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Why are Prince Edward’s children not titled as Prince and Princess?

The Earl and Countess of Wessex, Lady Louise, James, Viscount Severn

In the UK there are very specific rules regarding who is entitled to be a Prince or Princess. Most of these rules come from Letters Patent issued in 1917 by King George V, in which the King accords the Princely title to all children of the Sovereign, to the Sovereign’s male-line grandchildren and to the eldest living of the Prince of Wales’s eldest son.

However, when the Law of Succession changed to absolute primogeniture in 2012, The Queen issued new Letters Patent to make sure that all children of the Prince of Wales’s eldest son were entitled to be Princes and Princesses. That change was necessary because if the Duchess of Cambridge’s firstborn had been a girl, she would be ahead of any younger brother in the succession, but still be titled as a Lady, while her younger brother would be a Prince.

Now, why are Prince Edward’s children not titled as Prince and Princess? As male-line grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth II, they have as much right to a princely title as the children of Prince Charles or Prince Andrew.

Just as happened on Prince Harry’s wedding day, when Buckingham Palace released a statement to announce his future titles, the same happened on the day Prince Edward wed Sophie Rhys-Jones.

Prince Edward’s statement, however, came with many surprises. First of all, it broke with a centuries-old tradition that children of the monarch were created Dukes upon marriage. Prince Edward became Earl of Wessex, but the statement made clear that the Royal Family intended for him to be created Duke of Edinburgh after both Charles’s accession and Prince Philip’s death.

It also announced that The Queen decided, with the consent of both Edward and Sophie, that any children the couple might have together would not be given the style His or Her Royal Highness, but instead be styled as children of an Earl. That makes Prince Edward’s children The Queen’s first male-line descendants not to have royal titles, and in accordance with Her Majesty’s 1960 Order-in-Council, they are the firsts to be allowed the proper use of the Mountbatten-Windsor family name.

As a result, their daughter is The Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor, as opposed to HRH Princess Louise of Wessex, and their son is James, Viscount Severn, who uses his father’s subsidiary title as a courtesy and is not HRH Prince James of Wessex.

This change in the Royal Family may come as consequence of the Prince of Wales’s idea that the family should have a smaller amount of members to perform royal duties and be supported by taxpayer money.

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