Prince William and Kate Middleton don’t have custody of their kids, Princes George and Louis and Princess Charlotte! Of course, that’s just the way the law is written; in practice, of course, their kids stay with them and they act as their parents (because they are). But the British royal family being what it is, the situation is more complicated.
As Elle reports, British law is one thing, while actual practice is another. For example, according to the law, Queen Elizabeth “rules” the country, while according to practice, Parliament actually rules the country, they just do so at the monarch’s (that is, the Queen’s) pleasure. Similarly, all minor children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren (and so on) of the monarch are actually in his/her custody; whereas in practice they actually belong to their parents.
So in other words, officially George, Charlotte, and Louis are in the custody of Queen Elizabeth, while in practice, they belong to their parents, Prince William and Kate Middleton. And if (when) Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have children, their kids will officially be in the custody of Queen Elizabeth (or King Charles, depending on who reigns when they are born), even though in practice Meghan and Harry will be able to parent their children themselves.
So why does the Sovereign officially get custody of the minor children of his or her descendants? Royal historian and expert Marlene Koenig says that it goes back 300 years to the reign of King George I.
“He did it because he had a very poor relationship with his son, the future King George II, so they had this law passed that meant the King was the guardian of his grandchildren.”
Parliament just hasn’t gotten around to changing the law. It’s only been three centuries, so why the rush?
That means that, according to the letter of the law, Elizabeth II could, if she wanted to, prohibit the kids’ traveling, or dictate where they go to school, and so on. In practice, she does not – at least, not always.
According to Elite Daily, Charles had to ask for his mother’s permission when Harry and William wanted to travel together with their mother, Princess Diana. She’s not known to have ever mixed in with their upbringing, but it’s no secret that she and Princess Diana didn’t see eye to eye when it came to the boys’ upbringing.
When Charles becomes king, he’s almost certain to follow in his mother’s footsteps and allow his adult children to parent their minor children themselves, says Koenig.
“[Charles is] very respectful of his son’s parenting. He understands they want to raise their children privately…the only thing Charles might ask for is more pictures.”