2 August 2013 - 17:37
Why we’ll never see ‘Princess Catherine’


Wedding of Prince William and Catherine MiddletonIt’s come up again. For those of you who aren’t aware, following a lot of big stories involving Kate’s name or title there often comes the assumption that because the Duchess of Cambridge is known as ‘a Princess of the United Kingdom’ or on the occasion that she is simply referred to as a Princess, that must mean she is Princess Kate/Catherine… Wrong.

The reason why she was referred to as a Princess of the United Kingdom on the birth document of Prince George is because she is… but not quite as you think. Through marriage, she is Princess William because she takes the female form of her husband’s titles. Just like how when a commoner marries, the wife traditionally takes her husband’s name – the same is true for titles.

Additionally, people also seem to be under the impression that Catherine will be made a Princess one day. This is hugely unlikely for one simple reason. Whereas in many European Monarchies, things are kept simple by giving most members of the respective Royal Families the title of Prince or Princess, this title has a different use/meaning in the UK. Prince/Princess is a title almost exclusively reserved for ‘blood royals’ (i.e. those who were born into the family as opposed to marrying in).

The second side of this is ‘what about when William is Prince of Wales?’ – If the title of Prince of Wales is granted to Prince William when Prince Charles becomes King; he would be HRH The Prince of Wales and Catherine (currently Duchess of Cambridge) would become ‘HRH The Princess of Wales’, but she would NOT be ‘Princess Catherine’ still – the title of Princess of Wales is not the same as being a Princess.

Even though people call Diana, Princess of Wales ‘Princess Diana’, she was never actually ‘Princess Diana’, the same is true and will continue to be true for the Duchess of Cambridge.


She will one day be Queen Catherine, but until then it is highly unlikely she’ll ever be ‘Princess Catherine/Kate’.

To Summarise

CORRECT – The Duchess of Cambridge’ (she’s known as ‘HRH The Countess of Strathearn’ in Scotland)

INCORRECT - ‘Princess Catherine’, ‘Princess Kate’ & ‘Duchess Kate’

And for those asking ‘is Kate a Princess now?’ – she’s always been a Princess, just not ‘Princess Kate’.

If you have any further questions about Kate’s titles or anything you’ve read here, enter them into the comments box below.

Photo Credit: Defence Images

Spotted an Error?
Edited by Martin

  • Lesleyc

    I also seem to remember that at the time of their wedding it was said by either Buckingham Palace or Clarence House that there would be no objection to calling her Princess Catherine – I so wish it was adopted by one and all as I’m heartily tired oh hearing her referred to as Kate Middleton by commentators and newspapers!

  • Carolina

    Never say never. She could one day end up HRH Princess Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (Alice, Marina) due to unfortunate circumstances.

    • Mary

      Both of them were Princess on their own right.

      • Carolina

        No, they were not. Princess Alice was born The Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott. Her father was the 7th Duke of Buccleuch & Queensberry. She was only HRH by marriage. The Queen allowed her to use the title Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester as a courtesy it did not make her a princess in her own right. Marina was a Princess of Greece and Denmark but that does not qualify one to use the title Princess before their christian name as a member of the British Royal Family. Princess Marina was never addressed as “Princess Marina” after her marriage until, during her widowhood, she sought and received HM’s permission to be known as Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent. Marina was said to be very disturbed by not receiving higher precedence and the right to continue to be known as “Princess Marina” after her marriage. That is simply not how it works in the UK. Recall the problem with JFK’s sister-in-law and her husband not being addressed as Prince or Princess during the state visit because they had not received permission to use their foreign titles in the UK.

        Even if HRH Princess Alexandra of Luxembourg married Prince Harry she would not be entitled to style herself as Princess Alexandra of Wales or as Princess Alexandra, The Duchess of Sussex after their marriage. She would become HRH Prince Henry of Wales or HRH The Duchess of Sussex (the title Harry is said to be promised). She would have to seek the Queen’s permission to style herself as Princess Alexandra (of anything or nothing) after the marriage. I suspect that HM would not allow grand her permission to use the title of Princess before her christian name because it is the British custom that only females of British blood royal are permitted to use the title before their names during their marriages. During her widowhood she would likely follow HM’s new tradition of being styled HRH Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Sussex.

        • Ricky

          If Princess Alexandra of Luxembourg married Prince Harry, she would take the title of HRH Princess Henry/Harry, and/or Duchess of Sussex; not Prince Henry of Wales (as your comment said).

  • adamson

    Oh, but what to call Camilla when her husband predeceases his mother?

    • Ricky

      If Prince Charles died before the Queen, Prince William would become the Prince of Wales, with several subsidiary titles including Duke of Cornwall. As his wife, Catherine would become the Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, and all the corresponding titles according to William’s elevated status.
      Camilla would then be known as the Dowager Duchess of Cornwall —- unless the Queen published a Letters Patent indicating otherwise.

      • Scott

        Not so. The Prince of Wales title must be granted…while the Dukedom of Cornwall is automatic. Were Charles to die before the Queen, she could decide to grant the Prince of Wales title to William. However, Cornwall is limited to the “eldest living son and heir” of the sovereign – meaning, if Charles dies while QEII is still on the throne, William will never become Duke of Cornwall.

        • Ricky

          Thank you, Scott. I stand corrected!

      • Carolina

        It isn’t really likely that we’ll ever again see a royal “dowager” since The Queen has instituted the tradition of styling royal widows as HRH Princess HerName, Duchess of Husband’sPeerage. It is an elegant modernization of how royal dowagers are styled. HRH Princess Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is the most likely title for Camilla in this sad scenario.

        • Ricky

          I think Camilla would much rather have the title you mention, Carolina. That was also the case for Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, wasn’t it?

          • Carolina

            Mary, like all other queens, stopped being HM The Queen and used the title HM Queen Mary after she was widowed. She never used dowager because ‘Queen Mary’ instead of THE Queen is how it is customarily done. The Queen Mother decided to use the style HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother to avoid confusion with her namesake daughter.

            Yes, it was the case with Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester and Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent. I rather like using this for dowagers.

        • A. P. Schrader

          When the Queen granted special permission to her aunt, the late Princess Alice, Her Majesty established a precedent but I think it’s going a bit far to call it a “tradition”. It will be interesting to see what happens if the current Duke of Kent, for example, were to predecease his wife. Given her professed distain for continued use of her royal style (she purportedly prefers to be addressed nowadays simply as ‘Katharine Kent’), I think it unlikely that the Duchess of Kent would petition the Queen to style herself ‘Princess Katharine’. So I would bet that, in due course, she would come to be known as ‘HRH The Dowager Duchess of Kent’.

          As for the Duchess of Cornwall, as has already been said, if the Prince of Wales were to predecease his mother then, all things being equal, she would become ‘HRH The Dowager Duchess of Cornwall’.

      • Charles 742

        If Prince Charles passed away before his mother, The Queen. The Duke of York would be King surely?

        • Royal Central


        • Ricky

          Thanks for your question, Charles. This is a lot of fun, isn’t it?

          Prince Andrew, the present Duke of York, was indeed second in line for the throne for many years, but that changed with the birth of his nephew, Prince William, in 1982.

          Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, is of course first in line. Prince William is second; after him comes his newborn son, Prince George of Cambridge, who is third in the line of succession. Prince Harry is fourth at present.

          Because of a recent change in the rules of succession, Princess Anne is fifth. Only then comes Prince Andrew, now sixth in line. He will be farther down the list if and when William and Kate have any more children.

          I hope this is helpful (and not too much information!).

          • Royal Central

            Princess Anne is most certainly not 5th in line to the throne. Firstly because the Succession to the Crown act hasn’t come into force yet and secondly, the clause on primogeniture is only retrospective to those born after 28th October 2011 – Princess Anne was born in 1950! Prince Andrew is and will remain 5th in line to the throne, even when the Succession to the Crown Act is in force. Princess Anne remains 11th in line.

          • Ricky

            Once again, this brash American has learned something new on this fascinating subject, and stands corrected.
            But I hope you will agree I was right about one thing:
            This really is a lot of fun!

          • Patrick

            I don’t think the recent change bumped Anne up in line. I think it went into effect for George’s generation

          • Ricky

            You’re correct. I’ve done some research into this since I posted my earlier comment, and I have to retract that part of my post.

    • Patty Caudle

      Lets not go there for the way she has done to Prince Charles and the rest of the Royal family. The only thing she is deserving is the title is Divorcee for treating Prince Charles like she over ranks him and orders him around!

      • Patty Caudle

        I dislike hearing talk of the death of Her Majesty, The Queen. She is a wonderful woman and Queen and I pray that she lives many more years. Everyone seems to be in the planning stage. LONG LIVE THE QUEEN!

  • Verity Pendelton

    Catherine can become a princess in her own right, by letters patent as a gift of the Sovereign, just as the Duke of Edinburgh was granted the title Prince of the United Kingdom

    • Mark Arbeen

      The only difference is that Prince Philip was already a Blood Prince (he was born a Prince of Greece and Denmark), so granting him the title, while a wonderful gift, was not a surprise since he was already royal in his own right.

      • Ricky

        He first had to renounce his non-British princely titles, then become a commoner as Philip Mountbatten. King George gave him the title Duke of Edinburgh just before his wedding, but he wasn’t a prince anymore.

        He didn’t become a prince again until ten years later, when in 1957 the Queen issued a Letters Patent giving him the designation of Prince of the United Kingdom.

        • Mark Arbeen

          That is not totally correct. In the 1948 Letters Patent, King George VI stated: GEORGE THE SIXTH by the Grace of God of Great Britain Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King Defender of the Faith To all to whom these Presents shall come Greeting Whereas His late Majesty King George the Fifth by His Letters Patent dated the thirtieth day of November in the eighth year of His Reign did declare His Royal Pleasure that certain members of the Royal Family therein more particularly mentioned should have the style title or attribute of Royal Highness And Whereas We are desirous of defining and fixing the style and title by which the children of the marriage solemnised between Our Most dearly beloved Daughter Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Duchess of Edinburgh and His Royal Highness Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh shall be designated And Whereas for that purpose We deem it expedient that the aforesaid Letters Patent should be amended and extended la manner hereinafter declared Now Know Ye that in the exercise of Our Royal and undoubted prerogative and of our especial grace we do hereby declare Our Royal Will and Pleasure that the children of the aforesaid marriage shall have and at all times hold and enjoy the style title or attribute of Royal Highness and the titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their respective Christian names in addition to any other appellations and titles of honour which may belong to them hereafter And We do further declare Our Will and Pleasure that our Earl Marshal of England or his Deputy for the time being do cause these Our Letters or the Enrolment thereof to be recorded in our College of Arms to the end that Our Officers of Arms and all others may take due notice thereof In Witness Whereof We have caused these our Letters to be made Patent Witness Ourself at Westminster the twenty-second day of October in the twelfth year of Our Reign.”

          So, as you can see, in 1948 he was considered Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh.

          • Royal Central

            There’s a lot of confusion over the Duke of Edinburgh’s title at this time because of this reference to him as a Prince in the 1948 letters patent. Whilst he is referred to as ‘Prince Philip’ in this document, all subsequent documents and official communique thereafter until 1957 refer to him without the Princely style. Additionally, the King himself amended a reference to ‘Prince Philip’ on Prince Charles’s birth certificate in 1948 to just ‘Philip, Duke of Edinburgh’.

          • Ricky

            I was hoping Royal Central would see this discussion so we could be sure about Philip’s titles. I’ve read about this issue from many different sources and was pretty sure of my facts.

            And while I have your attention, I’d like to say this:

            I sometimes post comments in other forums, and I often see posts that are so vicious they make me cringe. How I wish they could be as civil as the discussions here at Royal Central.

            We can discuss issues here with courtesy and respect for each other, even when we might disagree. We can justly be proud of ourselves and our site, and other blogs could take a lesson from Royal Central.

            Many thanks to the editors, writers, and other staff at Royal Central for the education and enjoyment they provide. I think we have something very special here, and their work is much appreciated. ;-)

          • Mark Arbeen

            Amen Ricky. I think the civil discourse is evidence that we Royalists truly understand the concept of discussion without rancor!

  • Fiametta

    The easy way to explain this is to say that she is a princess by marriage, as all royal duchesses are, but not a princess by birth, so she cannot use the title “Princess” before her own given name. Only princesses by birth can do that.
    She is also not a duchess by birth (very few women have ever been duchesses by birth), and the title “Duchess” is simply never used before a given name.

    • Ricky

      There was one notable exception of a royal duchess who was also a princess by birth. Before the death of King George VI, the present queen was known as HRH the Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh.

  • Claudia Marek

    If the Duke and Duchess have a daughter and name her Catherine, there will be a Princess Catherine.

  • A. P. Schrader

    A reasonable article, though I would contest that referring to the Duchess as ‘HRH Princess William’ is ‘correct’ in the strictest sense. While it is technically one of her titles, I don’t think it can ever be ‘correct’ etiquette to address/refer to her by that title instead of as the Duchess of Cambridge.

  • Charles 742

    The whole world are assuming that HRH Prince George will one day be King, but if HM The Queen outlives Prince Charles then the current Duke of York would be King and as such, his daughter would on his death become Queen

    • Royal Central

      No, if The Queen outlives Prince Charles, Prince William will be King. That’s how the line of succession works. After Prince William is Prince George, this is how it will always be. Prince George will be King bar any unfortunate incident or converting to catholicism etc.

    • Elizabeth

      Charles 742, I am confused by your assertions regarding the Duke of York’s claim to the throne. Do you think that Princes William, George, and Harry do not have precedence in succession? If you recognize the succession rights of the Duke of York’s daughters, why not that of Prince Charles’ sons? Is this merely an oversight or are you trying to make a point of some kind?

      Since you have made this statement more than once, I am curious as to your reasoning.

    • Steven

      The Duke of York could be king if Prince Charles and his descendants would die.

  • peter

    even if you are born of the blood royal it is your mum and dad who decide ask princess zara phillip

    • Royal Central

      Well Zara Phillips isn’t a Princess – she was never entitled to the title of Princess, even by birth.

    • Amanda

      Not necessarily in every case. Titles are passed through the father, not the mother. When Princess Anne married Captain Phillips, the Queen had to issue a special proclamation to re-title her as Anne, Princess Royal. If she wouldn’t have done that, Anne would have lost her title due to her husband being untitled. HM also offered a title to Captain Phillips so that their children could inherit titles, but the couple turned it down.

      • David

        I thought that women inherit their husbands title (or lack of title) only if their current title is below that of their future husbands.

        • Royal Central

          Yes, this is correct. A wife takes her husband’s title unless her own title is higher, thus Princess Anne’s title was unaffected by her marriage to Captain Phillips.

      • Ricky

        Anne didn’t receive the title of Princess Royal at the time of her marriage to Mark Phillips; that came in the late 1980’s.

        Her Majesty could have given Anne this title anytime after 1965, when the previous holder died. This was the Queen’s aunt, Princess Mary, who was King George V’s only daughter. There can only be one living Princess Royal at any given time.

        When this title was bestowed on Princess Anne, the media reported the Queen did this this because of Anne’s many years of royal duties and her work on behalf of charities, especially Save the Children.

      • milifabian

        Princess Anne was created Princess Royal in 1987, not when she got married.

  • duncan

    If Will became king tomorrow he would be HM King William V…. And kate would be ?? HRH Queen consort Katherine, or something? And the baby, HRH Prince George?

    • Royal Central

      Prince William would become His Majesty King William V and his wife would become Her Majesty The Queen or Her Majesty Queen Catherine – Prince George would become HRH The Prince George, Duke of Cornwall.

  • Liz Feola

    This is great! I’m sharing it with my American friends, so I don’t have to explain it again!

  • Jane

    Why was Diana allowed to be called “Princess Diana”? She also had the title, “HRH Diana Princess of Wales”.

    • Amanda

      That was a concession made by the Queen and Prince Charles during the divorce negotiations. As the mother of a future monarch, Buckingham Palace agreed that she needed to have some sort of title, even though she was having HRH stripped. They settled for ‘Princess’. Same thing actually happened to Prince Philip when he married HM. His previous title of Prince was removed once he married (I can’t remember why just now, but I know it’s easy to find if you wish to look into it), but the Queen issued a proclamation declaring that he still be known as Prince Philip.

    • CP

      She wasn’t. That is what the media and the public called her but that was never her title. Before the divorce she was HRH The Princess of Wales (no use of her first name). After the divorce she was Diana, Princess of Wales.

      Simple, “commoner” example – the traditional British way, if you like.

      Miss Anne Smith marries Mr Alan Brown and her formal title is Mrs Alan Brown
      They divorce
      She is now Mrs Anne Brown.

  • Guest USA

    Why do the Royals allow the name Kate Middleton to be used instead of Catherine? Do the Royals not like Catherine? Some proclamation needs to be made by some higher royal as to the correct use of her name or punitive damages will be put of those magazines that call her Kate Middleton which is not her name by any means. The Royals and the public are bullying Catherine again!

    • Bella

      No matter what anyone says on the subject, the media is still going to call her Kate Middleton even though she has been a married woman for almost 3 years now. Kate Middleton, Princess Kate and Princess Catherine sell papers and magazines rather than her proper title The Duchess of Cambridge or Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge.
      I personally tend to ignore any magazines that refuse to use her proper title when they use her image on the front pages.

  • SopranoAscends

    Perhaps we use “Kate Middleton” due to several reasons. Her name appeared for many years in the press as such. But more than that, I would never assume any woman changes her name at marriage. As persons delay marriage, especially educated ones, to about age 30, a woman’s life is established, and thus her indentity, which includes her name. Changing one’s ID, banking, pension, et al is a pain, and often costly. Not that Kate has to personally process those changes. But real women do. I don’t believe the royals have anything to do with “Kate Middleton” being of common usage in most press. Name-changing at marriage is primarily a Western-Anglo convention.

  • Patty Caudle

    The Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine gave birth to a Prince and is a distant cousin to her Prince husband and must do the duties of a Princess. She deserves the right to be Princess Catherine and all of these politics around it should end. She married a prince and is the mother of a Prince. Give her the rightful title. Her son out ranks her. I can see her son ordering her around if he became a belligerent child. SO WRONG!!!!!! Please reconsider this. Then there is the possibility of Prince Charles advocating his son Prince William to King what will Catherine be then? I just do not see this as fair. She’s a Princess in her every right. Let the Queen give her what is is rightfully hers.

  • Patrick

    Diana wasn’t really Princess?

    • Amanda

      She was whilst she was married to Charles, but she lost the title HRH Princess of Wales when she divorced him. She was allowed to continue to have the title ‘Princess’ as part of divorce negotiations, but she was no longer a Princess in anything but name.

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