own nursing home. Her younger sister, Princess Maud, sought a more private life and did not carry out official duties. George V's 1917 Letters Patent did not affect her directly as the warrant did not rescind Edward VII's decision to give his granddaughters the rank of Highness and title of Princess.
Maud remained styled as HH Princess Maud until November 12, 1923, when she married Charles Alexander Bannerman Carnegie, styled as Lord Carnegie, heir apparent to the Earl of Southesk. King George V discreetly informed his niece that he wished for her to relinquish her royal title and style. She agreed. She was styled as the Lady Maud Carnegie until 1941, when her husband succeeded to the earldom. From that date, she was The Countess of Southesk.
Lady Southesk was 13th in line to the throne when she died on December 14, 1945. Because of her closeness to the throne, she served as a Councillor of State form 1941 until 1945.
This brings us to November 30, 1917 when George V issued a Letters Patent that further defined those who are entitled to the HRH and the title of Prince or Princess.
This Letters Patent superseded the two Letters Patent issued by Victoria in 1864 and 1898, respectively, and is still in effect.
The HRH and title Prince or Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (now Northern Ireland) is limited to the following categories of people.
Children of the sovereign.
Grandchildren of the sovereign in the MALE line.
The eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, but not any other grandchildren in the male line, including the other children of the eldest son of the eldest son. Weird. Victoria's 1898 Letters Patent covered all of the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales.
Great-grandchildren in the male line would be styled as younger sons of a duke and daughters of a duke with the exception of the eldest sons of the male grandsons who also had peerages.
So let's look at the present Royal Family to understand how the 1917 Letters Patent works.
Queen Elizabeth II and her sister, Margaret - grandchildren of the sovereign in the male line. HRH and Princesses from birth.
The Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal, the Duke of York & Earl of Wessex - children of the sovereign in the male line. HRH and Princes and Princess from birth although the 1917 Letters Patent did not apply to Charles and Anne, who would not have been royal at birth if not for George VI issuing another Letters Patent before Elizabeth gave birth to Charles. More on this later in this post.
The Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Sussex, Princess Beatrice of York, Princess Eugenie, Lady Louise Mountbatten Windsor and Viscount Severn.
Grandchildren in the male line of the Sovereign. HRH and Prince or Princess.
An announcement was made on the day of Prince Edward's wedding to Sophie Rhys-Jones (June 19, 1999) that he would be created Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn. The announcement also included information about the titles and style of future children. No Letters Patent was issued to change the style, however. Lady Louise and Lord Severn are technically HRH and Princess and Prince. This was acknowledged by the HRH The Countess of Wessex in an interview several years ago.
The decision to use the style of children of earl was made largely due -- in my view -- to scandals (three divorces, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales) in the 1990s. The Way Ahead group, which included the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, other members of the Royal family, courtiers and others, made a number of decision that affected the royals, then and now.
One decision was to recommend that Edward's children not be styled with the royal titles. The Way Ahead group also decided that the Duke of York's two daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie would not become working royals. There were reports in the late 1990s that the two princesses would lose their royal titles and be styled as Lady Beatrice and Lady Eugenie Mountbatten-Windsor, but this recommendation was tabled.
This decision has been a source of contention for the Duke of York, but it must stated that he has known since the late 1990s that his daughters would need to have their careers. It is understandable that the Duke, who loves his daughters, would want them to be working royals. It is a decision that is supported by the Queen. If she wanted the princesses to be full time member of the firm, she would make that view known.
It is my opinion that if the Duke and Duchess of York had not divorced and got involved in numerous shady or sketchy projects, they would be among the senior royals and their daughters, princesses of the blood royal, would be full time members of The Firm. If you take a look at the British Monarchy's official website, you will discover that Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie are the only adult members of the Royal Family who do not have their own profiles. Their patronages and charities are not included in the Royal Family's charities database nor do they appear in the Court Circular when they carry out their engagements, with the exception of when they are asked to do an official engagement or they attend state and official events.
The Duke of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent, Princess Alexandra, the Hon. Lady Ogilvy and Prince Michael of Kent . Grandchildren in the male line of the sovereign. They are HRH and Princes and Princess.
Alastair's maternal first cousin, James, Lord Carnegie, the only child of the Countess of Southesk, succeeded to the Fife dukedom in 1956, following the death of Princess Arthur of Connaught.
The children of the the present Dukes of Gloucester and Kent and Prince Michael of Kent are great-grandchildren in the male line. The children of Prince Michael of Kent, who does not have a peerage, are styled as Lord Frederick Windsor and Lady Gabriella Windsor -- younger son of a duke and daughter of duke, as stated in the 1917 Letters Patent.
The Duke of Gloucester's only son, Alexander, is the Earl of Ulster, and his two daughters are Lady Rose and Lady Davina.
Lord Ulster is married and has two children, Xan, who bears the courtesy title, Lord Culloden, and Lady Cosima.
Lord Ulster is the heir apparent to the Duke of Gloucester. When he succeeds, he will be styled as Your Grace. The Gloucester and Kent dukedoms will cease to be royal dukedoms.
The Duke of Kent has two sons. George, the Earl of St. Andrews, and Lord Nicholas Windsor and one daughter, Lady Helen. Lord St. Andrews, heir apparent to the Kent dukedom, has one son, Edward, styled as Lord Downpatrick, and two daughters, Lady Marina-Charlotte and Lady Amelia Windsor.
The children of Lord Frederick and Lord Nicholas have no title: Miss Maud and Miss Isabella Windsor (Frederick) and Master Albert, Master Leopold and Master Louis Windsor (Nicholas.)
The succession (male line) for both dukedoms is secure, especially the Kent dukedom, which has eight males in the line of the succession.
George V created the Gloucester and Kent dukedoms for his third and fourth sons, Princes Henry and George, in 1928 and 1934, respectively.
The Duke of York's peerages will revert to the Crown upon his death as the titles for his male descendants. His daughters or their children cannot inherit the dukedom.
The Earl of Wessex's son, James, is the heir to the Wessex earldom. After the death of the Duke of Edinburgh and Charles is king, Edward will be created Duke of Edinburgh. He is in line for his father's dukedom, but if Philip dies before the Queen, Charles succeeds to his father's peerages. This is made clear in George VI's Letters Patent. Philip was created His Royal Highness on November 19, 1947. The morning of the wedding to Princess Elizabeth on November 20, George VI issued another Letters Patent, creating him as Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, with the succession of peerages reserved for his male heirs.
I expect that Edward will receive the title Duke of Edinburgh without secondary titles and the earldom of Wessex will be used as the courtesy title for the heir and Viscount Severn for the heir's heir.
Princesses cannot pass their titles to their children, even if the Princess is the heir to the throne.
Less than a month before, HRH Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, gave birth to Charles, her father, King George VI issued a Letter Patent that gave the HRH and title Prince or Princess to her children.
If this Letters Patent had not been issued, Charles and Anne would not have had royal status until Elizabeth succeeded to the throne. They would have taken their rank from their father. The two children would have been styled as the Earl of Merioneth and Lady Anne Mountbatten.
There have been seven blood princesses since George V. He had one daughter, Mary, who married Viscount Lascelles, in 1922. Lord Lascelles succeeded as the 6th Earl of Harewood in 1929. Two year later, King George V named Mary as the Princess Royal. The 8th Earl of Harewood is their grandson.
The Duke of York, the second son of George V, married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon a year after Princess Mary's wedding. Lady Elizabeth had been one of Mary's bridesmaids. They were the parents of two daughters, Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret, who in 1960, married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones. He originally turned down an peerage. It was not until October 6, 1961 that Armstrong-Jones was created Earl of Snowdon and Viscount Linley of Nymans. These announcement came less than a month before Margaret gave birth to their first son, David, now the 2nd Earl of Snowdon. Princess Margaret chose not to be styled by her husband's name after the wedding. She remained HRH The Princess Margaret, until after the peerage was granted. A few days later came the announcement that Margaret would now be styled as HRH Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon.
Margaret's children would have the style and status of children of an earl.
In April 1963, Princess Alexandra of Kent married the Hon, Angus Ogilvy, younger son of the Earl of Airlie. The Queen did offer an earldom to Angus, but he declined. In an interview years later, he said he regretted the decision because it set a terrible precedent for Anne and Mark Phillips. Angus believed that the Princess Anne's children -- the Queen's grandchildren -- should have titles.
Anne married fellow equestrian Mark Phillips in November 1973. The Princess and Mr. Phillips were interviewed on British TV before their wedding and Mark said that he had not been offered a peerage. Other sources say that he and Anne turned down an earldom but this has never been confirmed. Anne's children would never have been royal as she could not pass her rank or title to her children.
Thus, the children of Princess Alexandra and Princess Anne take their rank from their fathers, who are not titled. It will be the same for Princess Eugenie's children. They will be Master or Miss Christian name Brooksbank.
This brings us back to the status of the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, who would be HRH and Prince, but his siblings would be styled as younger sons and daughters of a duke. What was George V and his advisers thinking when this clause was considered. His grandmother, Victoria, upgraded his children to the rank of royal highness in 1898. David was the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (George's father). He and his siblings and royal rank, but were highnesses rather than royal highnesses.
Did King George V not consider the future where the possibility of three direct heir and the sovereign be alive at the same time. Apparently not. Queen Victoria's longevity was perhaps, seen as an anomaly in royal life. King Edward VII, King George V and King George VI did not live long enough to see their grandchildren marry and have issue.
George VI's daughter, Elizabeth II, has seen now seen five of her grandchildren marry. She has seven great-grandchildren, three in the male line. The eighth great-grandchild, also in male line, will be born next spring.
Fast forward to 2013. The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting her first child. A boy would be the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. The new gender equal succession law had recently been approved. What if the Cambridges' first child had been a girl. She would have been styled as the Lady Charlotte Mountbatten-Windsor and if George had been born second -- he would have been HRH Prince George of Cambridge. The youngest child would be known as Lord Louis Mountbatten-Windsor.
This would been awkward. A future queen who does not have royal style but brother does.
Queen Elizabeth II solved that problem by issuing a new Letters Patent that extended the HRH and royal title to all of the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales.
The 1917 Letters Patent makes it clear that Harry's children -- great-grandchildren in the male line -- will be styled, at least for the immediate future, as the children of a duke. The eldest son will be the Earl of Dumbarton, daughters will be styled as Lady Christian name Mountbatten-Windsor and younger sons will be Lord Christian name Mountbatten-Windsor.
I do not think George V considered this scenario - the Prince of Wales having more than one grandson in the male line. When Victoria died in January 1901, she had three great-grandsons in the male line: Princes Edward, Albert and Henry of York, the three eldest sons of the Duke of York.
When Charles succeeds to the throne, his grandchildren will become royal, unless it is made clear before he succeeds that Harry's children will remain styled as children of a duke.
As I have said many times, I don't make predictions anymore because my crystal ball is broken and the manufacturer can no longer get the parts to fix it.
I do think that Charles will want his grandchildren - Cambridge and Sussex - to be equal. Moreover, in 25-30 years, the Royal Family will be a lot smaller, through death and attrition. None of the current working royals apart from Charles, have successors to take on royal duties. The Duke of Kent is 83. Princess Alexandra will celebrate her 82nd birthday on Christmas Day. Prince Michael of Kent is 76. The Duke of Gloucester is 74. The Princess Royal turned 68 last August. The Duke of York will be 59 next February, and his younger, the Earl of Wessex is 54 years old. None of them will be alive when William is King.
The Prince of Wales is approaching his 70th birthday on November 14.
The Royal Family will have been whittled down to William and Harry and their families. Harry's grandchildren will not be royal and the 3rd Duke of Sussex (if Harry has a son who has son) will be His Grace. The Sussex dukedom is for Harry's male line descendants only.
Several writers have pointed out that Harry's children will be in the same position as the York princesses. Yes, in terms of being the children of the second son of the king. But the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are not royal pariahs and are unlikely to get involved in less than wholesome dealings as have both the Duke of York and Sarah, Duchess of York.
The Duke of Sussex does not share his Uncle's fondness for self-indulgence. He understands what his current role is within the royal family, and he is certainly away that he will be the son of king, and, in the fullness of time, the brother -- the only sibling of the king.
I will not be surprised if the Queen issues another Letters Patent, perhaps toward the end of this year, that extends the royal rank to Harry's children.
Other Royal Musing posts that may be of interest to you: