The Glorious & Bizarre Realm of Royal Titles
There has been some confusion here in the States as to whether or not Catherine Middleton will actually become a princess once she marries Prince William, and if not a princess, what title will she hold? To help answer this question, we turned to our good friend (and great Brit) Tim Mudd of San Diego’s Sophie @ 103.7 for the answer.
History has always fascinated me. It was my favorite subject while toiling away in those musty classrooms at my English boarding school: the Kings, the Queens, the battles…
Most of the time it was hard to separate the reality from what all sounded like fantastic story telling. But without getting into the semantics of the the word “History’s” etymology, these stories, to all intent and purpose, are real.
The titles that appeared to be lavishly bestowed back then are no less real or important today as they were then – and it’s still a pretty sticky business.
[pullquote quote="Kate has refused (the title Princess Catherine of Wales) due to it's association with William's mother, Diana, the last Royal family member to hold this title."]With an imminent Royal Wedding, I have zero doubt that, since the engagement was announced the House of Commons, House of Lords and the Royal Privy Council have been all a hurumph-ing over one issue in particular – what title will be given to the new center-stage Royal couple?
Currently, Prince William’s official title is His Royal Highness (HRH) Prince William of Wales. He could keep this title which would make Miss Catherine Middleton (as she is currently known) Princess William of Wales, or even Princess Catherine of Wales (with the Queen Elizabeth’s approval). Kate has refused this title however due to it’s association with William’s mother, Diana, the last Royal family member to hold this title.
As far as surnames go, there will be no hyphenating for Miss Middleton. She will take the current reigning Royal Family’s surname of Windsor.
Where Did ‘Windsor’ Come From?
George V (Prince William’s great-grandfather; the king who passed in ‘The King’s Speech’) belonged to the Germanic House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, which was the family name of Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert. In 1917, following anti-German sentiment during World War I, George V adopted Windsor (after the castle) as the name of the dynasty AND the family surname.
In 1960, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, decided they would like their direct male descendants not in-line for the throne to be distinguished from the rest of the Royal Family by having the surname Mountbatten-Windsor, reflected his families surname.
So What’s Next?
British regal law prohibits the christening of titles currently held by other members of the nobility which leaves a few options for the incoming couple. The currently available titles are Albany, Avondale, Cambridge, Clarence, Connaught, Cumberland, Kendal, Monmouth, Strathearn, Sussex (my home county!), Teviotdale or Windsor.
But the connotations are back! The Monmouth title has been vacant since 1685 because the last Duke to hold it’s title was executed for attempting to depose King James II. The Duke of Windsor was the title given to Edward VIII after he abdicated and married American divorcée Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Cumberland suppressed the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 where many Scots died – not a great choice in relation to maintaining healthy diplomacy with Scotland.
The next decision is will William become a Duke or an Earl? Duke’s tend to hold superiority over Earls which is the likely choice for the heir. With the title of Duke, Kate would become a ‘Duchess’ of the title area. In the unlikely event that William were to become an Earl, Kate would take the title of ‘Countess.’
The title ‘Prince of Wales’ is currently held by William’s father, Charles. In the event he lives long enough to become king, William will automatically take this title, the traditional one held by the heir to the British throne. At this point, Kate would retain her Duchess or Countess title until such time as William ascends the throne himself as ‘King William V (the fifth). Only then will Catherine become ‘Queen Catherine VI’ (the sixth).
Royal Family: The Deep Cuts
If you happen to follow the Royals more closely than most, you may now be asking yourself how Catherine would become Queen, when Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, holds the title ‘Prince,’ not ‘King,’ and before him, Queen Victoria’s husband ‘Prince Albert?’ Quite simply, there has never been a precedent set for the husband of a female ruling monarch in Britain.
Another question that may be lurking in the back of your mind is, “How come Charles the Prince of Wales second wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, does not carry the title ‘Princess of Wales?’ Well, the ghost of Lady Diana is back! Charles also holds the title ‘Duke of Cornwall,’ when the couple married in 2005, Camilla took the Duchess title out of respect for her new husbands late wife and William and Harry’s mother.
Poll: What Title Will The Royal Couple Take?
My money’s on ‘Sussex,’ but it’s more of a desire because it’s my home county. Take a guess and we’ll see if you’re right tomorrow!