The drama began with the declaration on Prince George’s birth registration back in 2013 that Kate was a ‘Princess of the United Kingdom’. A common royal description on such documents, yet this time the title aroused big questions from some who saw it as an indication Kate had been made a princess.
After consulting with Kensington Palace, we were told the reason why she was referred to as a Princess of the United Kingdom on the birth document is because she is one… but not quite as you think.
Through marriage she is ‘Princess William’, because she takes the female form of her husband’s titles. In the same way as when a commoner marries, the wife takes her husband’s name and rank, the same is very much true for titles.
Despite this title being held through marriage, it’s incredibly unlikely Kate will ever be made a princess in her own right. In Europe, there is a precedent for this – where in many of the European monarchies, those who marry into the royal families are, by default, made ‘prince’ or ‘princess’ in their own right. This arguably simpler system is not used in the UK however where custom and usage has evolved so that the title is – almost invariably – only given to royals-by-birth or ‘blood royals’.
A special document known as the 1917 letters patent regulates the use of the title Prince/Princess for the most part, detailing that it is to be held by all children of any Sovereign, all children born to sons of any Sovereign and the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. In 2012, The Queen created a new letters patent which now grants the title to all children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. In practice, this part means that all children of Prince William will be Princes and Princesses now.
There have been very few occasions when those who do not fit the description of ‘blood royal’ have been given the title in their own right, and this mostly happens in the case of royal widows, such as Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester – allowed to use the title of Princess by The Queen and Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent. Needless to say, Kate fits neither of those criteria.
Another side of this is the question ‘what about when William is Prince of Wales?’ If and when the title of Prince of Wales is granted to Prince William after Prince Charles becomes King, he would simply become HRH The Prince of Wales, whilst Catherine (currently Duchess of Cambridge) would adopt the title of ‘HRH The Princess of Wales’. But that would still not make her ‘Princess Catherine’ – the title of Princess of Wales is not the same as being a Princess.
For instance, even though people refer Diana, Princess of Wales ‘Princess Diana’, she never actually held that title and it was used by many as a shortened – though incorrect – version of her title. The same applies to Kate – if and when she becomes Princess of Wales.
In the normal way of things now, she’ll never become a ‘Princess’ in her own right. There’s no precedent for affording the title to royals in her position and there’s no reason to think that this tradition will be broken any time soon – or at all.
If you have any further questions about Kate’s titles or anything you’ve read here, enter them into the comments box below.
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