UK Royal Titles

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Life in titles: Charles, Prince of Wales

Overview

1948 – 1952: His Royal Highness Prince Charles Philip Arthur George of Edinburgh

Commonly known as:  HRH Prince Charles of Edinburgh

1952 – 1958: His Royal Highness The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isle and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland

Commonly known as: HRH The Prince Charles

1958 – Present: His Royal Highness The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isle and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland

Commonly known as: HRH The Prince of Wales

Titles explained

Officially called ‘Prince of Wales’ in England and Wales, ‘Duke of Rothesay’ in Scotland and with more titles than any other member of the Royal Family, the heir to the throne is most commonly known as ‘Prince Charles.’ But strangely enough, this is a title that he was very nearly born without.

As regular readers of this blog will know, the princely title and the style of Royal Highness are governed by letters patent issues by George V in 1917 (LP17).  This decree restricted the princely title (along with HRH) to the children of the sovereign and the children of sons of the sovereign; the children of the King’s daughters would - like the vast majority of children in the land - take their style from their father.  Had action not been taken than the future King of the United Kingdom would have been born as plain Charles Mountbatten with the courtesy title of Earl of Merioneth (a subsidiary title of the Duke of Edinburgh).

However, his grandfather George VI had the foresight to act; albeit only just in time.  Just weeks before Princess Elizabeth gave birth, new Letters Patent were issued declaring that all children of Elizabeth and Philip would be a Prince or Princess.  As such he was known, for the first three and half years of his life, as His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Edinburgh.

But on the 22nd February 1952 his mother’s succession to the throne triggered a revolution in titles for the Kingdom’s new heir.  Not only did he lose the ‘of Edinburgh’ tag and gain the definite article (to become HRH The Prince Charles) but he gained the title ‘Duke of Cornwall’ which belongs to the heir-apparent of England by right and a host of titles that our synonymous with Scotland’s heir: Duke of Rothersay, Earl of Carrick, Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isle and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland. 

The next development in Charles’s title came during the summer of 1958, against the backdrop of the Commonwealth games in Cardiff.  At this time the Queen created Charles Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, two ancient titles that are always bestowed as a pair.  At the same time as announcing the creation, the Queen also pledged to present him to the Welsh people ‘when he was grown up.’  Sure enough, when Charles reached the age of 21 in 1969 the Queen kept her word, and publicly invested her son as Prince of Wales at Carnarvon Castle.

Charles is generally regarded at the 21st Prince of Wales, the first being the future Edward II as heir to Edward I.  Although I do not subscribe to this theory myself, there are those that consider Charles to be the 22nd Prince, believing that Henry VIII’s only surviving son, the future Edward VI was invested with the title.  While believable conceptually, I do not personally consider there to be substantial evidence that such a creation ever took place.   

Naturally it is assumed that the Charles will one day succeed his mother and his title will once again be changed.  There has been much talk over recent years as to exactly what that will look like; will he be defender of the faith?  Will he automatically be called head of the commonwealth?  None of us know the answers for sure.  It is safe to say however, that in his record-breaking tenure as heir to the throne, it is bound to be something to which he himself has given much thought.

Filed under Prince Charles Prince Prince of Wales Duke of Cornwall Life in Titles