12 December 2012 - 19:01
All You Need To Know About Royal Titles


Letters PatentQuite a few of the questions I am asked sometimes are centred on Royal Titles. Many people wish to know what certain royals are called and how they should be addressed. In this article, I’m going to summarise all of that into great and easy to understand points as well as debunking the ultimate question, ‘Was Diana ever Princess Diana?’

Titles are issued directly by The Queen except in the case of an inherited title, e.g. The Duke Of Gloucester inherited his father’s title when he passed away in the 1970s automatically. Titles are issued through what is called a ‘Letters Patent’, it specifies exactly what titles and styles have been given and the line of descent they should take, if any.

Royal titles can be broken down into three parts. The style, the name (if applicable) and the peerage/title.

1. The Style

The style is the part of the title which prefixes everything else and denotes an elevated status. There are only two different types of style commonly used on Royal Titles.

The first is Majesty. This is the style held by the Monarch and their consort if female. It is often abbreviated as HM (His/Her Majesty). Currently, The Queen is the only person to hold this style as her husband is male an men don’t take the equivalent form of their wives’ styles like women take their husband’s. So, The Queen’s style is ‘Her Majesty The Queen’. Anyone with the prefix of HM should be addressed as ‘Your Majesty’.

The other is Royal Highness. This style prefixes any other Royal Title except King or Queen and is always, but not automatically issued. All Princes and Princesses of the Realm hold the style of Royal Highness. The style of Royal Highness is abbreviated to HRH (His/Her Royal Highness) (for example HRH The Prince Of Wales), when referring to more than one Royal, you can use the abbreviation TRH (Their Royal Highnesses) (e.g. TRH The Duke and Duchess Of Cambridge). Those with the style of HRH should be addressed as ‘Your Royal Highness’ or plural, ‘Your Royal Highnesses’.

2. The Name

The name part of the title is optional except in the case of the title of Prince/Princess. For example, Prince William could be referred to as either ‘HRH The Duchess Of Cambridge’ or ‘HRH Catherine, Duchess Of Cambridge’, neither is more correct nor better than the other, except in the case of Divorced Wives, they can be used interchangeably. Also, the title of Prince/Princess can be implemented, too. E.g. ‘HRH Prince Edward, Earl Of Wessex’.


[singlepic id=17 w=620 h=480 mode=none float=center]

Picture: An Example Of A Letters Patent From The Queen.

3. The Title

There are only 4 titles that are issued by the Queen to Royals, although there are more. They are: Royal Prince/Princess, Royal Duke, Royal Earl, Royal Viscount and Royal Baron.

When a title is given, they usually carry what are known as ‘subsidiary titles’ which total 3 titles, usually Duke, Earl and Baron – the Dukedom is usually for a place in England (e.g. Duke Of Cambridge), the Earldom is usually for a place in Scotland (e.g. Earl Of Inverness) and the Barony is usually for Northern Ireland (e.g. Baron Carrickfergus). They are addressed by each title in their respective locations, e.g. Prince William is known as the Earl Of Inverness in Scotland. The title of Prince/Princess is always issued on its own, e.g. ‘HRH Prince William’. Sons and daughters of the reigning Monarch can add the word ‘The’ before Prince/Princess in their title (e.g. HRH The Princess Anne).


Women always assume the female form of their husband’s title, for example HRH Prince Michael Of Kent’s wife is known as HRH Princess Michael Of Kent. However, the reverse is not true, so if a title was issued to a woman (extremely rare, only exception I can think of right now is the title of Princess Royal which is issued to eldest daughter of Monarch) the male version of the title wouldn’t be assumed by her husband!

When a woman divorces from her husband, her title changes. Here’s an example. When Prince Andrew divorced from his wife Sarah in 1996, he remained HRH The Duke Of York and she went from being HRH The Duchess Of York to Sarah, Duchess Of York, losing the style of HRH.

Correct Form

Okay, to summarise this before it gets complicated. Diana, Princess Of Wales was NEVER, I repeat NEVER correctly styled as Princess Diana. This was a style invented by the media because they saw her name and Princess and assumed that’s how titles worked. Diana was Princess Of Wales but she never held the title of Princess in her own right. However, saying Diana wasn’t a Princess would be wrong too. She was. But she was Princess Charles, not Diana, following the aforementioned rule for spouses. To put this into context, Camilla (Prince Charles’s wife) is styled as HRH The Duchess Of Cornwall, but is never referred to as ‘Duchess Camilla’ because this would be incorrect, by the same token Diana was originally [before divorce] ‘HRH The Princess Of Wales’ and it would be incorrect to call her Princess Diana. See!

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