UK Royal Titles

Discussion about royal and noble titles in the UK

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Princess Catherine? I haven’t got a clue

Some very strange things are happening.

Prince William’s spokesperson has suggested that he would prefer people to refer to his new wife as ‘Princess Catherine’ rather than ‘Duchess of Cambridge.’ 

That’s all very well…but he’s not King yet and only one person gets the right to decide who gets to call themselves Prince or Princess.  However, Buckingham Palace has confusingly confirmed that people are ‘welcome’ to call Kate ‘Princess Catherine’ if they want to.

It’s almost as if the palace are trying to frustrate us title-fans.  No letters patent, no royal warrant, no mention in the court circular or even a press release.  But yet, they seem to have authorised the use of it.

So what do we make to this?  To be honest, I’m not entirely clear.  Here’s my starters for 10:

·         The palace seems to be saying there’s a difference between official use and how people use titles in day to day language.  By saying people are ‘welcome’ to refer to Kate as ‘Princess Catherine’ there seems to be an acknowledgement that people will and that it’s not ‘wrong’ – it just won’t be used officially.

·         William and the Queen seem to be at odds:  Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s a big deal or the next ‘war of the Windsors’ – but the palace was clear in its announcement.  Kate would be known as HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.  William has asked people to call her something else.  The palace seems to have said: “Call he what you like – we can’t stop you.”

·         My  earlier observations that these styles evolve over time and are as much a matter as custom as they are law seem to be bearing fruit.  Two hundred years ago the wife of Mr John Smith would have been known as Mrs John Smith.  Now, she would be Mrs Mary Smith (unless her name was Jane or Emma or something else).  As far as I know, this is not a change of law – just a change of custom.  Therefore perhaps someone who has the status of a Princess (which Catherine definitely does – she’s married to a Prince) can see their style change purely by custom.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, I’m going to be referring to Kate as Duchess of Cambridge.  I think this is still the most accurate/official position.  However when I now hear someone refer to ‘Princess Catherine’ I will no longer be able to sigh with the geek-ridden frustration that they are wrong.

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Previous Duchesses of Cambridge

Previous Duchesses of Cambridge

Later today, Catherine will become the Duchess of Cambridge.  She will be the third royal bride to do so.  The previous two were:

·         Caroline of Ansbach (1683 – 1737) – Eventually Queen Consort to George II.  She would also have seven children and became the first Princess of Wales since Catherine of Aragon. 

·         Augusta of Hesse-Kassel– Wife of Prince Adolphus, son of George III (1797 –1889).  She is Prince William’s great-great-great-great-grandmother

The marriage of Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge was not legally recognised so his wife (Sarah Fairbrother) could not claim the title of Duchess

This means that Catherine will be the first person not born a princess to hold the title.  If she goes on to become Queen – which surely she will – she will be the second Duchess of Cambridge to do so.

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Press release announcing William’s titles

Announcement of titles, 29 April 2011Latest News and Diary


The Queen has today been pleased to confer a Dukedom on Prince William of Wales. His titles will be Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus.

Prince William thus becomes His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge and Miss Catherine Middleton on marriage will become Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge.


DUKEDOM: Cambridge:

In 1706 George Augustus (subsequently George II) the only son of George Ludwig, Elector of Hanover (subsequently George I of Great Britain) was created with other titles Duke of Cambridge. On the accession of his father to the throne in 1714 he also became Duke of Cornwall and was created Prince of Wales. On his own accession to the throne in 1727 the Dukedom of Cambridge merged with The Crown and ceased.

Cambridge was previously a Royal Dukedom and four sons of James, Duke of York (afterwards James II) who died in infancy were all created Duke of Cambridge. As an Earldom Cambridge was a medieval Royal title. Edward IV was Duke of York and Earl of Cambridge till proclaimed King of England in 1461 when his titles merged with The Crown.

His father and grandfather both Richard Plantagenet were both Earls of Cambridge and the latter was also Duke of York. Edmund of Langley, 5th son of Edward III and great-grandfather of Edward IV, was created Earl of Cambridge in 1362 and Duke of York in 1385.

The Dukedom of Cambridge created in 1801 became extinct on the death of the 2nd Duke of Cambridge in 1904. Cambridge existed as a Marquessate from 1917 when it was conferred on Queen Mary’s brother till 1981 when the 2nd Marquess died and the title became extinct.

EARLDOM: Strathearn

Strathearn has had Royal connections since Robert Stewart, High Steward of Scotland, was created Earl of Strathearn in 1357. In 1371 he succeeded his Uncle as King of Scotland becoming Robert II and the Earldom merged with The Crown Robert II created his 5th son David, Earl of Strathearn in 1371. Subsequently in 1427 the 6th son of Robert II was created Earl of Strathearn.

In 1766 George III’s younger brother Prince Henry Frederick was created
Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn. He died without issue in 1790 and in 1799 Queen Victoria’s father was created Duke of Kent and Strathearn. These Dukedoms became extinct on his death in 1820. Finally, Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, 3rd son of Queen Victoria was created Duke of Connaught and Strathearn in 1874. He died in 1942 and was succeeded by his grandson who died the following year
1943 since when Strathearn as a title has been extinct.

BARONY: Carrickfergus:

An Irish Viscountcy of Chichester of Carrickfergus now held by the Marquess of Donegall was created in 1625 but Carrickfergus alone only existed as a title between 1841 and 1883. The 3rd Marquess of Donegall was created Baron Ennishowen and Carrickfergus, of Ennishowen, co: Donegal and Carrickfergus, co: Antrim. He died in 1883 being succeeded by his brother and the Barony became extinct.

Carrickfergus is County Antrim’s oldest town. The word means Rock of Fergus and as an urban settlement it predates Belfast. It is on the north shore of Belfast Lough and is the site of Carrickfergus Castle which dates from circa 1180 and is one of the best preserved Castles in Ireland.

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William created Duke of Cambridge

Forget the dress, the jewels, the carriages and the exotic guests.  The thing we all want to know is finally out the bag.

This morning, Her Majesty The Queen bestowed upon her grandson, His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales the titles of Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus.

This means that upon their marriage, Kate’s full title will be Her Royal Highness Princess William of Wales, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn and Baroness Carrickfergus.  She will invariably be styled HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.

The title ‘Duke of Cambridge’ has been held by six previous royals and has had five previous creations.

Interestingly, the title was held by one of William’s ancestors.  Prince Adolphus, seventh son of George III is William’s great-great-great-great-grandfather.

The previous holders of the title are:

Dukes of Cambridge

First Creation (1664 

·         James Stuart, 1st Duke of Cambridge (1663–1667), second son of James, Duke of York (later James II & VII), died in infancy

Second Creation (1667)

·         Edgar Stuart, 1st Duke of Cambridge (1667–1671), fourth son of James, Duke of York (later James II & VII), died in infancy

Third Creation (1706)

·         George, Electoral Prince of Hanover, 1st Duke of Cambridge (1683–1760) was the only son of George, Elector of Hanover (later George I), and, in time, would become Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Wales and then King in 1727, at which point all of his British honours merged in the crown

Fourth Creation (1801)

·         Prince Adolphus, 1st Duke of Cambridge (1774–1850) was the seventh son of George III

·         Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge (1819–1904), only son of the 1st Duke, died without legitimate issue and his honours were extinct

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So just what title will the new couple take?

Up until now, I’ve avoided speculating on what title the royal newlyweds will take on Friday, preferring instead to focus on the (what I think is more interesting) question of how a princess by marriage can correctly use the princely style.  However, having thought about it (and as you can probably tell, I think about little else than fascinating title-teasing questions) I thought this blog wouldn’t really be worth its name if I didn’t post anything on it.

So…here we go.

The media has focused on a number of vacant ‘royal dukedoms’ that could be bestowed on the couple.  It’s worth being clear; there is nothing particularly special about these titles that make them royal; it’s just that they have been held by princes in the past and are therefore generally not ever given to non-royals in future.  These titles are:

·         Duke of Clarence – The title, first given to Lionel of Antwerp, the third son of King Edward III in 1362, has been held by five people in English and British history, all of them royal.  However, it’s most recent holder – Albert Victor, Queen Victoria’s grandson – died prematurely and was linked to scandals around Jack the Ripper.  If the Queen gave this to her grandson it would hardly be a good luck charm.  That being said, Albert Victor, like William was heir to the heir, so there would be some natural synergy.

·         Duke of Cambridge – Used a number of times in history and notable holders include Queen Mary’s grandfather.  I can see the Queen enjoying that connection – she was very close to her grandmother.  Also it was given to the future George II when his father was heir to the throne so has history of serving a King in waiting.

·         Duke of Sussex – Much of the clever money seems to be on this one; but then everyone thought Edward was going to get it as well.  It would make as much sense as any other title, but personally I hope the Queen doesn’t go ‘home counties’ with the title.  It’s just not that interesting.

·         Duke of Windsor – I would eat my hat if the Queen chooses this title (I’d have to buy a hat first though).  As many of you will know, this was the title given to the Queen’s disgraced uncle after he abandoned the throne.  This would make Kate, as Duchess, intrinsically linked with Wallis Simpson, something I really can’t see the Queen going for.

·         Duke of Strathearn – Never before a title by itself but has been given out on three separate occasions as part of a package deal with Cumberland, Kent and Connaught.  Princes often used to get two Dukedoms from different countries within the Union to emphasise the fact that we’re one big happy and united country.  Given William and Kate met in Scotland, lots of people think this could be a go-er.

There are however a three other theories, two mine and one reported in the Daily Telegraph (and indeed mentioned on this blog):

·         No title given – there is a theory that the groom wants to remain ‘Prince William of Wales’ and for his bride to become ‘Princess Catherine of Wales.’  As previously mentioned many times on this blog, most people believe this would require special permission from the Queen as current practise would have her become ‘Princess William of Wales’ if he receives no other title.

·         Duke-in-waiting – We were all flabbergasted when Prince Edward was made Earl of Wessex rather than given a Dukedom, but it was done so on the proviso that he would one day become Duke of Edinburgh.  Well, William of course will one day become a Duke – he becomes Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay the second his father succeeds the throne – so perhaps the Queen will just give him an Earldom while he waits.

·         Father’s subsidiary – Many of you may know this already, but the eldest son of a non-royal Duke uses one of his father’s lower titles as a courtesy title.  Why couldn’t William do the same?  After all, it would sound quite romantic if Kate was the Countess of Chester.  Now before you all go crazy, I realise that there’s no precedent for this; but there’s no precedent for the wife of the Prince of Wales styling herself as Duchess of Cornwall either.  Anything could happen.

So…which of these is likely to happen?  Unless we crawl inside the Queen’s brain we just don’t know.  I’d be beside myself with shock if they go for Windsor and surprised if they choose Clarence.  But at the end of the day, it’s a decision for one person, and one person only.  Rock on Friday…

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More talk of a Princess Catherine

Prince William and Kate Middleton

Good article on BBC Online about royal titles given out at weddings.  A few errors (Catherine will actually be a Princess of the United Kingdom, she just won’t be able to use the prefix with her first name) but generally very good:

It seems that there’s a bit of momentum bulding up behind the idea of a Princess Catherine now.  Will be very interesting to see what the Queen does.

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More speculation on Catherine’s title

Kate Middleton could become HRH Princess William of Wales when she weds the future king

Daily Telegraph speculating again on William’s title after marriage and again hinting that he might just remain Prince William.

I can’t think that this is very likely.  I know he’s meant to be keen to modernise but difficult to see what’s more modern about being a Prince than a Duke  HOWEVER, if he does decide to go down this route then it will really bring home the ‘Princess Catherine’ question - check out my earlier post for more details.

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Maybe Kate will be a princess…and maybe Diana was all along

There’s a moment in every teenager’s life when it suddenly dawns on them that they’re not quite as cool as they thought they were.  For me it was when I was about 15 years old and I had to fight with every ounce of strength in my body to stop myself correcting people who referred to the late Princess of Wales as ‘Princess Diana’.

This frustration about the incorrect use of royal titles has been increasing rapidly over recent months as I, like other super-cool royal fanatics, have had to suppress my rage and resist the urge to throw things at the TV when even quite reliable media sources talk about the future ‘Princess Catherine.’

But why you ask, do these labels cause such a reaction?  Simple.  As all us title-fans know, only a woman born of the blood royal, or more specifically the daughters and male-line granddaughters of a sovereign have the right to prefix their Christian name with the title ‘Princess.’  Diana, therefore was legitimately the Princess of Wales, Princess of Scotland, a Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and even the Princess Charles – but never Princess Diana.  The same therefore, applies to Kate.

However, as I am going to demonstrate in this post, a few little niggles here and there have recently given me cause to question my once held certainty in this area of vital importance.

Read more …

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Princess Catherine…?

Kate Middleton and Prince William

This was written in the Daily Telegraph before Christmas, but given that this blog is new and I think this is important, I wanted to highlight it anyway.

Apparently, Prince William is keen not be made a Duke upon marriage, meaning his wife would be awkwardly styled Princess William of Wales.  How true this is, we cannot really know, but it raises a very interesting question.

Royal watchers, like me, maintain that despite what the media and others say there is no chance that Kate, not being born of the blood royal, can ever be titled ‘Princess Catherine.’  This is still my position, but a few things I have read and thoughts I have had have lead me to question this.  I would now be less surprised if we do see a Princess Catherine emerge at the end of April.  I will lay out my reasons behind this in another post.

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