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British RoyalsThe Wessexes

Can Lady Louise really take the title of Princess on her 18th birthday?


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On 8 November 2021, Lady Louise Windsor will turn 18. The elder child of Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, and his wife, Sophie, much of the conversation around her milestone birthday is about her styling.

Louise is known formally as Lady Louise Windsor, as the daughter of an earl would be styled. However, as the grandchild of the sovereign in a male line, she has been entitled since birth to use the “Her Royal Highness” style. In a statement shared shortly after her birth, The Queen, along with the Wessexes, stated that Louise would be styled as an earl’s daughter rather than HRH. 

In a 2020 interview with The Times, Louise’s mother 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.”

The 1917 Letters Patent (issued by George V) clearly defines who can and who cannot use the HRH style. It was specifically designed to limit the number of people who can use the royal highness designation. However, it does not address those who are entitled to use the styling but choose not to – there is no clause that precludes someone legally entitled to use the HRH style if they decide to not use it. 

Sophie’s statement clearly shows that the option for Louise to use the HRH style is there. The Wessexes are known for being incredibly close to Her Majesty, and it seems unlikely that Sophie would make such a strong statement in a public interview if The Queen disagreed. While royal squabbles and family fights emerge from different branches of the Royal Family, there are rarely any issues raised between The Queen and the Wessexes. And this would be an especially odd time to publicly force an issue (if it exists), when The Queen’s health is in question and she is still mourning the death of her husband. 

Louise is royal by birth, whether or not she goes by HRH. If The Queen had issued a new Letters Patent for Louise (and presumably her brother), that would be a separate issue, but she has not. Her HRH style has not formally been removed – a press release on its own does not constitute that. 

Heraldica.org has argued: “The sovereign’s will and pleasure is all that matters, and she can change styles and titles as she pleases … How that pleasure is publicised, by letters patent, warrant, press release or verbal declaration, is immaterial.” However, that is also not clearly defined. The Queen has issued Letters Patent multiple times in her reign, most recently in 1996 and 2012 – when she wants to issue them, she does. She is making that distinction herself, and press releases and Letters Patent should not be conflated. 

Whether or not she will actually begin to use the HRH title is another looming question. Lady Louise was widely praised for her part in the 2021 BBC interview with the Royal Family on Prince Philip and his legacy. It was this interview, coupled with the declining number of working royals, that has prompted people to seriously ask if she will take on the HRH. 

From what we have seen in the interview and heard from her parents, much like The Queen, Louise does seem to be quieter and happier to spend her time in the country. Given this and the fact that the Prince of Wales has a fairly serious plan to slim down the monarchy, it seems unlikely that she will now use the HRH title. 

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Historian and blogger at AnHistorianAboutTown.com