Will Charlotte ever be Princess Royal?


The birth of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge brought joy to the nation last year.  But the changes to the laws of succession raise fascinating questions as to the Royal titles that she might bear during her life.

Before I started Royal History Geeks I used to pen a blog called ‘UK Royal Titles.’  Given the relative obscurity of the subject matter, it was fairly well read.  (It also proved, in case there was any doubt, that as a human being, I occupy the pinnacle of coolness).

Perhaps because of my expertise in such matters (LOL), a few people have asked me about what title our precious little Princess Charlotte of Cambridge will be entitled to as she progresses throughout her life.  The answer to this is slightly trickier than it might seem.

Certain title evolutions are easy to predict.  Short of some major change in approach she will always retain the style of Royal Highness and the titular dignity of Princess.  Upon her grandfather’s accession she will officially by styled HRH Princess Charlotte of Cambridge and Cornwall and, in the likely event of William’s creation as Prince of Wales, HRH Princess Charlotte of Wales.  When William finally reaches the throne she would lose the territorial designation and gain the definite article, becoming HRH The Princess Charlotte.  Should she ever marry, some documents will style her with her husband’s status following on from her title e.g. The Princess Charlotte, Mrs John Smith or The Princess Charlotte, Duchess of Norfolk.

But the real question I get asked is ‘will Charlotte ever be made Princess Royal?’  Because this is a title that can only be bestowed (by convention) on the oldest daughter of a sovereign, commentators have correctly noted that Charlotte is the most likely candidate to receive it; but we need to be clear – that doesn’t make it a done deal.  There are in fact, three factors that could come between Charlotte and the title:

  • The longevity of Princess Anne – As the eldest daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, Anne was granted the title in 1987.  However, despite the fact that (if all goes as it should) she will one day be the sister and then Aunt of the King, she keeps the title with her for life.  When the Queen ascended in 1952 her Aunt Mary was still Princess Royal.  She died in 1965 but the Queen left it over 20 years before dusting off the honour in favour of her daughter.  Anne could live well into William’s reign.  Should he decide that a respectful gap should be left between the death of one Princess Royal and the creation of a new one (which is perhaps what influenced the Queen’s decision) than the title could end up skipping Charlotte altogether.
  • William just might not decide to give it to her – It isn’t obvious what the reason for this would be, but – like most Royal honours – it is given only at the discretion of the sovereign.  Her father may simply choose never to give Charlotte the title.
  • Charlotte could, instead, be made a Duchess – This is something I’ve been thinking about ever since the succession laws were changed to give men and women an equal shot at ascension.  There is still a great deal of male-bias in the dishing out of Royal titles and perhaps William – or Charles before him – will seek to modernise.  Upon marriage, it is conventional for the sons of monarchs to be given Dukedoms – a title that will shape the eventual style of their descendants.  If William decides that his daughter, who will rank above any future sons of his in the succession, also deserves a Dukedom (and become, for example, ‘Duchess of Sussex’), than it is quite possible that the title of ‘Princess Royal’ could fall from favour all together.  Certainly it is safe to assume that eldest daughters of Kings and Queens who are also the eldest child will be Princess of Wales.  Perhaps ‘Princess Royal’ and even ‘Prince Royal’ could become the standard honour, when available, for the sovereign’s second child.

Anyhow, this is all speculation.  At the moment we cannot know.  But the great things is – unlike in so many of the cases this blog explores – one day, we should actually find out!

Okay geeks…over to you.  How would YOU like to see these Royal titles evolve in the future?