Thursday, November 15, 2007

Question: Untitled royal children

Cynthia writes...

Would love your take on royals who don't grant their children the same privilege - such as Princess Anne's children.

Thanks for your email. I've always felt that it was somewhat unfair to children of royalty to deny them what I would regard as their birthright. But as Princess Anne's children are in the female line, they were..never entitled to a royal title in the first place. She is said to have even rejected an offer from the Queen for her children to have noble titles. So Princess Anne's son was actually the first grandchild of a British sovereign to have no title whatsoever; from birth he was known as plain Master Peter Philips. Princess Anne's children are, incidently, the Queen's only untitled grandchildren.

Royal titles pass through the male line but there are restrictions on this. Because of Letters Patent issued on December 11, 1917 when King George V:

" restricted the style "His (or Her) Royal Highness" and the titular dignity of "Prince (or Princess) of Great Britain and Ireland" to the children of the Sovereign, the children of the sons of the Sovereign, and the eldest living son of the eldest living son of a Prince of Wales.

There is an exception to this. As I've mentioned, royal titles do not go through the female line; unless there are special circumstances. One such rare instance applied to the Queen when she was Princess Elizabeth. In November 1948 she was expecting Prince Charles and it was discovered that her children would not automatically become HRH Prince/Princess upon their births as they would be grandchildren in the female line. Therefore his Grandfather King George VI issued letters patent on October 22, 1948 so that all children of Princess Elizabeth would have royal titles.

A more recent example and one that has divided royal watchers is the daughter of Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex - Lady Louise Windsor. She is the grandaughter of a sovereign in the male line, therefore she is entitled to be called HRH Princess Louise of Wessex. However, at the time of his marriage, the Earl decided that any children born to him would not have HRH Prince/Princess titles. They would have titles as the son/daughter of an Earl - Viscount/Lady. Interesting to note that although this was decided, Letters Patent have never been issued to change this, therefore she could in effect, choose to be known by her rightful title at any point in the future. I understand why it was done, I can respect the decision to try to give their daughter a normal life, but by doing this she is denied her birthright. There were some reports that Prince Andrew's daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie would lose their royal titles and become Lady Beatrice and Lady Eugenie Windsor instead. Whether this is true or not, Prince Andrew decided that because they are male line grandchildren and entitled to royal status, it would be unfair to take their titles away from them.

While the relevance of titles in todays world seems to be reducing - meaning that being known as HRH Prince/Princess, especially if you're not the direct heir, is somewhat meaningless. But with a shortage of royal princesses, and princes for that matter, I don't see why having one more, in this case Louise, should matter. In effect the royal family would be reducing their royal titles to nothing, which I think is somewhat sad because it places the burden completely on Prince William and Prince Harry. What happens if they don't marry? Or die before having children? Hopefully we'll never have to find out.

© Marilyn Braun 2007

Like royal books? Visit Marilyn's Royal Bookstore!


Anonymous said...

Marilyn, your thorough royal research always impresses me! I do love your blog!

Still, whether or not royal children have titles does not necessarily spare them from anything - as they will always be "royal", always be descendents of the current monarch, and most will always be in the line of succession for the throne.

So the technicality of whether or not they have an HRH or a royal title does little to make their lives “normal.” (Diana had no HRH and she still managed to draw the world’s attention. Same with Kate Middleton for that matter. It’s your proximity to the monarchy that really counts – and how well you manage to court the media.)

Personally, I had a crush on Peter Phillips as a girl and what made him so magical to me was that he was the Queen’s grandson – he didn’t have to be a real prince to win my heart. I just wrote a book about this and I think you and your readers will like it. It’s called “Someday My Prince Will Come” and you can read more about it

Marilyn Braun said...

Hi Jerramy,

Thanks very much! Congratulations on your book!

If people are interested, here's the link to Jerramy's site:

Anonymous said...

Sophie and Edward always said at 18 their children can choose to take a title should they wish, thus why no royal decree and they can be style HRH upon turning 18 if they choose....Edward and Sophie smartly left it up to them.