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Could Lady Louise change her title and become a princess?

It’s been quite the week for changing names. In the past seven days, five members of the family of King Charles III have gained new titles but one was noticeably left the same. However, could Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor alter her own style now?

Lady Louise’s parents became the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh on March 10th 2023. Prince Edward was given the title by King Charles on his 59th birthday, fulfilling a long stated wish of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. It meant a change for Edward and Sophie’s only son who now carries his father’s secondary title as a courtesy. He is now James, Earl of Wessex.

However, Louise, despite being older than James, remains a Lady. She was styled as the daughter of an earl from the time of her birth, in 2003, and now carries the title of a daughter of a Duke, which is also ‘Lady’. It’s led to discussions about inequality – despite the laws of succession changing a decade ago to reflect birth order and stop men overtaking women, the rules around noble titles remain the same as they have for centuries. Louise might be the elder child of the new Duke of Edinburgh but her brother takes precedence with titles.

However, there is another title available to Louise that she has never used. Under the much talked about Letters Patent of 1917, issued by King George V, she could be known as HRH Princess Louise. Those Letters Patent, signed by a king who actually wanted to trim down the number of people in his family with royal titles, the use of HRH and Prince or Princess was limited to children of a Monarch and grandchildren of a Monarch in the male line. Again, it’s hardly in chime with the equality of the 21st century as only the children of a Monarch’s sons are included. But it opens up the possibility of a princess at number 15 in the line of succession.

However, her own family have said that is unlikely to happen. In 1999, when the now Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh married, they announced that any children they had would not use royal titles. Sophie mentioned this in an interview in 2021, just before her daughter turned 18, when she said ‘We try to bring them up with the understanding they are very likely to have to work for a living. Hence we made the decision not to use HRH titles. They have them and can decide to use them from 18, but I think it’s highly unlikely.”

When Louise turned 18, in December 2021, she made no change to her title and has shown no indication that she will at any point in the future. And she has already been out to work, taking a holiday job in a garden centre before she headed off to university in Scotland.

But could she really become a princess if she decided to in the future? It seems unlikely as King Charles has long wanted a ”slimmed down” monarchy. Furthermore, the Dukedom of Edinburgh created for Prince Edward is for his lifetime only, it won’t be passed on. And Lady Louise, who has been widely praised for her calm confidence in the public events she has taken on, already seems self assured enough to know the path she wants to follow in life.

It’s been quite the week for title talk and, of course, it remains an intriguing part of royal life. But, ultimately, there is always a person involved and their own attitude is as important as the so called historic attributes that come with it. In the 21st century, the princess who might have been but chose not to be is a strong indication of how the Monarchy will evolve.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.