Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Primer: Catherine is a princess ...

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but she is not styled as Princess William or Princess Catherine.  She is a princess (by marriage) of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Far too many people just do not get it.   In Britain, a woman takes her husband's rank unless her rank is higher.   Catherine Middleton emerged from Westminster Abbey as a princess ...  but what ... she is not styled as a princess.  Why you may ask?   Easy.  Her husband, William, is no longer styled Prince William of Wales.  His official title and style is the HRH The Duke of Cambridge.

Not HRH Prince William of Wales, Duke of Cambridge, but HRH The Duke of Cambridge.   But he remains a prince because he is a grandson of the Sovereign in the male line.  George V's 1917 Letters Patent, limit the title of 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 Prince of Wales.   The Duke of Cambridge is a Prince.  His wife is a Princess by virtue of the marriage.

It is amazing how dense some people can be.  Learn to understand the difference between title, style, and rank.  Just because Catherine is not styled as a princess does not mean she is not a princess.  If the Queen had not bestowed the dukedom on Prince William,  Catherine would have been styled as HRH Princess William of Wales.   William was styled as HRH Prince William of Wales because he is the son of the Prince of Wales.   The daughters of the Duke of York are HRH Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie of York.

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall is also a princess because she is married to a prince.

According to several British news sources, William wanted Catherine to be STYLED as HRH Princess Catherine of Wales. I don't believe this story to be true.  The Queen would have vetoed this because Catherine was not a British princess by birth but by marriage.  Princess William may sound antediluvian,  but that's the tradition in the United Kingdom.  HRH Prince Michael of Kent's wife is HRH Princess Michael of Kent.   Even if Marie Christine were a princess in her own right, she would still be styled as HRH Princess Michael.  Her title comes from marriage, not from birth.

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When Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark married the Duke of Kent in 1934, she became HRH The Duchess of Kent.   She was still referred to as Princess Marina, especially in the popular press, but Princess Marina was a Greek title, not a British one.   She would have been styled as HRH The Princess George if her husband had not been created Duke of Kent.   Shortly after the marriage of her eldest son, the Duke of Kent, in 1961,  Marina, announced that she would now be styled as Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent.  She needed the permission of Queen Elizabeth II to use this style because she was not a British princess in her own right.

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[The late Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, followed this precedent when the Queen allowed her to be styled as Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, after the death of her husband.  She was briefly styled as HRH The Dowager Duchess of Gloucester.]

William's new title makes him a peer of the realm, which means he is no longer legally a commoner.  Yes, dear readers, princes and princesses in the United Kingdom are legally commoners.  Only the sovereign and peers of the realm are not commoners, despite having the title of prince or princess.   Even with his new title, he does not stop being a prince because he was born a prince.  His official title is HRH Duke of Cambridge, but he remains a prince.

The media are largely ignorant about this.  Many journalists will write Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.  This is incorrect, as is Prince William and Princess Catherine, but, please do not get your knickers in a twist about this.  Most readers do not (nor do they care) about the correct use of titles.  The average person will continue to think of the couple as Prince William and Princess Catherine, and that's okay, too.  Those of us who speak the language of royal titles will understand that the writers are referring to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  William has been known as Prince William for nearly 30 years.  He needs to get used to it as well.

Stop using Prince William and start using the Duke of Cambridge because that's his title now.  His father is the Prince of Wales.  His uncles are the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex.  They are princes. Camilla, Catherine, and Sophie are princesses because their husbands are princes ... but remember, they are styled as the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duchess of Cambridge, and the Countess of Wessex!

Catherine is not Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.  This style is reserved for widows of peers or divorced wives.  HRH The Princess of Wales became Diana, Princess of Wales.  HRH The Duchess of York is now Sarah, Duchess of York.  It is not Sophie, Countess of Wessex, or Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex,  If Edward had not been given the peerage, his wife would now be styled as HRH The Princess Edward.  Edward's a prince, Sophie's a princess but they are styled as HRH The Earl of Wessex and HRH The Countess of Wessex.  Christian names are not included in the title.

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 When Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married HRH The Duke of York,  the media asked the palace about the new royal bride's status.  Lord Stamfordham responded:  "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."

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Rick Schoen said...

Hi Marlene,

I was wondering where in the order of precedence, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge falls? Does she come before of after the Countess of Wessex?


Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

The precedence has not been announced. The Countess of Wessex is the wife of a sovereign's son. Catherine is the wife of the sovereign's grandson.

Krystina said...

Thank you for this post! Despite being a monarchist I was a little unsure of the proper way to call the Duke and Duchess when speaking of them in conversation with others. Now however, I am suitably enlightened (and quite glad of it!)

By the way, you have a lovely blog here, I have enjoyed reading your posts since I first found your blog last week.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

If you are speaking with friends - Will and Kate will work just fine ... :)

DLSL said...

Very interesting post. To clarify though --- does this precedent apply to a woman even if she is of equal or greater rank than her princely spouse? [i.e. suppose a a daughter of the Tsar of Russia married a British prince] Or would she still be known by her husbands title?

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Yes, it does. Britain has laws regarding the use of foreign titles - and there have been laws in the UK that do not allow the use of foreign titles after becoming a citizen. For example, Princess Marina of Greece would have been styled as Princess George in the UK as she was not a British princess in her own right. She was styled as Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, after her son's marriage but this was done with the permission of the Queen.

Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia married Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh. Her father, Alexander II, wanted her to remain Her Imperial Highness. Victoria did not have a problem with this as long as IH came after RH. So in the UK, Marie was styled as HR & IH the Duchess of Edinburgh. Marie also did not like the fact that she, as an emperor's daughter, did not have precedence over Alexandra, the daughter of a king. Alexander agreed with Victoria that Alexandra as the wife of the heir should have precedence over Marie, but asked that Marie have precedence over all the other sisters-in-law. Victoria would not agree to this. Being the daughter of a Russian emperor did not give her extra clout - she was the wife of the second son of the Queen.

Unknown said...

So this page at the royal family website

is wrong when it says Charles's full title includes his given names?

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Yvonne, how difficult is it for your to understand the difference between a name and a title and a style. Charles is a prince. He was baptised with several names. He was HRH Prince Charles of Edinburgh from his birth until his mother became queen ... as soon as his mother became queen, Charles' official title became HRH THE DUKE OF CORNWALL. His mother still called him Charles and remained a prince because there is no rank for a royal duke .. BUT HIS OFFICIAL TITLE CHANGED. In Scotland, Charles is HRH The Duke of Rothesay. On July 26, 1958, Queen Elizabeth II announced that she was creating her son as Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester. His name remained Charles and he remains a prince .. but as of that date Charles' OFFICIAL TITLE became HRH The Prince of Wales (except in Scotland), where he is HRH The Duke of Rothesay. He did not stop being the Duke of Cornwall because that title is reserved solely for the sovereign's son, who is the heir apparent.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

(If Charles died before his mother), William would not succeed as Duke of Cornwall, the title would revert to the Crown), but the Queen could name him as Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester. It is okay to write Prince Charles because he's a prince and that's his name. But that's not his OFFICIAL TITLE. His official title is HRH The Prince of Wales (except in Scotland). News organizations used Princess Diana all the time, but it was not correct. She was not a princess by birth in the UK. Her official title was HRH The Princess of Wales. She was also the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Rothesay (in Scotland).
All of the royals who are HRH are Princes or Princess of the UK of GB and NI even though they are not officially styled as such. The children of the Prince and Princess of Wales were STYLED as HRH Prince William of Wales and HRH Prince Harry of Wales.
Now William, who remains a prince, and has a name of William is no longer STYLED as HRH Prince William of Wales. People are going to write Prince William because the goal is (as told to me when I worked for the AP) to write for Uncle Harry in Kansas.
However, William's OFFICIAL title is now HRH THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE, which means his wife is HRH The Duchess of Cambridge. Catherine is a princess by marriage. That is her rank. BUT SHE IS NOT STYLED AS A PRINCESS BECAUSE HER HUSBAND IS NOT STYLED AS PRINCE WILLIAM ... NOT OFFICIALLY!!!!!
Name - William
Rank - Prince of the UK of GB and NI
Style/title HRH The Duke of Cambridge
Name - Catherine
Rank Princess of the UK of GB and NI
Style/title: HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.
The average correspondent is not going to write Duke of Cambridge - it is a mouthful as most people know William as Prince William.

Think of it this way ... William is a prince who is officially known as the Duke of Cambridge
Catherine is a princess who is known officially as the Duchess of Cambridge. I think you are having trouble comprehending the difference between names, titles and styles ...On July 23, HRH The Prince Andrew (children of the sovereign have The as a part of their official title if they have no other title), stopped being styled as HRH The Prince Andrew and became HRH The Duke of York. On June 19, 1999, HRH The Prince Edward became HRH The Earl of Wessex.
In October 1913, when HH Princess Alexandra of Fife (daughter of the Princess Royal -- in 1905, Edward VII created his two granddaughters, the daughters of the Princess Royal, princesses with the style of HH) married HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught, her new official title was HRH Princess Arthur of Connaught. She was also Duchess of Fife in her own right, but the royal titie trumped it ... she inherited the fife dukedom from her father through a special remainder.

This scenario could be different. If the Queen had not bestowed the historic Cambridge dukedom on William. Catherine would now be known as HRH Princess William of Wales. HHR Princess Catherine of Wales would indicate a daughter of the Prince of Wales.
I repeat: The Duke of Cambridge is a prince whose name is William, but on 4-29, his official title stopped being HRH Prince William of Wales.

Unknown said...

Is not the correct style of Prince Harry "HRH Prince Henry of Wales?" Was his name legally changed from Henry to Harry sometime after his birth?

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

It was announced at the time that his name was Henry but he would be known as Harry. I think Henry is used in the mst formal of occasions

Guest said...

How should the tabloids be addressing Catherine? Should Middleton be included in their titiles or stories?

I understand that Kate hates the name, "Kate" and William always calls her Catherine with no last last name. Why is she called Kate Middleton then by the tabloids? Would you confirm her preferred name to be used by the tabloids. There are alot of disgruntled readers who hate debating the "Middleton" usage. What should the tabloids be using? There are alot of younger readers who are influenced by the tabloids and believe everything to be the truth. Plz contact your royal sources and post what it should be. I don't think the "Middleton" should be used at all.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

The newspapers and other source continue to use Kate Middleton because that's what many people use to search for stories about her. She has been called Kate by family and friends, but others call her Catherine, which is her first name. The Duchess of Cambridge should always be used first .. one can also say The Duchess or Catherine but using Kate Middleton irks me too, but apparently it is done because that's how people search for stories.