To Top

Why Is Prince Edward An Earl, Not A Duke?

In any Royal commentator’s books, the announcement in 1999 that Prince Edward would be made an Earl and not a Duke on his wedding day gave quite a shock. By tradition, male children of the sovereign receive a Dukedom on their wedding day, therefore making their new wife, the Duchess Of X rather than the slightly more confusing ‘HRH Princess Michael of Kent’ as happened for Prince Michael’s wife.

Prince Edward is the youngest of the Queen’s children, he is automatically ‘HRH The Prince Edward’ by birth and any other titles come affixed to that.

The title of Earl ranks below Duke, below Prince and below Marquess (though Marquess is never used as a Royal title). It is said that Prince Edward chose the title of Earl of Wessex because of its connotations with one of Edward’s favourite films, Shakespeare In Love, in it featured a character with the title of Earl Of Wessex.It could have been worse for Edward and Sophie, he could have been given no title (like the aforementioned Prince and Princess Michael of Kent), making Sophie: ‘Her Royal Highness The Princess Edward’ or in shorter reference, ‘Princess Edward’.

But all this still doesn’t answer why Edward wasn’t made a Duke. Even one of The Queen’s grandchildren was made a Duke [of Cambridge], so why not Prince Edward?

This was, according to official sources, because one day, when Prince Philip dies, Prince Edward will get the title of Duke Of Edinburgh in order to continue the present Duke’s work. Despite this claim and assurance that this will happen, due to succession to titles laws, it won’t be direct and under some circumstances, may not happen!

Ultimately, Prince Philip will have to die in order for Prince Edward to receive the Dukedom Of Edinburgh, but it’s not quite as simple as the succession to the crown, where it passes straight to the next-in-line, in fact – by default, Prince Charles will inherit the title of Duke Of Edinburgh and if he is King at time, the title will merge with the crown. If he is not King, The Queen will be able to reissue the title.

To complicate matters further, if Charles is on the throne, he doesn’t have to issue the title to Edward (nor does Her present Majesty), the Crown is at liberty to do as wished with the title – it could even be given to another member of the Royal Family.

Despite this, we think that they’ll stick to the promise of making Prince Edward Duke of Edinburgh. Plus, this would mean that, by courtesy, Prince Edward’s son, James, would become Earl Of Wessex and instead of being ‘James, Viscount Severn’, would be ‘James, Earl Of Wessex’. – Lady Louise’s title wouldn’t change – Sophie’s title would become ‘HRH The Duchess Of Edinburgh’.

Royal Titles In Great Britain From Highest To Lowest
Male Title Female Title
Duke Duchess
Prince Princess
Earl Countess
Viscount Viscountess
Baron Baroness

  • adam

    Prince is higher the Duke.

    • Royal Central

      An aristocratic Duke ranks below Prince but a Royal Duke ranks above!

      • Nora Miller

        I don’t understand the difference.

        • RookStar

          The article said a prince becomes a duke when he gets married to a female, making the female the duchess. Normally, the performance of an act which results in a higher station makes that station chief to the previous station, which all goes without saying of course but your question seemed to demand a thorough accounting of the facts.

          The prince is married and becomes a Duke. This makes the royal title of Duke higher than that of Prince.

          But, ah…I’m just a stupid American, mind you! 😉

          • denise maguire

            That is not completely true, and we know this because Edward is an Earl. There is no requirement on the Queen to grant a title to any of her family, married or not

          • RookStar

            Edward is beside the point. I’m talking about titles, not specific people. A prince becoming a duke by logic makes duke a superior qualifier to the title of prince.

          • James White

            Which is fascinating when you consider that Winston Churchill (who of course had Royal family connections to the Stuarts) was offered a Dukedom (he declined). But I suppose that he would have been a newly created aristocratic Duke, being elevated from political title to the highest possible title for a commoner to hold. He wasn’t an ascending Prince.

          • Duke K

            It was a toss up between the Duke of Dover and the Duke of London.

        • denise maguire

          a Royal Duke is in line of the throne. A regular Duke is higher than Earl, but lower than a Prince

  • Bisto

    The Dukedom of Edinburgh, and all other Scottish titles, should die out when Scotland becomes independent.

    • matt227

      It would be up to the Scottish Parliament whether to declare a republic, to continue as a constitutional monarchy, and whether to abolish or continue the Scottish peerage.

      The British Royal Family is still descended from medieval kings through the Scottish Stuarts. James I moved from Edinburgh to London, not the other way around, so Elizabeth is very much the Queen of Scotland as much as she is of England and Wales.

      • Bisto

        Don’t disagree with you for one minute, Matt (love your cartoons in The Telegraph, by the way!). But a wastrel like Jedward is unfit to carry such a title. It would be an insult to the people of Scotland. The title should die out with Prince Philip. If it goes to anybody, it should be Harry!

        • RookStar

          Jedward? Please explain.

          • Bisto

            What’s the point? We are not being allowed to comment on anything else, or hadn’t you noticed? Oh, and Edward is as big a joke as the pop-duo Jedward!

      • Douglas Sutherland-Bruce

        There was some talk of asking the Princess Royal to become Scotland’s monarch if the break-away happened.

  • Born2BWyld

    So why wouldn’t “Lady Louise” become “HRH Princess Louise of Edinburgh”? Don’t The Duke of York’s daughters hold titles like that?

    • PB

      Lady Louise is technically already a Princess by letters patent issued in 1917, her parents decided they wanted her to be styled as Lady Louise

  • Kiwi

    Prince Michael of Kent is not a royal duke because he is a younger (not older) son of one. His older brother Prince Edward of Kent inherited the title Duke of Kent from their father, who was the son of King George V. It is only the sons of the sovereign who are granted royal dukedoms on marriage – not generally the grandsons, although this was done for Prince William on marriage, because he is in direct line to the throne, and otherwise his children – who are also in direct line – would not have a princely title. As the younger son, Prince Michael simply retained the title he was born with, and his wife became Princess Michael. But to complicate things, Sophie Countess of Wessex actually IS also known as “Princess Edward” – just as the Duchess of Cambridge also counts “Princess William” among her titles, and the Duchess of Cornwall is also “Princess Charles”, and Sara Ferguson was “Princess Andrew”, as well as Duchess of York. Unless they are actually born into the Royal Family, women do not become princesses in their own name – not even the late Princess of Wales, even though she was often mistakenly called ‘Princess Diana”.

  • Dick Hertz

    Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl…..

    • you beat me to it. I also learned of the Duke of Edinburgh when Edward married. Isn’t it horrid that my beloved Lady Louise will have no royal. Particularly as Little James always looks so miserable and Lady Louise is so merry.

      • denise maguire

        She is a royal. The Earl declined the HRH title for her so she is titled as a child of an Earl. I believe Anne did the same thing when her kids were born

        • Debra

          Anne’s husband declined the offer of an Earldom. That was the only way her children would have had titles unless the Queen issued Letters Patent allowing her children to be HRH’s, which would be unprecedented for a female that wasn’t going to ascend the throne.

    • denise maguire


  • JP

    What is left for Harry (of Wales) on his wedding day … ? I was given the impression from your previous articles that he would be granted the Dukedom of Edinburgh upon the death of the current Duke ? Confused much …?

    • Sarah

      He has said he wants the Dukedom of Sussex.

    • denise maguire

      I’ve heard that he may be granted Duke of Sussex

    • Celya723

      There’s plenty of titles that can be resurrected for Royals should they be requested and reasonable, that’s how Pr Charles’s wife ended up with hers and after she dies they’ll once again become dormant as they’re granted to her exclusively upon the request of her husband for the duration of her life.
      The contract details of that marriage and the origin and condition of her titles are very interesting.

      • Debra

        Camilla has the female version of all of Charles’ titles and chose to be styled as HRH The Duchess of Cornwall with the Queen’s consent. When Charles ascends the throne William will immediately become the next Duke of Cornwall and Catherine will be The Duchess of Cornwall as his wife. They will be styled as TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and Cambridge.

        • Celya723

          Yes! Until Charles’s 2nd marriage happened how his wife would be styled was of major interest until her titles were announced after their papers were approved by the Queens council that overlooks these things. I’m not the only person who learned something new about his other titles and their use until he wed again.
          So William & Catherine will inherit a new layer of grandeur to minister and hold in trust until George’s turn comes about.

  • denise maguire

    What are you referring to?

  • Snowden was made Earl of Snowden upon his marriage to HRH Princess Margaret who became Countess and his son a viscount. David Linley is now the 2nd Earl Snowden. His sister Sarah is styled “Lady”. I have it that Sophie of Wessex disappointed she was not made Duch when Edward became Earl of Wessex but I presume it was done this way so he could inherit his father’s duchy as Duke of Edinburgh. Well, that wore me out. Debrett’s has all the styles and titles.

  • Denmom

    It was my understanding that he embarrassed the royal family by dabbling in show business and a failed business venture. It seems his father was more distressed over this than was the Queen.

  • James Peters

    His other tile is: Dockside Doris, Queen of Plymouth and all surrounding ports

More in Other Royals

Royal Central is the web's most popular source for the latest news and information on the British Royal Family and the Monarchies of Europe.

Subscribe via Email

To receive the latest Royal Central posts straight to your email inbox, enter your email address below and press subscribe.

Join 31,382 other subscribers.

Copyright © 2017 Royal Central, all rights reserved.