Meghan Markle and Royal Titles

What’s in a Name?

In the lead up to the royal wedding on 19th May 2018, Meghan Markle and Royal Titles were in accordance with with her husband, HRH Prince Henry of Wales. Markle was bestowed the titles, The Duchess of Sussex, The Countess of Dumbarton and Baroness of Kilkeel. She also received the style Her Royal Highness (HRH). Since she is not a Princess by birth, she is considered Princess Henry of Wales, and not Princess Meghan. We explain how titles are created, who receives them and how they benefit the “entitled”.

Contributors: Annika | Sabina Guthridge | Rebecca Quince

Meghan Markle Royal Titles – “The wedding”

The marriage of Prince Henry of Wales to Ms. Rachel Meghan Markle was a turning point for the British Monarchy. Ms. Markle was considered a “breath of fresh air” because of her mixed race heritage and being an American divorcee. Some even compared her to Wallis Simpson. But these are different times and divorce is no longer a stigma.

Her lifestyle broke the mould of a “Royal bride”. Unlike The Duchess of Cambridge, nee Catherine Middleton, the former Ms. Markle did not move in the same social circles, albeit both The Duchesses came from middle-class backgrounds. She is also an independent feminist and former Hollywood actor. Her sense and sensibilities are uniquely American, but she is not the first American woman to be styled and titled, in the traditions of the British Aristocracy.

The “Calculating” Social Climbing Ms Markle?

Early on, reports surfaced that Ms. Markle was a “calculating” social climber who wanted to be a Princess. This was chiefly asserted by Andrew Morton in his new book and also confirmed by former friends and half-sister, Samantha Markle.

A childhood video portrayed Ms. Meghan Markle as a tiara-wearing Queen belittling her subjects. It was claimed, that Ms. Markle was fascinated with the Princess Diaries movies and obsessed with Diana, Princess of Wales. It was claimed that she even owned a book about the Royals.

All this gave credence to the plot of a wannabe Princess. Perhaps, Ms. Markle’s comment of not knowing anything about the Royal family, during her engagement interview, was perhaps a bit disingenuous. But what little girl doesn’t want to be a Princess? Whilst many grow up and move on with their lives, some stay the course.

Meghan Markle Royal Titles – “Not Princess in her own name”

When Ms. Markle married Prince Henry of Wales on 19th May 2018, she received the title, The Duchess of Sussex. Additionally, she was The Countess of Dumbarton and Baroness of Kilkeel. She was styled Her Royal Highness (HRH).

It was odd to many that marrying a Prince would not garner her the title of Princess. Well, the British Monarchy is reaped in tradition and in the past, Dukedoms were awarded to the sons of the Monarch.

In recent incarnation of this role, the Queen bestows rightful titles upon marriage and not all of them were Dukedoms. Prince Edward received an Earldom as The Earl of Wessex (reference the film, “Shakespeare in Love”) and his wife became Sophie, the Countess of Wessex; however, like all royal styles, they will mostly like be styled The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh when Prince Phillip dies.

Like any other successful “firm”, the British Royal Family also has a “succession plan”. Titles are upgraded with each new Monarch, and each passing, and it goes down the line. All children of the Monarch and their heirs are upgraded to their new titles. However, there are no guarantees.

The Letters Patent – The Monarch’s “Rubber Stamp”

In Britain, your birthright as a Princess is largely determined by the bloodline and by the Letters Patent that dictates hereditary styles, titles and honours.

HRH Princess Beatrice of York and HRH Princess Eugenie of York are ‘blood royals.’ Their father is The Duke of York. Whilst HRH Prince George of Cambridge follows similar patterns of the 1917 Letters of Patent by King George V, his sister almost became Lady Charlotte, if not for the intervention of the Queen who issued new Letters Patent on 31st December 2012, styling all children of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in similar fashion.

Prince Edward faced a different situation, by his own making. Upon his marriage, it was decreed that any issues of The Earl and Countess of Wessex would not be styled HRH with title of Princess or Prince. Instead, they were styled “Lady” and “Lord.” Thus, their children, respectively are Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor and James, Viscount Severn or Lord Severn. If that was not complicated enough, new Letters Patent could be issued when The Prince of Wales ascends. It is unlikely he would rock tradition and may even shrink the pool of styles, titles and honours.

Meghan Markle Royal Titles – “Princess” by another route

The title of Princess can also be achieved through marriage, as the mother of the next monarch in succession. In the case of The Duchess of Cambridge, she will be styled as HRH The Princess of Wales when her father-in-law The Prince of Wales becomes king and her husband, The Duke of Cambridge becomes The Prince of Wales, next in line to the British throne.

Diana was able to maintain her title of Princess of Wales, as the mother of Prince William, but unfortunately, lost the style HRH upon her divorce. She then was styled, Diana, Princess of Wales. When Prince Charles married his second wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, she was styled HRH The Princess of Wales, but decided to use her other title, The Duchess of Cornwall.

One important information should be noted here. The Duchess of Sussex has the choice and use of another title, that of Princess Henry of Wales. In the bygone era of proper honorifics, when a woman married, she took her husband’s name. Thus, The former Ms. Jones when married to Mr. John Smith, would become Mrs. John Smith, as did Princess Michael of Kent, who is the only royal to use such a title. If the Duchess of Sussex wants to be a ‘Princess,’ then she has a footpath.

King George V – Letters Patent 1917

When King George V issued Letters Patent in 1917, he made it clear that only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales “shall have and enjoy in all occasions the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes of these Our Realms.” Prior to the birth of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, the Queen issued new Letters Patent on 31st December 2012, which included all children of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The issues of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will not have this right and thus will be styled “Lady” or “Lord.” The Queen could do the same for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but it is highly doubtful. Regardless, peerage dictates that only a male heirs could inherit the title and land.

Meghan Markle Royal Titles – “Royal Finishing School”

What’s in store for The Duchess of Sussex after her royal nuptials? She will attend the ‘Royal Finishing School.‘ It’s not an actual “class” on how to become royal. She will be assigned Royal Courtiers who will help her succeed. In order to successfully navigate the dynamics of this complex family, she will do well to learn from past mistakes. Additionally, she will need to carefully follow royal protocol. That might be a tall order for this ‘brash’ American.

Whilst the British Monarchy has made great strides to connect to a modern world, they still hold dear the traditions that have sustained them. These are the traditions that make the British Monarchy unique, mysterious and garner public interest and fascination.

The Hon. DIC – The Minx Report 2018

Final words

​A member of the Royal Family should be poised, conservative, fair and balanced. In addition, she must know her place in the pecking order. Whilst the word, “obey” has been stricken from marriage vows, The Duchess of Sussex should uphold the duties and traditions that her position dictates. It takes at least five years to acclimate and change culture and it will take this time before The Duchess of Sussex becomes a British citizen. Some have speculated she may bolt. Romance and Love aside, the reality comes AFTER you say, “I will.”