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HistoryInsightPrincess Anne and Family

History of Royal Titles: The Princess Royal

There are a huge number of official titles given to members of The Royal Family, often determined by degrees of seniority or place in the line of succession. Royal Central is taking a look at where the title ‘The Princess Royal’ originated from and who it can be used by. 

The Princess Royal is typically the eldest daughter of the monarch, which is why Princess Anne – the only daughter of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh – is the current holder. 

There have been seven Princess Royals throughout British history, the inaugural of whom was Princess Mary, the eldest daughter of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria. The Princess was given the title in 1642 as Queen Henrietta desired to mirror how the eldest daughter of the King of France was given the title ‘Madame Royale’.

Following Princess Mary, the other Princess Royals include Princess Louisa Maria (daughter of King James II and VII), Princess Anne (daughter of King George II), Princess Charlotte (daughter of King George III), Princess Victoria (daughter of Queen Victoria), Princess Louise (daughter of King Edward VII), Princess Mary (daughter of King George V) and, finally Princess Anne (daughter of Queen Elizabeth II). 

Whilst the rights of primogeniture do come into play, the inheritance of the title is not guaranteed if the previous incumbent is still alive. For example, when King George V died, his daughter, Mary, was still the Princess Royal, meaning that when King George VI came to the throne, his daughter Princess Elizabeth (now The Queen) could not inherit the title, even though she would have been eligible to hold it.

The title is held for life, regardless of whether the holder outlives her parent. Unlike other titles, upon the Princess Royal’s death, the title is not automatically inherited by her eldest daughter, it is instead given to the new monarch to bestow it upon their own daughter – if they have one.

There is much speculation as to what will happen to the title when the current holder, Princess Anne, dies. If the Princess does not outlive her brother, Prince Charles, when he becomes king, there is a chance it will lay dormant for a few years as the Prince of Wales has no daughters. However, when Prince William comes to the throne, his daughter, Princess Charlotte, would become eligible to assume the title of the Princess Royal.