Meghan Markle will never be a princess. It’s not that her relationship with Prince Harry has come to an end and hopes of another royal wedding have been dashed. The problem is that even if she does marry her handsome prince, Meghan can’t be Princess Meghan because of the complex rules regarding royal titles. It’s different for those who are born into the family and those who simply marry into it.
When Meghan Markle’s relationship with Prince Harry was revealed the press went wild and everyone was thrilled that the royal prince had found love. It’s a sign of the times that nobody cared that Meghan is an actress currently starring in the legal drama Suits, or that she is American, or that she bi-racial, or that she already has one marriage under her belt. All people cared about was that the new couple was happy. Things would have been very different in the 1930s, as Wallis Simpson discovered.
But, even if Markle gets to put on a tiara and travel to Westminster Abbey in a horse-drawn carriage to marry Harry, she won’t become Princess Meghan.
That’s because only those women born royal – that is, the child of a royal – are granted the title of ‘princess’ before their Christian names. Currently, there are five female members of the British royal family who enjoy this status. Princess Anne, the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, daughters of the Duke of York, Princess Alexandra, a cousin of the Queen, and Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
It’s different for those women who marry into the royal family. When a prince marries it’s customary for the monarch to bestow a new title upon him. This is usually a royal dukedom. In the case of Prince William, Queen Elizabeth II made him Duke of Cambridge. All the Windsor wives take on the female version of their husband’s title – so Catherine Middleton became Duchess of Cambridge.
There was some confusion at the time of Kate’s marriage to William in 2011 about whether she would be called Princess Kate or not. In fact, when it comes to the royal rules Kate couldn’t be called Princess Kate because she isn’t a princess in her own right. She’s actually called Princess William. Or, if you want to get really technical about it she’s Her Royal Highness Princess William of Wales, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, and Lady Carrickfergus.
However, despite not technically being a princess by blood, Kate is a Princess of the United Kingdom. This became clear when her name was included on the birth certificate of her first child, Prince George. When Prince William was registering their son’s birth, he listed his wife’s occupation as “Princess of the United Kingdom.” So, Kate isn’t a natural born princess, but she is a princess by marriage. It sounds confusing, right?
When it comes to the royal family, rules are important. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be broken, at least casually. The late Princess Diana wasn’t a princess by blood either, but she was of course known as Princess Diana. That popular derivation stemmed from the fact that she was Princess of Wales and her name got shortened to Princess Diana or Princess Di.
So what does all this mean for Meghan Markle? If her relationship with Prince Harry stands the test of time (not to mention the stresses of media intrusion) and they get engaged, Meghan’s status will change. A big wedding will naturally follow and on the day of the ceremony Queen Elizabeth will likely bestow a new title on her grandson. There are several royal dukedoms currently not in use. One of these will be revived for Harry. It might be the dukedom of Albany, Albermarle, or Sussex, to name but a few. Meghan would therefore become Duchess of Albany or Albermarle or Sussex. As well as being HRH Princess Henry. But she probably wouldn’t want to be known as Princess Henry.
[Featured Image by Andrew Toth/Getty Images]