Every since they tied the knot months ago, the world has been speculating when Harry and Meghan might add to their family with a new baby. They’re already aunt and uncle to Duke William and Duchess Kate’s children, George, Charlotte, and Louis. Royal watchers are eager to see what the pair will be like as parents.
But News.au.com reports a strange and little-known fact about royal parents, including William and Kate. None of them have legal custody of their own minor children! Technically, the reigning king or queen, in this case Queen Elizabeth, has custody of any and all royal progeny, shared royal expert Marlene Koenig.
“This goes back to King George I [who ruled in the early 1700s], and the law’s never been changed. 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.”
That ancient change from 300 years ago still stands, even though the children it was meant to protect have long since passed on. In 1717, the law passed with a majority of 10 out of 12 judges. They determined the king should have custody of the children even while his son, their father, was alive.
Queen Elizabeth has famously raised packs of corgis since her children have grown, and now it seems she may be at least nominally responsible for a passel of grandchildren as well. Koenig, who has written two books on royal history, said the law was revisited and upheld in 1772, when King George III reigned. The law is still in effect and has not been repealed or lifted.
It has in fact impacted the lives of royal parents, including Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. When Princes William and Harry were young, the pair had to ask permission to fly their small sons to Scotland, as the queen had the final word on travel.
The law also means that custody has been a non-issue in divorce cases like Charles and Diana’s, and that of Prince Andrew and Duchess Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson.
“Custody is not included [in those divorce documents] because they did not legally have custody of their children to begin with,” Koenig said.
However, Koenig doesn’t see the law playing a huge role in the lives of the royal children, especially if Charles takes the throne. She says Charles is respectful of his son’s parenting choices and doesn’t anticipate he will interfere much, if at all. But perhaps the more modern Meghan will have more to say.