The ‘Great Kate Debate’: What Royal Etiquette Says About Princess Catherine’s Name And Title

It’s the Great Kate Debate!

Born Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, Kate has been married to Prince William for four years, and has been in the spotlight constantly. Yet there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on what name should be used when referring to her. What she is called runs the gamut from Princess Kate to Duchess Catherine, from Kate Middleton to Catherine Wales.

So what exactly is Kate — or Catherine — or the princess/duchess to be called?

To begin with, Catherine didn’t even garner the nickname Kate until she was in her teens, but now, perhaps with the gravity of their marriage and their royal roles weighing upon him, Prince William now refers to her as “Catherine” in all of his speeches, as do other members of the palace.

On the day that she wed Prince William, royal etiquette and tradition bestowed upon the young Kate the female forms of her husband’s titles, which technically makes her Princess William of Wales — not Princess Kate. The assuming of her husband’s titles is similar to the way a non-royal woman takes on her husband’s last name.

On the same day Kate and Will wed, Queen Elizabeth also gave them the titles of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. And then, just to make things a little more complicated, the young royal couple are also the Earl and Countess of Strathearn in Scotland, as well as the Baron and Baroness of Carrickfergus in Ireland.

Got that all straight?

As far as what one should actually call Kate Middleton, Princess Kate is definitely not it. In the same way that the beloved Princess Di was never actually technically Princess Di, Princess Kate will never actually be Princess Kate, or Princess Catherine. Only those who are born into royalty are allowed to place the title of “prince” or “princess” before their first, given name. And so Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince George, Princess Charlotte — even the Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice — will always be Prince and Princess, no matter who they marry or what they do or where they go, and will be so their entire lives — unless they become King or Queen, but Princess Kate? She’ll never actually be Princess Kate.

The same rule applies to the title of Duchess.

So when Diana married Prince Charles, she was never Princess Diana, but was, instead, Diana, Princess of Wales. However, that does not make Kate into Catherine, Princess of Wales — yet. Kate will not actually become Her Royal Highness Catherine, Princess of Wales until her husband William becomes the Prince of Wales, which will happen after his father, Prince Charles, who is the Prince of Wales as opposed to a prince of Wales, becomes King.

And when her husband, Prince William ascends the throne and becomes the King, Catherine will become Her Majesty Queen Consort Catherine VI.

But what to call her now?

Members of the royal family in modern days often use their family dynasty name, their surname, or simply their first name, according to the Royal Family website. And historically, British royalty have been known by the names of their countries or their dynasty, such as the Tudors. The current monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was actually born a Windsor, and her husband Phillip, a Mountbatten. When they had their children, they gave their offspring the last name of Mountbatten-Windsor.

As for Prince William, he was also given the last name of Wales, for the area that his father, Charles, Prince of Wales, ruled — in addition to being a Mountbatten-Windsor. Prince William seems to prefer to use only Wales. For example, at his schools, both Eton and St. Andrews, he was enrolled simply as “William Wales,” and currently, as an RAF pilot, he’s referred to as Flight Lieutenant William Wales.

But, just in case you aren’t confused enough, William Wales isn’t even technically correct anymore. He should, at this time, by using William Cambridge, because the title of “prince” is apparently more of a courtesy, whereas the title of Duke of Cambridge is seen as a more “major” title than just the mere prince of Wales.

Because of that, Kate could, if she so chose, go by Catherine Cambridge or Catherine Mountbatten-Windsor. The same could be said for George and Charlotte, who is slated to be making a very public appearance soon.

Of course, you can always consider the actual source itself, and see what Kate and William chose to use when registering the birth of her firstborn. William wrote his wife’s name in as “Catherine Elizabeth, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge.”

And as far as job title goes?

“Princess of the United Kingdom.”

Sounds good enough.

For more on Kate Middleton — or, rather, Catherine Elizabeth, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge — click here.

[Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images]