The Letters Patent was published in the London Gazette on December 14, 1917.
"Whitehall, 11th December, 1917.
The KING has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, bearing date the 30th ultimo, to define the styles and titles to be borne henceforth by members of the Royal Family. It is declared by the Letters Patent that the children of any Sovereign of the United Kingdom and the children of the sons of any such Sovereign and the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales shall have and at all times hold and enjoy the style, title or attribute of Royal Highness with their titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their respective Christian names or with their other titles of honour; that save as aforesaid the 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; and that the grandchildren of the sons of any such Sovereign in the direct male line (save only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) shall have the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes."
This Letters Patent limited the title Prince or Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (now Northern Ireland) 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 (the heir apparent).
This meant that great-grandchildren in the male line would no longer be titled as Prince or Princess with the rank of Highness, which had been the case. In fact, no previous Letters Patent had limited royal titles in the male line although, only the children of the Sovereign, the grandchildren in the male line and the children of the eldest son the Prince of Wales were entitled to Royal Highness. Other great-grandchildren in the male line (and further down, as was the case of the descendants in the male line of King Ernst August of Hanover, Duke of Cumberland, the 5th son of King George III, had the style of Highness and title of Prince or Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
In February 1864, Queen Victoria issued a Letters Patent that gave the HRH to the children of the Sons of the Sovereign. This meant that the children of the Prince of Wales and the Dukes of Edinburgh, Connaught and Albany would have the style of royal highness.
"Whitehall, Feb. 3.
The Queen has been pleased by letters patent under the Great Seal, to declare her Royal will and pleasure that, besides the children of the Sovereigns of these realms, the children of the sons of any Sovereign of Great Britain and Ireland shall have, and at all times hold and enjoy, the style, title or attribute of Royal Highness with their titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their respective christian names, or with their other titles of honour; and further to declare her will and pleasure that the Earl Marshal of England, or his Deputy for the time being, do cause the said letters patent to be recorded in Her Majesty's College of Arms to the end that the officers of arms, and all others, may take due notice thereof."
None of Victoria's immediate predecessors lived long enough to witness the birth of a great-grandchild in the male line. Victoria's first great-grandchild, Princess Feodora of Saxe-Meiningen, was born shortly before her 60th birth in May 1879, was in the female line. Feo was the only child of Princess Charlotte of Prussia, the second child of Princess Victoria, Princess Royal and Friedrich III of Germany. Victoria was the eldest of Queen Victoria's nine children.
The first male line great-grandchild was born on June 23, 1894, and was named Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David. The infant prince, the eldest child (and son) of Prince George, Duke of York, son of the Prince of Wales, and Princess Mary of Teck. The infant prince was styled as HH Prince Edward of York. He was third in line to the throne.
The Duchess of York would give to two more children (Albert (December 14, 1895) and Mary (April 25, 1897) who were styled as Highness, until May 31, 1898, when Victoria issued a new Letters Patent.
"Crown Office, May 31, 1898
The Queen has been pleased by letters patent under the Great Seal, to declare that the children of the eldest son of any Prince of Wales shall have, and at all times hold and enjoy, the style, title, and attribute of "Royal Highness"."
This new Letters Patent established that the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales would also be entitled to the HRH. Other great-grandchildren would remain styled as Highness, until 1917, when George V issued his Letters Patent.
|The caption is not correct. Alistair was not HRH, but HH.|
There would be instantaneous changes with the new Letters Patent. His Highness Prince Alistair Arthur of Connaught, the only child of TRH Prince and Princess Arthur of Connaught, who was a great-grandson in the male line, ceased to be a prince. His mother, Princess Alexandra (elder daughter of Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife, Princess Royal) was a peeress in her own right, having inherited her father's peerage, the dukedom of Fife by special remainder following his death in 1912. Three-year-old Alistair would now be styled as the Earl of Macduff, the secondary title for the Fife dukedom, as he was the heir apparent. He was also second in line for his maternal grandfather, the Duke of Connaught's peerages.
Ernst August, the Duke of Cumberland, was the son of Georg, the last King of Hanover, was a great-grandson of the Sovereign, which meant that he and his male-line descendants were no longer entitled to the title Prince or Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. This was also the case for Carl Eduard's children.
Less than a month before Britain entered World War I, King George V issued a Letters Patent for the children of the Duke and Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg. I find this Letters Patent to be moot because the children were already princes and princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland due to their male line descent from George III. The Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg was a first cousin of King George V as their mothers were sisters.
The Duchess of Brunswick (Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia) gave birth to a son, Prince Ernst August in March 1914.
Whitehall, July 15, 1914.
The King has been pleased to declare and ordain that the children born to their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Brunswick and Lüneburg shall at all times hold and enjoy the style and attribute of 'Highness' with their titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their respective Christian names, or with any titles of honour which may belong to them; and that the designation of the said children shall be a Prince (or Princess) of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. And to command that the said Royal concession and declaration be registered in His Majesty's College of Arms."
The Titles Deprivation Act applied solely to the peers, not the royal titles, which were governed by Letters Patent.
As the Brunswick children - Ernst August, Georg Wilhelm, Friederike, Christian, and Welf Heinrich - were not children of the Sovereign or grandchildren of the Sovereign in the male line, they also lost their British HH and their royal titles. Some may disagree with this, but the precedence is HH Prince Alistair of Connaught, who was demoted to Earl of Macduff with the surname Windsor, following the 1917 Letters Patent.
[In the 1930s, Ernst August's son, Prince Ernst August of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, who was married to Kaiser Wilhelm II's only daughter, Princess Viktoria Luise, issued a non-binding decree that his male line descendants would continue to be styled as Prince or Princess of Great Britain and Ireland because of their direct male line descent from George III. It should be noted that King George V nor his successors, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II, have ever challenged that decree. When Ernst August's son, Ernst August was married in 1951 to Princess Ortrud of Schleswig-Holstein, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth sent a congratulatory telegram to the couple, addressing them with their British titles.]
Prince Ernst August, the one married to Viktoria Luise, abdicated as Duke of Brunswick in November 1918.
Carl Eduard's male-line descendants dropped the use of the British titles after 1917.
The 1917 Letters Patent has an obvious loophole. It seems to me that George V did not consider the possibility that there would be a repeat of three heirs in the line of succession as was the case in 1894 with the birth of his son, Edward. He was the father of three sons and one daughter when he became the heir apparent on January 22, 1901, when Queen Victoria died and was succeeded by her eldest son, Albert Edward, who reigned as Edward VII.
Now let's look at this with a different scenario. What if the Duke of Clarence and Avondale (the Prince of Wales' eldest son) had not died in January 1892. His marriage to Princess Mary of Teck would have taken place with great fanfare. Their eldest son would have been third in line. There is also no doubt that Queen Victoria would have issued a similar Letters Patent, extending the RH to the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, as she did in 1898.
The Duke of York would have married another princess, but their children would have remained styled as Highness until Edward VII succeed to the throne, when they would gain the style of royal highness as grandchildren in the male line of the sovereign.
This is pure speculation on my part as Queen Victoria, knowing that George's children would also be grandchildren of King, could have issued another Letters Patent that extended the RH to all of the male line grandchildren of the Prince of Wales.
The changes made in the Letters Patent are reflected today with how members of the Royal family and their descendants are styled.
The present Dukes of Gloucester and Kent are grandsons of a sovereign (George V). They are royal. Their children are not. Their eldest sons are styled as the Earls of Ulster and St. Andrews. Their daughters are styled as daughters of a duke: Lady Davina, Lady Rose, and Lady Helen Windsor. The Duke of Kent's younger son is styled as the younger son of a Duke: Lord Nicholas Windsor.
These two royal dukedoms will cease to be royal when the peerages pass to their heirs apparent. The new dukes will be addressed as Your Grace.
The children of the Duke of Kent's younger brother, Prince Michael, who is not a peer, are styled as a younger son of a duke and a daughter of a duke: Lord Frederick and Lady Gabriella Windsor.
This brings us back to the 1917 Letters Patent. George V's children were born with the princely title so why limit the royal style for the children of the next eldest son of the Prince of Wales.
Perhaps for George V, Victoria's long reign was an anomaly, which would not to be repeated any time soon so he saw no reason to include royal status for all of the children of the sons of the Prince of Wales. He may have assumed that the Prince of Wales would have succeeded to the throne before he had grandchildren. Yet, there is the example of his own children -- the first three -- and how their status was changed by Queen Victoria, their great-grandmother.
King Edward VII reigned for only nine years. He was sixty-eight when he died on May 6, 1910. His eldest male line grandson, Prince Edward of Wales, was a month short of his 16th birthday at the time of King Edward's death. King George V lived to celebrate his Silver Jubilee in May 1935. He died on January 20, 1936, at the age of 70, and was succeeded by his eldest son, David, who reigned as Edward VIII until December 11, 1936, when he abdicated and was succeeded by his brother, Bertie (George VI).
The eldest male line grandchildren at the time of King George V's death was Princess Elizabeth of York, the nine-year-old daughter of the Duke of York. She was third in line to the throne at the time of "Grandpa England's death."
The 1917 Letters Patent did not provide for the possibility of a female heir in the male line so in 1948, not long before Princess Elizabeth gave birth to Prince Charles, George VI issued a Letters Patent that gave royal status to her children.
Whitehall, November 9, 1948.
The KING has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the Realm bearing date the 22nd ultimo to define and fix the style and title by which the children of the marriage solemnized between Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, shall be designated. It is declared by the Letters Patent that the children of the aforesaid marriage shall have and at all times hold and enjoy the style title or attribute of Royal Highness and the titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their respective Christian names in addition to any other appellations and titles of honour which may belong to them hereafter.
Without this Letters Patent, Charles and Anne would have been styled as the Earl of Merioneth and the Lady Anne Mountbatten, taking their titles and rank from their father, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, until Elizabeth succeeded to the throne.
The 1917 Letters Patent has not been superseded with the exception of one clause, which I will refer to shortly.
Queen Elizabeth II has three sons so the grandchildren in the male line are princes and princesses with the rank of royal highness. Yes, the children of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, are STYLED as Lady Louise Windsor and Viscount Severn, but they are technically royal as the Queen never issued a Letters Patent that changed how male-line grandchildren are styled.
On April 29, 2011, Prince William of Wales, eldest son of the Prince of Wales, became the first male grandson of the living Sovereign to marry since July 6, 1893, when Prince George, Duke of York (George V) married Princess Mary of Teck. Fast forward to December 33, 2012, when Kensington Palace announces that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first child in the summer of 2013.
Royal advisers blow the dust of the 1917 Letters Patent and read the bit about the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales having royal status, but ducal status for siblings. What if the Duchess gives birth to a daughter? The new Succession to the Crown Act, which would establish the succession of the first born, regardless of sex, was moving closer to final passage and a Royal Assent (which came in April 2013.)
A daughter, even first in line, would be styled as the Lady Christian name Mountbatten-Windsor. A son, born second, would be HRH Prince Christian name of Cambridge.
"The Queen has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the Realm dated 31 December 2012 to declare that all the children of the eldest son of The Prince of Wales should have and enjoy the style, title and attribute of Royal Highness with the titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their Christian names or with such other titles of honour."
Please notice the subtle difference in the wording with the 2012 and 1898 Letters Patents. The newer one refers to the Prince of Wales, which Victoria's states any Prince of Wales.
But what about the status of the male line grandchildren of younger sons of the Prince of Wales? Bertie had only one surviving son, George, when he succeeded to the throne. George's kids were styled as royal highness thanks to great-granny's 1898 Letters Patent.
The present Prince of Wales has two sons, two male-line grandchildren of the Queen. The 2012 Letters Patent only refers to the eldest son's children and not the children of younger sons of the Prince of Wales. Was this Letters Patent a not-so-subtle statement that the children of younger sons of the Prince of Wales would not be royal even if they were born when their grandmother, the Queen was still alive?
The downsizing of the Royal Family has been a topic of discussion since the late 1990s with the now-defunct Way Ahead group, which included seniors of the Royal Family and advisers. I expect it was decided a long time ago that the RH and the title of Prince or Princess will be further limited when Charles succeeds to the throne.
I believe he will issue a new Letters Patent that will limit the royal titles to the children of the sovereign, the children of the eldest child of the Sovereign, and the children of the eldest child of the eldest child of the Sovereign. (I used the eldest child rather than Prince or Princess of Wales) as it has not been determined on how a female heir apparent will be styled.)
The announcement on the morning of Prince Edward's wedding in June 1999 that stated his new titles and the style and titles of any possible children was necessary because of the 1917 Letters Patent. Louise and James are grandchildren in the male line, and thus, would have been styled as HRH and Princess and Prince if not for the official announcement that they would be styled as children of an earl.
(Several years ago, in an interview, their mother, Sophie, told a reporter that she knew that her kids were royal, despite their style.)
No such announcement was needed for the Duke of Sussex's children because the 1917 Letters Patent states that great-grandchildren in the male line (with the exception of the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) .... shall have the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes.
Harry's eldest son will be styled as the Earl of Dumbarton. Daughters and younger sons will have the courtesy title Lady and Lord before their Christian names. If the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have only daughters, the peerages will revert to the Crown when Harry dies. The Succession to the Crown Act applies solely to the succession to the throne. Parliament has been unable to pass gender equal legislation for succession to peerages.
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