The Cultural Attaché
Updated: 4 June 2018
The marriage of Prince Henry of Wales to Ms. Rachel Meghan Markle was a turning point for the British Monarchy. This was due to the fact that Ms. Markle is a bi-racial American divorcee. Her lifestyle broke the mold of a “Royal bride.” Unlike The Duchess of Cambridge, nee Catherine Middleton, the former Ms. Markle did not move in the same social circles. She is also an independent feminist and former Hollywood actor. Her sense and sensibilities are uniquely American, but she is NOT the first American woman to be styled and titled, in the traditions of the British Aristocracy.
It should be dully noted that reports have surfaced that Ms. Markle is a “calculating” social climber who wanted to be a Princess. This was chiefly asserted by Andrew Morton in his new book and also confirmed by former friends and half-sister, Samantha Markle. A childhood video portrayed Ms. Meghan Markle as a tiara-wearing Queen belittling her subjects. In addition, Ms. Markle was allegedly fascinated with the Princess Diaries movies and obsessed with Princess Diana, even owning a book about the Royal. All this gave credence to the plot of a wannabe Princess. Perhaps, Ms. Markle's comment of not knowing anything about the Royal family, during her engagement interview, was perhaps a bit disingenuous. But what little girl doesn’t want to be a Princess? While many grow up and move on with their lives, some stay the course.
WHY THE DUCHESS OF SUSSEX WILL NOT BE 'PRINCESS MEGHAN' and HOW SHE ALMOST BECAME A LESSER TITLED COUNTESS
When Ms. Markle married Prince Henry of Wales on 19 May 2018, she received the title, The Duchess of Sussex. To many, it was odd that marrying a Prince would not garner her the title of Princess. That is due to the fact the British Monarchy is reaped in tradition and in the past, Dukedoms were awarded to the sons of the Monarch. In recent incarnation of this role, the Queen bestows rightful titles upon marriage and not all of them were Dukedoms. Prince Edward received an Earldom as The Earl of Wessex (reference the film, "Shakespeare in Love") and his wife became Sophie, the Countess of Wessex; however, like all royal styles, they will mostly like be styled The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh when Prince Phillip dies.
In Britain, your birthright as a Princess is largely determined by the bloodline and by the Letters of Patent that dictates hereditary styles, titles and honours. HRH Princess Beatrice of York and HRH Princess Eugenie of York are 'blood royals.' Their father is The Duke of York. Whilst HRH Prince George of Cambridge follows similar patterns of the 1917 Letters of Patent by King George V, his sister almost became Lady Charlotte, if not for the intervention of the Queen who issued new Letters of Patent on 31 December 2012, styling all children of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in similar fashion.
In the case of Prince Edward, upon his marriage, it was decreed that any issues of The Earl and Countess of Wessex would not be styled HRH with title of Princess or Prince, but "Lady" and "Lord." Thus, their children, respectively are Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor and James, Viscount Severn or Lord Severn. If that was not complicated enough, new Letters of Patent could be issued when Charles, Prince of Wales becomes King. It is unlikely he would rock tradition and may even shrink the pool of styles, titles and honours.
The title of Princess can also be achieved through marriage, as the mother of the next monarch in succession. In the case of The Duchess of Cambridge, she will be styled as HRH Catherine, Princess of Wales when her father-in-law Charles, Prince of Wales becomes king and her husband, The Duke of Cambridge becomes the Prince of Wales, next in line to the British throne. Diana was able to maintain her title of Princess of Wales, as the mother of Prince William, but unfortunately, lost the style HRH upon her divorce. When Charles, Prince of Wales married his second wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, she was styled HRH Camilla, Princess of Wales, but decided to use her other title, The Duchess of Cornwall.
One important information should be noted here. The Duchess of Sussex has the choice and use of another title, that of Princess Henry of Wales. In the bygone era of proper honorifics, when a woman married, she took her husband’s name. Thus, The former Ms. Jones when married to Mr. John Smith, would become Mrs. John Smith, as did Princess Michael of Kent, who is the only royal to use such a title. If the Duchess of Sussex wants to be a 'Princess,' then she has a footpath.
WHY THE DAUGHTER OF THE DUCHESS OF SUSSEX MAY NOT BE A PRINCESS EITHER
When King George V issued Letters of Patent in 1917, he made it clear that only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales "shall have and enjoy in all occasions the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes of these Our Realms." Prior to the birth of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, the Queen issued new Letters of Patent on 31 December 2012, which included all children of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The issues of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will not have this right and thus will be styled "Lady" or "Lord." The Queen could do the same for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but it is highly doubtful. Regardless, peerage still remains that only a male heir could inherit the title and land.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE DUCHESS OF SUSSEX?
What’s in store for The Duchess of Sussex after her royal nuptials will be the 'Royal Finishing School.' If she is to successfully navigate the dynamics of this complex family, she will do well to learn from past mistakes of her predecessors and carefully follow royal protocol. Whilst the British Monarchy has made great strides to connect to a modern world, they still hold dear the traditions that have sustained them. These are the traditions that make the British Monarchy unique, mysterious and garner public interest and fascination.
A member of the Royal family should be poised, conservative, fair and balanced. In addition, she must know her place in the pecking order. Whilst the word, “Obey” has been stricken from marriage vows, The Duchess of Sussex should uphold the duties and traditions that her position dictates. It takes at least five years to acclimate and change culture and it will take this time before The Duchess of Sussex becomes a British citizen. Some have speculated she may bolt. Romance and Love aside, the reality comes AFTER you say, "I will."
Gabrielle Bourne (GSSB)
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