The Duke and Duchess of Sussex – it’s in the running but not a done deal!

Credit: U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Capt. Andrew Bolla

A few years ago – before I even knew the name ‘Meghan Markle’ – I penned a post exploring what titles any future wife of Prince Harry and their children might possess.  By some margin, it’s had more hits than anything else I’ve ever written.

In the post, I stated my hunch – and it really was just a hunch – that upon marriage Harry would be created ‘Duke of Sussex’, a title he is rumoured to desire.

Perhaps I have more influence than I think.  When the joyous news of the couple’s engagement was released, some media outlets were reporting as near certainty that America’s Meghan Markle would be transformed into Sussex’s Duchess upon marriage.

There are a number of logical reasons for thinking this.  Most of the Dukedoms previously used for royalty are occupied and those that remain – such as Clarence – seem too tainted to touch.

But I still think that our popular media has jumped the gun.  Let’s look at the other alternatives Her Majesty is presented with:

  • A new Dukedom could be invented – By tradition, only Dukedoms that have previously been wielded by a Royal are bestowed on a Prince. But it’s only a tradition.  Perhaps a new location will be honoured.  Duke of London?  Duke of Glasgow?  All are possible.  True, Her Majesty is more traditionalist than innovator – but she broke all the ‘rules’ when she made her third son Earl of Wessex.
  • Harry could become ‘Duke of York in waiting’ – the monarch’s second son – which Harry will one day be – is traditionally created Duke of York. Clearly this cannot happen while Prince Andrew lives, but it should be noted that he has no son to succeed him.  Perhaps Harry could have an Earldom bestowed upon marriage with the promise that he would one day become Duke of York when the title is vacant.  This would mirror what happened with Prince Edward who will one day assume the title of Duke of Edinburgh.
  • Harry might get no title at all – I don’t think this is likely. But as far as I know, no monarch has previously been in the position where he/she needed to give two of grandsons peerages (George V’s brother was dead by the time George was made Duke of York).  She might decide that it’s for Charles to dish out his second son’s title when he eventually gets the throne.  She was, after all, quite happy to leave two of her cousin’s wives with the clumsy sounding styles of Princess Richard of Gloucester and Princess of Michael of Kent.  Perhaps Meghan will simply be HRH Princess Henry of Wales.  Stranger things have happened…

For what it’s worth, I still think Dukedom of Sussex is going to be the one that lands.  I’ve read rumours that Harry has always wanted it (I have no idea if they’re true) and it seems that Her Majesty does take personal wishes into consideration.  But to report it as a done deal – like so much of our media has (and don’t even get me started on the American press) is just continuing the trend of lazy journalism that bombards conversation on these topics.

So much of what I discuss on this site can never be truly known.  The great thing about this subject is that it’s only a matter of months before time will tell…

What titles will Harry’s wife and children have?

Image: Surtsicna – This file was derived fromPrince Harry Trooping the Colour.JPG:, CC BY-SA 3.0,

As regular readers know, as a historian I see myself as an amateur; but when it comes to questions of Royal titles – ah now that’s quite different.  Here I consider myself an expert.

On this subject, people trust my knowledge.  On this subject, I often get asked questions – questions I am only too happy to answer.  Once question I’ve been asked a bit lately (okay only once.  And I was the one that asked it.  To myself.  Even though I already knew the answer) is “when Prince Harry gets married, what title will his wife received and how will any eventual children of the marriage be styled?”

The answer, as ever, isn’t entirely straightforward.  But as I like a challenge, I’ll wade in and answer it, making a few qualifications along the way.

If Prince Harry married NOW and there was no intervention from the Queen…

Than his lucky bride would be known as HRH Princess Henry of Wales.

“SAY WHAAAAT?!”  I hear you cry.  “That sounds weird at the best of times and who the heck is ‘Henry of Wales.’”

Okay, bear with, bear with.  First of all we need to be clear on one thing.  Despite  the fact he is almost universally known as ‘Harry’ (I believe at his late mother’s request) William’s younger brother is technically called ‘Henry’ and on official documents is styled as such.  Thanks to Letters Patent issued by his great-great-grandfather in 1917, as a son of a son of the sovereign he is entitled to the style of Royal Highness and the titular dignity of Prince before his christian name. By custom, he takes the territorial designation from his father’s title (in this case ‘Wales’) and uses it as sort of surname with an ‘of’ in front of it.

In the British system, a wife literally feminises her husband’s style.  So the wife of Mr Joe Bloggs is technically Mrs Joe Bloggs rather than Mrs Jane Bloggs, even if the latter is now more common social practice.  Hence why Harry’s wife would rather clunkily be ‘HRH Princess Henry of Wales.’

As for the children?  Well, let’s just suppose that in the lifetime of the Queen, Harry and his wife have two children and for sake of argument we’ll call them Andrew (after his uncle) and Catherine (after his sister in law).  They would be known respectively as Lord Andrew Mountbatten-Windsor and Lady Catherine Mountbatten-Windsor.

“Hold the phone!” I can sense you shout out loud as your coffee drops to the floor.  “Mountbatten?  What’s that about?  And why on God’s earth aren’t these two fictitious young Royals a Prince and Princess.”

<Sigh.>  I knew it would get to this.  Okay, I’ll tell ya.

The Royal family are known as the ‘House and family of Windsor.’  There was some question mark over this when the Queen ascended (married women tend to take their husband’s name and Philip had adopted the surname of Mountbatten in 1947) but the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill made it crystal clear.  However a few years later, the Queen, no doubt wanting to recognise her husband, decreed that her and Philip’s male-line descendants who do NOT bear the style Royal Highness would carry the name ‘Mountbatten-Windsor.’

As far as their lack of Royal titles?  The Letters Patent of 1917 (mentioned above) restricted the use of the Royal style so that male line great-grandchildren of a sovereign were no longer entitled to it (with the exception of the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales.  In fact the Queen had to intervene to ensure that Charlotte was born a Princess).  Instead, it made provisions for them to have the same titles as the children of Dukes – the right to prefix their Christian name with the title ‘Lord’ or ‘Lady.’

HOWEVER, when Charles ascends the throne, everything changes.  Now, these two offspring would be male-line grandchildren of a sovereign and would be bumped up to HRH with the titular dignity of Prince or Princess.  And Harry’s title would change too – he would lose ‘Wales’ and gain the definite article, becoming HRH The Prince Henry, with his wife upgrading to HRH The Princess Henry.

But in reality, there would probably be some intervention from the Queen

When Harry marries he will probably be given a peerage most likely a Dukedom, but potentially an Earldom like Prince Edward.  Even if this doesn’t happen on marriage, it is highly likely to take place once Charles ascends.  If then he is created (let’s say) ‘Duke of Sussex’ (the title he is rumoured to desire) than it’s good news for his wife.  She would then be styled Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex.

It is also possible that a change will be made with the children.  Given that they will one day be grandchildren of a sovereign and entitled to the Princely style, the Queen might decide to bring that day forward and give it to them straight away.  She has that power.

But more worryingly, there is a third alternative.  We hear much talk of Charles wanting to ‘shrink’ the Royal family.  While this would be disastrous for Royal watchers like me, there is a chance that he may further restrict HRH to those in direct line of succession – freeing his other descendants from the burden or privilege (depending how you see it) of Royal titles.  As such Harry’s children may never be technically considered Royal – although this is entirely speculation.

Well there you go.  That was an adventure, wasn’t it?  Stay tuned for more super-coolness just around the corner.