How Are Royal Titles Decided? It's Actually A Pretty Complicated Process
Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry in two weeks, and the excitement is hard to contain. As we get closer to the royal wedding, we're all wondering what she'll wear, whether they'll break tradition and what will change after the wedding. With all of this talk about royalty, it's only logical to think that Markle will become Princess Meghan after the May 19 nuptials, but that is not the case. The British monarchy has an exhaustive and somewhat confusing approach to royal titles. So how are royal titles decided? Buckle in, because this is a lot more complicated than you might assume. Markle, whose legal first name is Rachel, will likely become Rachel Meghan Mountbatten-Windsor, Duchess of Sussex, according to People.
If you're confused about her title, you aren't the only one. Thankfully, etiquette coaching company Debrett's has created a detailed guide to royal names and how they work. It originates from something called the peerage, which has roots in feudal times. Basically, from most to least prestigious, men can be dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts and barons, while women can be duchesses, marchionesses, countesses, viscountesses, and baronesses. Even if you spend time researching the royal naming system, there's still a dizzying amount of information out there, and it can be hard to keep track of. Here are four things that can help you figure out enough about the royal naming system to impress everyone at your royal wedding watch party.
1. You Can't Become A Princess By Marriage
As mentioned above, Meghan Markle won't ever be Princess Meghan, just like Kate Middleton isn't Princess Kate. Her official title will likely become Her Royal Highness, Princess Henry of Wales, according to BBC. Princesses must have royal blood, so Markle will be called Princess Henry, and if Meghan and Harry ever get divorced, she'll lose her claim to a royal title. I warned you that this may get a bit exhausting. The world's beloved Princess Diana was actually Lady Diana Spencer — she was never actually named a princess. On the other hand, William and Kate's daughter Charlotte was automatically a princess upon birth.
2. A Royal Title Can Sound Of Obnoxious
Look, if you've ever felt like a jerk for asking people to call you by a "Mr." or "Ms.," the royal family has you beat. A royal title, when read in full, is a lot to process. According to Royal Central, a news site about the royal family, Queen Elizabeth's official title is "Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith." Try saying that three times fast. And Prince Harry is called Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales, according to Business Insider.
3. The Queen Can Out Titles As She Pleases
If the Queen wanted to, she could technically give us all royal titles. Unfortunately, that isn't reality, but you don't have to be royal to become a duke or a duchess. According to DeBrett's, royal titles can be bestowed by a monarch, and they're usually given to people who have done a lot for the monarchy. Unfortunately for those of us who'd love a fancy title, non-royal dukes and duchesses are on the decline in Britain, according to History Today.
4. They Contain Geographical References
There's been speculation that the royal couple will be named Duke and Duchess of Sussex, a county in southeast England. According to the New Yorker, deciding which dukedom a prince gets is pretty complicated. Meanwhile, Royal History Geeks speculates that the Queen could create a new dukedom or not give the title at all.
Charles Kidd, editor of DeBrett's, seems to think the couple is lucky if they receive a title. “They’re quite limited in the titles that are available. I think the others are highly unlikely. Clarence hasn’t been used for a long time and it’s been sort of tainted by bad luck,” he said in a statement cited by Travel + Leisure. Basically, royal titles are needlessly complicated, but they do sound pretty regal when it's all said and done.