Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Question: Rank of the Royal Ladies

Thank you on your informative "Who is of Higher Rank?" article. However, what about the ladies? What are their ranks and how are they addressed (be they royal or non-royal)?

Thank you very much for your question.

I have written an article, called Meeting Royalty and Nobility, which may be helpful in terms of addressing them.

The ranking of the various royal ladies is a bit different. It goes by an order of precedence. In general you could say that the ranking, without taking into consideration the order of precedence, is as follows:

The Queen
Duchess (royal)
Countess (royal)

And then the noble titles would start, such as non-royal Duchess and Countesses. In the case of women in the royal family, the order of precedence is as follows:

The Queen
The Princess Royal
Princess Alexandra
The Duchess of Cornwall (unless accompanied by the Prince of Wales).

One would think, that because Camilla is the wife of the heir to the throne that she would automatically be the second lady in the land, but this is not the case. Because she chose to be known as the Duchess of Cornwall and not as The Princess of Wales, her position reflects the fact that she is a Duchess and not a princess. Were this the case she would outrank the Princess Royal, as Diana did when she was Princess of Wales.

I hope this answers your questions!



© Marilyn Braun 2007


Anonymous said...

I know I'm about a year too late, but I've just today discovered your blog and was quite impressed by your knowledge of the royals. That's actually why I read this far in just a few hours. With all due respect though, I've got to say, that your answer to this question is incorrect.
While you correctly list the Order of Precedence for informal occasions (listing The Princess Royal and Princess Alexandra above The Duchess of Cornwall), this Order is indeed only used during *informal* occasions.
The real Order of Precedence lists The Duchess of Cornwall directly below the Queen, followed by The Countess of Wessex, The Princess Royal, the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York, the Lady Louise Windsor, The Duchess of Glouchester, The Duchess of Kent and Princess Michael of Kent and finally Princess Alexandra of Kent (I'm reciting from memory here, but I think that's how it goes).
In other words this means:
1. Queen (Consort)
[2. Dowager Queens]
3. Daughters-in-law
4. Daughters
5. Granddaughters
[6. Granddaughters-in-law]
[7. Sisters-in-law]
[8. Sisters]
[9. Wifes of uncles]
[10. Aunts]
[11. Wifes of nephews]
[12. Nieces]
13. Wifes of male cousins
14. Female cousins
Of course this only applies to the (wifes) of members of the Royal Family descended from a Sovereign in the *male* line, which is why the children of The Princesses Mary, Margaret and Anne are not included.
This is the Order of Precendence used during formal occassions. During more informale occasions, the Princess Royal and Princess Alexandra do take precedence over The Duchess of Cornwall (and all others), simply because The Queen said so.
Some time after the Marriage of The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, The Queen stated, that because they are royals by blood (born Princesses), The Princess Royal and the Princess Alexandra should take precedence over all others (curiously, this does not apply to The Queen's own granddaughters). It's got nothing to do with Camilla choosing to be known as Duchess of Cornwall rather than Princess of Wales, because by law she *is* Princess of Wales. This change made by The Queen can only be applied during more informale occasions, though, so in reality, The Duchess of Cornwall is second only to The Queen herself in th Order of Precedence of the Ladies (similarly, Prince William of Wales takes Precedence over both his Uncles during informal occasions, but in reality is still listed below them).
Another thing is your use of the term "Princess". The Title of a Princess as used in Princess of Wales is not equivalent to that of a Princess of the United Kingdom (or any other country, really). The title of a Princess (or Prince) in "Princess of Wales" is a title much like that of a Duchess of xy or a Countess of yz or the like. In German there are for example to different names (Princess of the United Kingdom translates to 'Prinzessin' des Vereinigten Königreiches. Princess of Wales translate to 'Fürstin' von Wales.)
So, "Princess" does not always equally "Princess", as you suggested, but takes on a different meaning when used as Princess of Wales.
Pretty confusing, I know, and because English is not my first language (it's German, though you can tell, most likely), I probably made this even more confusing, but brought my point across.
Again, I'm seriously impressed by your knowledge, which is why it bugged me so to see an error on your otherwise faultless blog. Please do not view this as criticism, but simply as a form of help from someone almost equally as royally-besotted as you are ;).

Marilyn Braun said...

Wow, this has to be the longest comment I've ever received! :)

In 2005, HM published a new order of precedence. This document is called 'Precedence of the Royal Family to be observed at Court'. I'm assuming this is for formal occasions. What would be an informal occasion where they would all be together otherwise? Family BBQ's? Christmas? I doubt they need a precedence order for those events.

The list is as follows:

The Queen
The Princess Royal
Princess Alexandra
The Duchess of Cornwall
The Countess of Wessex
The Duchess of Gloucester
The Duchess of Kent
Princess Michael of Kent
Miss Zara Phillips
Lady Sarah Chatto
Lady Davina Lewis

Royal ladies need to be of age, which explains why Beatrice and Eugenie are not on the 2005 list. As they are both 18 & 20 they should take their place now. Lady Louise would not be on the list for this reason.

Yes, in terms of the title of Princess, the Princess of Wales is very different from that of a Princess of the United Kingdom. My answer did not distinguish between the two. The title Princess of Wales is higher. However, I don't entirely understand how a title like Princess of Wales could be equivalent to that of a Duchess of xy or a Countess of yz . In those cases are you referring to the wife of a foreign heir? Such as Princess Mathilde of Belgium being Duchess of Brabant? or say Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden being Duchess of Västergötland? Or Princess Maxima as Princess of Orange? I don't see how they could be equivalent otherwise.