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The History of The Princess Royal

The prestigious title of ‘Princess Royal’ dates back to 1642 when Queen Henrietta Maria, spouse of Charles I, wanted an Anglicised version of the French title ‘Madame Royale’.

Mary Princess of Orange

Portrait of Princess Royal Mary Stuart (1631–1660)

The next Princess Royal was Anne, Born on 2 November 1709 she was the eldest daughter of George II and Caroline of Ansbach.

The title was to be bestowed on the eldest daughter of the monarch, just as Princess Royal is today. Once the title was introduced, their eldest daughter, Mary, received the honour at just ten years of age. She held the title until her death from smallpox in 1660.

Named after Queen Ann, she unlike her predecessor, survived a bout of smallpox in 1720. Created Princess Royal on 30 August 1727, she later became the wife of William IV, Prince of Orange. She much preferred her marital title, Princess of Orange, therefore; she ceased to use her British title upon her marriage. She died from dropsy in 1759, reverting the Princess Royal title back to the British crown.

The next time the title was used was when it was bestowed upon George III’s eldest daughter, Charlotte. She was born on 29 September 1766, in Buckingham House. She was named after her mother. Charlotte officially became Princess Royal on June 22nd, 1789. She would later become Queen of Württemberg, upon her marriage to Frederick. After his death, she contracted dropsy and returned to Britain for surgery. She passed away the following year and is buried in Germany’s Ludwigsburg Palace.

The title appeared for the 4th time when Queen Victoria conferred it upon her eldest child and namesake, Victoria. She was born on the 21st of November, 1840 but did not receive the title until the following year. Victoria – “Vicky” to her family – went on to marry Prince Frederick William of Prussia at the age of 17. This marriage, although happy, was quite a political one, like most royal marriages at the time. Prince Albert and Queen Victoria hoped that it would strengthen the ties between Britain and Germany. Victoria later became Empress, but her husband reigned for less than 100 days. She died of cancer on 5 August 1901, less than a year after the death of her mother. The title, once again, went back to the crown.

Less than five years later, the title was used for Louise, daughter of Edward VII. She became Duchess of Fife a mere two days after she married the 6th Earl Fife on the 27thof July 1889. Her father made her Princess Royal on November 9th, 1905. She then used the title HRH The Princess Royal. She was known by this title until her death in 1931, at home in London. She is buried in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

The sixth Princess Royal was Mary, the only daughter of George V. She was born on the 25th of April, 1897 at Sandringham, her father’s beloved residence. In 1922, she married Viscount Lascelles, against her will, although the marriage turned out to be a happy one. On New Year’s Day, 1932, her father bestowed upon her the Princess Royal title. She held the title until her death on the 28th of March, 1965, from a heart attack. She is buried at Harewood House. Mary saw a whopping six British monarchs in her lifetime, the first being Queen Victoria, right up until the current monarch, her niece, Elizabeth II.

The current Princess Royal is Anne, only daughter of the current Queen. The second child of The Duke of Edinburgh and The Queen was born at Clarence House on the 15th of August, 1950. On the 13th of June, 1987, the Queen bestowed her with the title of Princess Royal. She is well-known for being one of the hardest-working members of the current Royal Family and being the first royal to take part in the Olympics. Anne’s first marriage to Captain Mark Phillips in 1973 ended in divorce in 1992 – the Queen’s infamous ‘annus horribilis’. It produced two children, Peter and Zara. Anne refused to confer titles upon them – a decision that both children are grateful. In the same year, she married Sir Timothy Laurence, under the Church of Scotland. They have been married for almost 23 years.

But alas, the title is not without its disputes. Louisa Maria Stewart was born to her parents, James VII and II & Mary of Modena, in exile. As their eldest daughter, the title of Princess Royal was conferred upon her by her birth in 1692. She held the title until her death in 1712, from smallpox. According to a French nobleman, Louisa Maria’s death “filled all France with sighs, groans and tears.” She is buried, as is her father, in the Church of the English Benedictines, Paris. Although, as stated above, the legitimacy of this particular Princess Royal is debatable.

As the title has been used seven times since its first appearance, it will likely be used again. The next eligible recipient will be the newest member of the British Royal Family – Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. The future King William V will likely make her Princess Royal once the time comes. However, the title cannot be used until it reverts to the crown – and as the title is held for life, that cannot happen until the death of Princess Anne.

Photo Credit: Bartholomeus van der Helst [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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