The Royal Family – an expensive tourist attraction or the heart of Britain? No matter how you view them, they’re here, there and everywhere. On our money and postage stamps, but also on the front page of the tabloid magazines for wearing the wrong colour nail varnish or an ill-fated night in Las Vegas. More than that however, they’re patrons of our charities, large and small, they’re talking about issues that are important to them such as mental health and education and representing us world wide. And they’ve always been there.
As far back as there is British history, there is a royal family. Whether they’re stable upon their throne or fighting for it, there is little British history without a Royal nearby, doing something good, bad or history making.
They are undeniably interesting, that’s why we can’t stop watching them in Netflix’s hit The Crown, and the two new blockbusters The Favourite and Mary Queen of Scots or even more innovatively in the West-End musical Six which chronicles the six marriages of King Henry VIII. On a more everyday basis, they’re plastered on every form of news outlet, which thrills some and bores others depending on the story (who can forget BBC’s Simon McCoy’s unsubtle lack of interest at the birth of Pippa Middleton’s son). But for a family we like to know so much about, we seem to know very little about them.
For example, why are the Queen’s granddaughters Beatrice and Eugenie Princesses, but their cousin Zara is not?
As the tabloids so lovingly put it, ‘why will Meghan will NEVER be a Princess like Kate’, spoiler alert, it’s far less juicy than they’d like you to think.
Here, these as well as a few other questions about the Royal Family will be answered, so our knowledge can be a little more fleshed out than just what the tabloids and movies want us to know. Not that it’s not equally interesting to know what the Queen’s favourite nail polish shade is though.
(It’sBallet Shoesby Essie, by the way).
The British line of succession has suffered many different diverting chops and changes in its vibrant history, perhaps a reason it’s so interesting to historians and royal enthusiasts alike. The change that was most recently impactful to us today was the abdication of Edward VIII in favour of his love and desire to marry Wallace Simpson who was deemed unfit for a royal marriage due to her previous divorces. This move left us with George VI on the throne, and thus planting Elizabeth II as next in the line of succession at just ten years old. Her coronation was in early 1952, and at the time of writing she has been our monarch for sixty-six years and three hundred and forty two days.
Her eldest son, Charles, The Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall is the current heir apparent, with the line of succession then falling to his son William before trickling down William’s children, leaving Harry, Duke of Sussex sixth in line for the throne. However, as both the Queen and Charles edge further into old age, the worry is that Charles will die before the Queen, leaving the line of succession in a slight state of limbo. Some believe that if Charles dies before the Queen, the logical line of succession would be for the crown to go to the Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew, who is currently seventh in line for the throne, diverting the whole line of succession towards Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.
William fans need not fear however, as it has been confirmed that if Charles were to die before the Queen, the line of succession would remain as currently is, with William becoming heir apparent.
This is where the titles get slightly confusing. If Charles does die before the Queen, William may take the title of Prince of Wales, but will not become the Duke of Cornwall. However, if Charles becomes King, William will most likely take both the titles that Charles currently holds. This is because the title of Prince of Wales is for the heir apparent, which William would be in either situation, but Duke of Cornwall is saved for the monarch’s eldest son, which William would only be when Charles becomes King - make sense? Don’t worry that’s not even the most complicated issue surrounding titles, here are some more, most of them involve Princesses.
‘Anne, Princess Royal.’ Why not just Princess Royal? Or Princess Anne, the Princess Royal? What even is a Princess Royal?
To put it simply, Princess Royal is a title customarily, but not necessarily, giving to the monarch’s eldest daughter, hence Anne the eldest and only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II currently holds the title.
The title was an honoured tradition in history as the line of succession always favoured men over women in Britain up until a law change in 2015. A daughter could be the eldest of all the children of the monarch but if she had a younger brother, he would surpass her in the line of succession. Anne, Princess Royal, is the second born of Elizabeth’s children but because of her two younger brothers, Princes Andrew and Edward, she is currently thirteenth in line to the throne, rather than seventh where Andrew currently stands. This will not happen today though, Princess Charlotte’s place in the line of succession is solid, in between her brothers and will not be surpassed by the younger Prince Louis or any more son’s that Kate and William may have. It is also likely that Princess Charlotte will be the next Princess Royal during the reign of her father William.
However not every eldest daughter automatically gets the title of Princess Royal. Queen Elizabeth II never held the title as a Princess and eldest daughter of King George VI. This is because her aunt Mary, Princess Royal, was still alive when she took the throne. Out of respect and courtesy, the title is not stripped from a Princess Royal when a monarch dies or abdicates, despite them no longer being the eldest daughter of a monarch.
Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie and… Zara?
Many find it odd that not all of the Queen’s grandchildren are Princesses or Princes despite being in the line of succession. Zara Phillips and her brother Peter were not given titles at birth because it is their mother that is a child of the monarch not their father. Sounds archaic and sexist doesn’t it? That’s because it is, but that’s the way of the monarchy. If Zara and Peter were born to Prince Andrew like Beatrice and Eugenie were they would instantly have some form of title whether it be Princess or Viscount. However, Peter and Zara along with their father, Anne’s first husband Mark Phillips, were all offered titles by the Queen, but they turned them down. So they weren’t completely left out.
Why Meghan will NEVER be a Princess like Kate.
It’s got nothing to do with anything interesting, before you ask. Not because she’s American or an actress. It’s, once again, all to do with titles!
Within the royal family, those that marry-in take the gendered versions of their spouse’s titles. So, Meghan will never be a Princess because despite being ‘Prince’ Harry his official title is, and will remain, Duke of Sussex, so Meghan will remain Duchess of Sussex.
The only factor impacting the difference between Meghan and Kate’s titles is that Kate married the older brother. So when William becomes Prince of Wales, Kate will become Princess of Wales or Princess William. However when William is King of England, Kate will not be Queen of England, but rather Queen Catherine or Queen Consort. This is because of the power the title of Queen or King of England holds. And with historically the title of King being higher than Queen, no Queen of England’s husband will be King of England, or even King Consort, but rather remain a Prince, such as with Prince Phillip.
It appears a lot of the confusion around the ‘Princesses’ comes from Princess Diana’s titles. But what is often forgotten is that ‘Princess Diana’ was a title given by the people and the press. Officially, Diana was the Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall or Princess Charles. These titles are now all held by Camilla Parker-Bowles, who formally and solely goes by the title Duchess of Cornwall out of respect for Diana who formally went by Princess of Wales. Camilla was not particularly well liked when Charles and she married, and taking the title that was so highly associated with the beloved Diana was not going to help that image. Since then, the stylisation of Camilla as the HRH Duchess of Cornwall has simply stuck.
There are many more titles within the Royal Family and beyond, but trust me when I say they are even more confusing than the aforementioned ones within the direct royal family. But hey, hopefully now when you watch The Crown, you’ll have a tiny bit more of an idea what they’re going on about when talking of the Duke of Over There and the Duchess of Over Here.