This regular posting contains a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and their answers and other useful information about the British Royal Family and British nobility. (The Royal & Noble Families of the World FAQ can be found at http://www.heraldica.org/faqs/atrfaq.htm). It should be read by anyone who wishes to post to the alt.talk.royalty newsgroup.
A separate posting lists only the changes made during the last month to this document: http://tinyurl.com/ydbtke.
Note: the FAQ contains European characters (accented letters) which may not show on your browser/newsreader or may show garbled characters. All characters used here arepart of the ISO Latin-1 set and are displayable by normal browsers. Ask your Internet Service Provider for an "8-bit clean feed" if you have this problem.
Last updated on: 17 Jan 2012
For comments, additions, suggestions, please contact the maintainer, François Velde (http://www.heraldica.org/contact.html).
Part I: Introduction
alt.talk.royalty is an unmoderated newsgroup created for the purpose of discussion of all aspects of royalty and nobility of any time period anywhere in the world. There is no mailing list gated to this group. Please remember that one cannot subscribe to or unsubscribe from alt.talk.royalty via a mailing list, as is the case, e.g., for soc.genealogy.medieval.
alt.talk.royalty was first proposed in December 1994 and was created in February 1995 (according to: ftp://ftp.uu.net/usenet/control/alt/alt.talk.royalty)
Despite the FAQ compiler's efforts, it has not been determined who began alt.talk.royalty nor who is responsible for composing its charter.
The charter states: "The group is oriented to discussion of royalty and nobility of all nationalities, both present day and historical. Discussions of the British royal family, the possibility of a restored Russian monarchy, Henry VIII's foibles, and the forms of address used in the Spanish court would all be appropriate. Advertising and commercialism are not welcome, especially since everyone knows that involvement in retail commerce results in attainder!"
All those who have access to alt.talk.royalty and are interested in royalty and nobility are encouraged to participate. (Before interested individuals "discovered" alt.talk.royalty and began posting to it regularly, they posted their questions in rec.heraldry.) The scope of the group encompasses topics such as the sovereigns or rulers of nations, royal and noble genealogies, vital statistics (births, marriages, deaths), lines of succession, royal residences, biographies, current events, pretenders or claimants to thrones, mistresses and illegitimate children, so on and so forth.
alt.talk.royalty is not here for the glorification of royalty. All views, positive, negative and in-between, are permitted. We are here to talk about royalty and nobility. You will find, however, most people who post to alt.talk.royalty talk in favor of royalty and that they are not anti-royalist. You can express anti-royalist sentiments, but it is a fair assumption that you will get a heated and vociferous response. Royalty discussions can bring out the best and the worst in people; they engender strong emotions and opinions.
alt.talk.royalty has in its midst authors, genealogists, historians, journalists and other such posters (and lurkers). Some of our members post to the group while others prefer to lurk. Our members are international: as of this edition of the FAQ, the majority are from the United States, while the rest are from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
alt.talk.royalty is an Internet (or Usenet) newsgroup. To access it, you need a "client" (software application) on your computer and access to a "news (or Usenet) server". The client will connect to the server, retrieve the posts, and send your own replies. The server will then disseminate your posts to the rest of the world.
If you have access to the Web, your web browser can serve as client, and you can access a server over the Web. See Yahoo directory for "Usenet servers" for a list. Google Groups (http://groups.google.com) also offers access.
Alternatively, contact your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and ask them if they have a news server and what software they provide to connect to it. Again, your web browser can serve as a news client to connect to the news server.
This purpose of this chapter is to provide useful information for new members of alt.talk.royalty. First-time users, or even those who've been here a few times, have found the newsgroup's atmosphere intimidating. When posting for the first time, some people find themselves the object of criticism or downright abuse. The new-to-the-group poster might not understand that that kind of behavior happens with regularity in newsgroups. And so, at the suggestion of some alt.talk.royalty regulars, the FAQ compiler and maintainer has developed this section which will hopefully explain the personalities of the regular members as well as provide tips on how to "survive" in alt.talk.royalty.
One of the first things that is noticeable about alt.talk.royalty is that it has a dual personality. Some days, it has a pleasant, quiet, stress-free atmosphere, while on other days it can be testy, noisy and combative. Some days, it can be academic and instructive in tone, yet gossipy and disruptive on other days. It has been suggested that, generally speaking, the male members of alt.talk.royalty are competitive (with some positively thriving on this), while the female members seem cooperative. For the most part, alt.talk.royalty's members are pro-royalty/monarchy. What sets us apart are our personal perspectives and biases.
alt.talk.royalty has quite an interesting mix of people. While we can't tell you about the lurkers (they obviously prefer to remain anonymous), we can tell you about those who post with some regularity. There are authors (Greg King, author of The Last Empress; Marlene Koenig, author under the name of Marlene A. Eilers, of Queen Victoria's Descendants; Peter Kurth, author of Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson; Ted Rosvall, author of Bernadotte-Attlingar; William Addams Reitwiesner, author of The American Ancestors and Relatives of Lady Diana Frances Spencer, Guy Stair Sainty, author of The Orders of Chivalry and Merit of the Bourbon Two Sicilies Dynasty, Daniel Willis, author under the name of Daniel Brewer-Ward of The House of Habsburg: a genealogy of the descendants of Empress Maria Theresia), art dealer (Guy Stair Sainty), author (Grant Hayter-Menzies), lawyer (Patrick Cracroft- Brennan), librarian (Noel McFerran), medical doctor (Sam Dotson), university professors (Stephen Stillwell, Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard, and Jeffrey Taliaferro, the last two political scientists), some who share ancestors with royalty or are descendants of royalty (Frank Johansen and Grant Menzies), and even an aristocrat or two (Gilbert von Studnitz and Eric von Ehrenberg). Of course, there are also the average, everyday type of person who posts to alt.talk.royalty.
If one observes alt.talk.royalty for some time, individual types become obvious and one finds that they usually view and respond about royalty/monarchy in a predictable way. For example, there are the absolute monarchists (Louis Epstein, Noel McFerran), the genealogists (Sam Dotson, Marlene Koenig, Steven Lavallee, William Addams Reitwiesner, Darren Shelton, Paul Theroff, Daniel Willis), the historians (François Velde), the legalists (Paul Johnson, Guy Stair Sainty), the legitimists (Dimitry Macedonsky), so on and so on. One can continue to categorize alt.talk.royalty's members into those types who enjoy the gossip/daily lives aspect of royalty, those whose only interest is the British royal family enthusiasts (with a subset focussed on Diana, Princess of Wales), those who view royalty from a religious aspect, from a political aspect, so on and so forth.
Some of alt.talk.royalty's members use an alias, but most post under their real names. Some posters have obvious favorite areas and share willingly their knowledge. Other posters are more generalists, but share their knowledge with the same generosity. Some posters will only post or reply when their favorite topic comes up for discussion. Other posters will reply to just about everything and anything. Some of the regulars always provide references for their replies which can annoy some people, while others feel it useful and informative. Other posters never cite their sources. Some posters reply to questions succinctly while others provide mini-essays. Some posters will point out spelling and grammar errors while others never do so. Some posters reply to others in a light- hearted way while others are business-like. Some posters will criticize another member's question for whatever reason, while other posters will reply kindly and helpfully. Some posters have strong beliefs and won't budge an inch when discussing a particular topic, while others seem flexible and willing to see other points of view. Lastly, some of the nastier posters (and they are only a handful, thankfully) almost always use foul language, are rude and hurtful and seem to be in alt.talk.royalty only to disrupt the group.
New members and not-so-new ones will probably realize at this point that given these types of personalities, it would not be easy to post with confidence in alt.talk.royalty. The FAQ compiler and maintainer has received emails from people who feel they've been poorly treated by the regulars. Because of this, they chose to lurk instead of posting in the group or vow never to return to alt.talk.royalty. Some posters almost always behave in a certain way and their criticisms shouldn't be taken personally because that is how they behave to just about everyone. It is almost guaranteed that when a person posts to a newsgroup he or she will eventually be criticized or abused. Please don't be intimidated by the bad manners of some and leave alt.talk.royalty too soon. There are lots of us who welcome newcomers and we appreciate your ideas and input!
There was talk in early 1996 of creating a FAQ for alt.talk.royalty and some work
for one had been started by members of the group. It did not materialize into a finished
product, however. A few months later, in August 1996, another member of the group
(Mark Odegard) posted a titles FAQ to the group. It was called "A Glossary of
European Noble, Princely, Royal, and Imperial Titles". (It can now be found on the
Nonetheless, alt.talk.royalty remained without a general, all-purpose FAQ until May 1997. At that time, a rough draft version of a FAQ was posted to the group; it had been created by Yvonne Demoskoff with the help of several members. A number of additions, corrections and suggestions were made over the next few months and by November 1997 the rough draft was replaced with an official first version.
In June 1998, the FAQ was posted once again to the newsgroup but this time it was in two distinct parts: one was called the Brit-FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions for alt.talk.royalty - British Royal & Noble Families) and the other was called the non-Brit-FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions for alt.talk.royalty - Non-British Royal & Noble Families).
In August 1998, François Velde took over the maintenance of the various alt.talk.royalty FAQs.
Before posting to any Usenet group, please read the introductory articles in the newsgroup news.announce.newusers. There, Emily Postnews will help you through some netiquette you need to know before posting.
We highly recommend "lurking", that is, reading messages without posting anything for a few weeks so that you get an idea of how people typically phrase their postings. This will also give you an idea of the flow of the newsgroup, the personalities of the regulars, and the like. The easiest way to learn how to post in a.t.r. is to watch how others do it. Start by reading the posts and try to figure out what people are doing and why. After a few weeks, you will start to understand why certain things are done and what things shouldn't be done.
Occasionally, you will see trolls (strong worded postings intended only to provoke a lot of replies), flames and off-topic posts. The best way to deal with these kinds of postings is to ignore them. If your newsreader program allows the use of a kill-file make use of it to filter out undesirable postings. Alternatively, if you see a blatantly offensive message, do not respond with another post. Instead, send a strong complaint to <email@example.com> and <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
One last point to remember concerning inappropriate behavior: our newsgroup, in common with other newsgroups, has its share of people who seek to disrupt the group collectively and/or its posters individually. alt.talk.royalty and its FAQ might not have an official policy as to how one should deal with such disruptive behavior, but it can suggest the following: DNFTEC. This stands for "Do Not Feed The Energy Creature". An energy creature's favorite feeding tactic is to try to hurt people's feelings or get them angry. The Energy Creature can then feed off the pain and anger it has generated. Its second favorite tactic is to hurt one person or the group's feelings while gathering the sympathy of others. That way, when the injured party lashes back, others will jump to the Energy Creature's defense. The Energy Creature feeds off the attention and the negative energy generated by the people fighting. Newsgroups will never be completely rid of such obnoxious, offensive and ill-mannered beings, but much can be done to keep the situation under control by remembering this simple formula: DNFTEC. If the Energy Creature gets a response, it gets stronger. If it is ignored, it will eventually weaken, wither and go away. Remember: do not to feed the energy creatures.
Attachments, whether they are text (batch files, system files) or binaries (audio, video, pictures such as .JPGs, .GIFs, .TIFs and the like, programs, and "web" files such as HTML, HTM, SHTML) are also inappropriate. Binaries must be kept in groups with binaries in the name; they cannot appear in alt.talk.royalty. If news administrators find binaries in a.t.r., they could kill the group and move it to the alt.binaries section. A better way of dealing with binaries is to post the binary in a binaries group and to write a note in a.t.r. telling the group where the particular binary can be found. In other words, do not post anything other than plain text in our non-binary newsgroup.
Posts which refer to royalty and nobility in a negative way (such as suggesting that one monarchy in particular, or all monarchies in general should be overthrown), while not off-topic, will usually get no response. Most of the posters in alt.talk.royalty are fully aware of the strengths and weaknesses of hereditary systems, and are participating in this newsgroup to explore the intricacies of these systems, rather than to engage in flamewars with persons who are opposed to the idea of these systems.
Patently offensive remarks are inappropriate.
(these "bad" and "good" posts are examples only and will not be necessarily found in the FAQ)Points to Remember:
Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do not keep posts for more than one or two weeks. Therefore, to find older posts, head over to the WWW and check out "Google Groups" (formerly known as Deja News) at: http://groups.google.com/groups?as_ugroup=alt.talk.royalty
Once there, you will be able to search old posts back to April 1995.
This is also a good starting point to see what questions have already been asked in our newsgroup. It's possible that your particular question has already been asked.
N.B.: not all ISPs carry "alt." and "clari." newsgroups; however, they can be accessed
by visiting the Google Groups web site at:
We suggest that you find out more about these newsgroups by reading their FAQs, if available, or by lurking, so that you post your queries in the appropriate group and not haphazardly cross-post to all of them.
America Online (AOL) features chat groups about royalty for its members. The royalty chats meet almost daily and the topics range from discussions about the late Diana, Princess of Wales to the Romanovs to the Tudors.
Usenet procedures heavily discourage advertising in newsgroups not specifically designed for commerce. Having said that, one-time offers to sell or buy books, and such, about British royalty and nobility, will be tolerated. Those who wish to regularly advertise should post their messages in the appropriate newsgroups (for example, alt.genealogy.marketplace).
You can obtain the latest version of the FAQ by visiting its web site at:
Part II: British Royal Family
On 17 July 1917, King George V issued a Proclamation which stated that the male line descendants of the royal family would bear the surname Windsor:
from the date of this Our Royal Proclamation Our House and Family shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, and that all the descendants in the male line of Our said Grandmother Queen Victoria who are subjects of these Realms, other than female descendants who may marry or may have married, shall bear the said Name of Windsor
A few months later, King George V issued Letters Patent on 30 October 1917 which limited the title 'Prince' and the style 'Royal Highness' to the children of a sovereign, the children of sons of a sovereign and the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. HH Prince Alastair of Connaught (1914-1943), grandson of HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught (Queen Victoria's fourth son), became the first member of the royal family to use the surname Windsor in lieu of his princely title. It has been suggested that it was a misinterpretation of these latest Letters Patent which led to HH Prince Alastair (for such he was based on practise going back to the time of King George I's accession in 1714 and which practise was confirmed in Queen Victoria's Letters Patent of 30 January 1864; source: "The Princes of Great Britain" article in Burke's Peerage 1963 edition, pp xxvii-xxxii) being denied his princely title. However, as he was the son and heir of a peeress (Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife), he was allowed the courtesy use of his mother's subsidiary title and became Alastair Windsor, styled Earl of Macduff.
On 11 December 1917, it was further decided by Letters Patent that:
the grandchildren of the sons of any such Sovereign in the direct male line (save only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) shall have the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes.
In 1952, Queen Elizabeth II confirmed her grandfather's decision that the royal family's surname would continue to be Windsor. Her Majesty declared on 9 April 1952 that it was:
her Will and Pleasure that She and Her Children shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, and that Her descendants other than female descendants who marry and their descendants shall bear the name of Windsor.
A few years later, HM The Queen modified this statement by issuing Letters Patent in February 1960 which stated in part:
while I and my children will continue to be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, my descendants, other than descendants enjoying the style, title or attributes of Royal Highness and the titular dignity of Prince or Princess, and female descendants who marry and their descendants, shall bear the name Mountbatten-Windsor.
Did this mean that the name of some members of the royal family changed from "Windsor" to "Mountbatten-Windsor"? Some people contend that the goal of this declaration was meant to not only change the surname of the children of HM The Queen but those of her male-line descendants as well. At Princess Anne's wedding in November 1974, Anne signed the marriage register 'Anne', without a surname. It was the registrar who filled in her names as 'Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise Mountbatten-Windsor'. According to a Buckingham Palace statement issued in October 1975, the specific addition of the surname 'Mountbatten-Windsor' was "the Queen's decision that this should be done". Further, HM The Queen consulted with the acting Prime Minister to confirm whether all her children would have the surname Mountbatten-Windsor. She received the following reply:
"The effect of Your Majesty's Declaration is that all the children of Your Majesty who may at any time need a surname have the surnames of Mountbatten-Windsor."(Prince Philip: A Biography, by Denis Judd, London: Michael John, 1980, page 196)
It would seem that the surname of HM The Queen's children is whatever HM wishes. Legally and constitutionally, however, the Queen cannot do as she wishes. The surname of the Queen's children is Mountbatten-Windsor in practise and has appeared three times: at Princess Anne's first marriage in 1974, on Prince Andrew's marriage register in 1986, and when the banns were read prior to Princess Anne's second marriage to Commander Laurence in 1992. (When the Prince of Wales married for the first time in 1981, he signed the register as "Charles P" and the registrar filled in his name as "His Royal Highness Prince Charles Philip Arthur George The Prince of Wales".) Nonetheless, the family name remains legally Windsor because there hasn't been any modification or clarification to the Letters Patent of 1960.
The term royal family "has no strict legal definition" (The Royal Encyclopedia, 1991). "The expression 'royal family' carries no strict legal definition. However, certain relatives of the monarch possess special privileges and are subject to special common law or statutory provisions. Traditionally members of the royal family perform a public social or ceremonial function by virtue of the legal institution of the monarchy, and this is reflected in the styles and forms of precedence which are in existence" (Halsbury's Laws of England, 4th ed. (Reissue) ((vol 12(1) par. 27). Thus, depending on the purpose one has in mind (applying the Royal Marriages Act or the Civil List Act), or the criterion used (those entitled to styles or precedence), one can come up with different lists.
The Sovereign decides which members of his or her family are accorded the status of members of the Royal Family. From time to time, Queen Elizabeth II compiles a list which consists of people who are considered by Her Majesty to make up her immediate family. In February 1990, there were thirty-five people on this list, excluding royal children. The list is circulated privately to members of the royal family (who refer to it as the 'printed list') and it is not published elsewhere. The list has no legal or official status.
When one mentions "royal family", the general public usually thinks the term includes the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren (and spouses) of the Sovereign. For the purposes of this FAQ, the term royal family includes the following people:
When speaking informally of the Royal Family, this list of people could include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following people: Princess Anne's husband and her children; Sarah, Duchess of York; Princess Margaret's children, their spouses and her grandchildren; the Duke of Kent and his wife, their children, spouses, and children; Princess Alexandra of Kent, her children, spouses and children; Prince Michael of Kent and his wife and their children; the Duke of Gloucester, his wife and their children; the Earl of Harewood and his wife, his late brother's (the Honourable Gerald Lascelles) wife; the Duke of Fife.
The Act of Settlement, passed by Parliament in 1701, states that after the death of Queen Anne, the succession would pass to Sophia, Electress of Hanover "and the heirs of her body, being Protestants". To be able to succeed a king or queen regnant, one must be a Protestant descendant of Electress Sophia. This means that those born a member of the Royal Family, but not those who marry into the Royal Family, are eligible to be in line of succession. It does not mean that the late king's widow or the late queen's widower is the new sovereign. (Marriage to the sovereign does not give the widow or widower greater precedence over those in line of succession.)
An order of succession is a mechanism or algorithm that determines the new sovereign at the time the old sovereign dies. It usually specifies a path to follow in the genealogical tree from the deceased sovereign, and oftentimes additional criteria to be met by the potential successor. The first person to be found by the algorithm is the new sovereign. The algorithm is defined by statutes.
At any point in time, there is a sovereign, and the rule of succession can be applied (as a pure mental game, as long as the sovereign is alive) in the following way: "if the sovereign were to die this minute, who would succeed?" The answer to the question is the heir, either apparent or presumptive.
One can, of course, extend the game a step further, and ask who is the heir's heir. In other words, the question becomes: "if the sovereign and the heir were to die this minute, who would succeed?" By extending the question in this fashion, one creates a "line of succession", in which the heir is number 1 (or next in line, after the sovereign), the heir's heir is number 2, and so on. The line of succession is thus constructed recursively, by asking at each step N: "if the sovereign and the first N-1 people in the order were to die this minute, who would succeed?" The answer is person number N on the list.
Because British statutes (such as the Act of Settlement) impose additional criteria, this process is not purely genealogical. For each candidate found along the path in the genealogical tree, the criteria (described below) must be evaluated. Thus an individual may be ineligible, in which case the individual is treated as if he or she "were naturally dead", and the search moves on to the next individual.
The procedure is roughly as follows. If individual A is dead or ineligible: 1. look for A's eldest-born male B (if none were born, go to 3). 2. If B is dead or ineligible, go to 1 with "B" instead of "A". 3. If no candidate meeting the criteria is found, return to A, find the the next eldest-born male C; repeat steps 1-3 with "C" instead of "A", until a candidate is found or all of A's male children are exhausted. 4. Repeat steps 1-3 with "female" instead of "male". 5. If no candidate has been found yet, go to A's royal parent D and look for D's next eldest-born male, repeating steps 1-4 with "D" instead of "A". 6. If no candidate has been found, go to D's royal parent E and repeat steps 1-5. 7. Keep going climbing up the royal genealogy. If you reach step 6 with D = Electress Sophia, there are no candidates left (this will take a while, because there are about 4360 individuals descended from her: see the list).
The criteria required of a candidate are that he or she be born in wedlock, of a marriage contracted in accordance with the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, and that he or she not be a Roman Catholic or have married one (according to the Act of Settlement of 1701). More precisely, the Act recalls that the Bill of Rights of 1689 enacted "That all and every Person and Persons that then [in 1689] were or afterwards should be reconciled to or shall hold Communion with the See or Church of Rome or should professe the Popish religion or marry a Papist should be excluded and are by that Act [the Bill of Rights] made forever incapable to inherit possess or enjoy the Crown [...]"; and the Act enacts "That all and every Person and Persons who shall be or may take or inherit the said Crown by vertue of the Limitation of this present Act [to Electress Sophia and the Heirs of Her Body being Protestants] and is are or shall be reconciled to or shall hold Communion with the See or Church of Rome or shall profess the Popish religion or shall marry a Papist shall be subject to such Incapacities as in such Case or Cases are by the said recited Act [the Bill of Rights]provided enacted and established".
There is a debate over the meaning of this clause. Under one interpretation, being a Roman Catholic at the time of succession forever results in an incapacity to succeed at that time. Under the other, being a Roman Catholic at any time after 1689 ("then or afterwards") immediately creates a perpetual incapacity to succeed whenever the succession becomes open. Under the first interpretation, a Roman Catholic, if he or she converts before the crown comes to him or her, can succeed (even if he does so the minute before). Under the second, anyone who is a Roman Catholic no matter how briefly is forever excluded.
Another source of contention is the phrase "marry a Papist". Although its meaning seems straightforward, some think that it should be read as "being married to a Papist". In that case, a man whose deceased wife was Roman Catholic could still succeed. Under the literal reading of the phrase, anyone who ever marries a Roman Catholic is forever excluded. This seems to be the reading of 8(2) Halsbury's Laws of England par 39, which states: "a person who is a Roman Catholic or marries a Roman Catholic, is excluded from inheriting, possessing or enjoying the Crown [...]".
Because of these differences in interpretation, some individuals have been assigned a "bis" number in the line of succession that follows. It should be noted, however, that such an expert in Britsh constitutional law as Vernon Bogdanor has written (The Monarchy and the Constitution, p. 55): "Any member of the Royal Family who marries a Catholic becomes ineligible to succeed. Thus when Prince Michael of Kent [...] married a Catholic [...] and when the Earl of St. Andrews [...] married a Catholic [...], they lost their rights of succession, for themselves, though not necessarily for their children."
The following people are in line of succession to the Throne. It is limited to the first thirty-five or so in line of succession to keep the list at a reasonable length.
1. The Duke of Kent's elder son, George Windsor, Earl of St. Andrews (the father of three next persons in the line), could not presently succeed because of his marriage to Sylvana Tomaselli, a Roman Catholic. George's children, however, could succeed as long as they are not Roman Catholics themselves.
The duchess of Kent converted to the Roman Catholic faith on Jan 14, 1994. This does not affect the rights of the duke of Kent.
2. The Earl of St. Andrews's son, Lord Downpatrick, converted to the Roman Catholic faith on May 4, 2003.
3. Lord Nicholas Windsor converted to the Roman Catholic faith around Easter 2001.
4. The father of Lord Frederick and Lady Gabriella Windsor, Prince Michael of Kent, could not presently succeed because of his marriage to Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz, a Roman Catholic. Prince Michael's children, however, could succeed as long as they are not Roman Catholics themselves.
Contrary to what earlier versions of this FAQ asserted, the line of succession has a legal meaning. It is referred to (but not defined) in the Regency Act 1937, by which an eventual Regent is chosen to be the next in line of succession, subject to the exclusions of section 2 of the Act of Settlement as recalled above, and other conditions (being a British citizen of full age, residing in the UK, holding Communion with the Church of England); and by which the sovereign can temporarily delegate his or her powers to a group of people consisting of his or her spouse, and the next four persons in the line of succession who satisfy the conditions to be regent.
In general terms, the modern rules for eligibility as an heir or heiress are (adapted from "The Royal Line of Succession: From William the Conqueror to Prince William of Wales", compiled by John Butcher, edited by Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd., 1983):
A list of all of the descendants of Electress Sophia, including Catholics and arranged in
succession order, complete as of Jan. 1, 2001, is at:
The persons who are genealogically last in line to succeed to the British throne under the Act of Settlement are found among the von Keudell descendants of Prince Ernst of Württemberg (1807-1868). (Prince Ernst is a descendant of King George I's daughter, Sophie Dorothea (1687-1757), wife of Friedrich Wilhelm, King in Prussia, himself the only son of Sophia Charlotte (1668-1705), last child of the Electress Sophia). According to the list cited above, the last three people in the line of succession are Klaus Vogel (b. 1964), his son Lorenz (b. 1998) and his sister Karin (b. 1973).
What would happen to the British throne if all the descendants of Electress Sophia disappeared? The answer is that Parliament would have done something about it in advance. With thousands of people in the line of succession, Parliament is not likely to ever be taken by surprise by their complete disappearance.
There is a precedent for such a situation. In 1701, William III was reigning alone and childless. His heir apparent was Anne, married to Prince George of Denmark. She had given birth to twelve children between 1683 and 1700, but only one had survived past infancy, and he had died at the age of 11 in July 1700. Beside Anne, there was no one in the line of succession established in 1689. For that reason, Parliament passed the Act of Settlement "for a further provision of the succession of the Crown in the Protestant line."
Should Parliament really be caught by surprise, and the throne left vacant without any successor, a de facto king (chosen somehow) could call a valid Parliament which would then enact that the king was also de jure. Such a procedure was used by Henry VII in 1485, and by William and Mary in 1689.
If King James II hadn't been overthrown in 1688/1689, Europe's history would have been very different in many ways. At some level, the question is impossible to answer, because it requires conjectures about three hundred years' worth of history; in particular, about what marriages would have taken place and what the issue would have been. Different people would have been on the throne, and they would have certainly married differently.
If King James II hadn't been overthrown in 1688/89, and if all births, marriages and deaths had taken place exactly the way they did in fact take place, Franz, Duke of Bavaria (b. 1933) would be the sovereign today. Franz, who is the great-grandson of the last King of Bavaria, is known as Francis II , King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland to his Jacobite followers since the death of his father in July 1996. Franz finds himself in this position because he is the senior co-heir general (senior representative) of King Charles I. Following the death of the last legitimate descendant of James II (Henry IX, called Duke of York, Bishop of Ostia and Velletri, Vice-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church, Dean of the Sacred College, Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica) in July 1807, the right to the (Jacobite) throne passed through the royal families of Sardinia, Modena and Bavaria. The immediate heirs of Franz (he is unmarried and childless) are his brother Prince Max, duke in Bavaria (b. 1937) and his eldest daughter Sophie (b. 1967) who is married to Hereditary Prince Aloïs of Liechtenstein. Their eldest child, Prince Joseph Wenzel, was born in London in May 1995.
There are some individuals who question the validity of the Wittelsbach/Jacobite claim which came through a niece-uncle marriage. It was raised by W. J. Palmer in "The Jacobite Heir: A Doubt", published in The Genealogists' Magazine, vol. 12, no. 6 (June 1956), pp 188-189, and was answered by Philip M. Thomas in "The Jacobite Heir: A Doubt Allayed" in the same Magazine, vol. 12, no. 8 (December 1956), pp 273-275. The answer is that British law recognizes, as valid, marriages which would not be valid in Britain if the marriage was valid in the place where (a) the marriage occurred and (b) where the person was domiciled. Since the niece, Princess Maria Beatrice of Sardinia (1792-1840), was domiciled in Sardinia, where her father was King, and her uncle the Duke of Modena, Francesco IV (1779-1846), was domiciled in Modena, and the marriage was valid there (Papal dispensation, etc.), the marriage is then valid in Britain.
9. If Salic Law had applied in Great Britain and Victoria had not succeeded King William IV as Queen in 1837, who would be the sovereign today?
If Salic Law had prevailed at the time of the death of King William IV (r. 1830-1837), and all births, marriages, and deaths had taken place exactly the way they did since, HRH Prince Ernst August of Hanover (b. 1954) would be sovereign today. In other words, Queen Victoria would have remained Princess Victoria of Kent (her father was Prince Edward, Duke of Kent) and the succession would have gone to her paternal uncle Prince Ernest Augustus of Great Britain (1771-1851). (He became King of Hanover in 1837.) The reason that HRH Prince Ernst August would be sovereign today is because he is the senior male lineal descendant of Prince Ernest Augustus who died in 1851.
This list of kings and queens from Egbert, King of Wessex to Elizabeth II can be found on the official web site of the British Monarchy at http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page5.asp.
Britain does not allow unilateral abdications. "In a monarchy, succession to the throne is a matter not of choice but of duty." (The Monarchy and the Constitution, by Vernon Bogdanor, Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 1995)
Parliament sets the conditions under which the monarch reigns. Parliament, when it passed the Act of Settlement in 1701, included language that states the Throne is to go to the Electress Sophia and the heirs of her body. Parliament did not say, in that Act, that the Throne is to go to the heir of the body of the Electress Sophia only if the said heir of the body wants it. Parliament requires the Throne to go to the heir of the body of the Electress Sophia and to nobody else.
In the case of King Edward VIII, he succeeded because he was the heir of Electress Sophia of Hanover, and Parliament made her the heir in the 1701 Act of Settlement. Parliament, in 1936, altered the Act of Settlement by removing Edward VIII and accelerating the succession of George VI. Up until that point, Edward was the heir of the body of the Electress Sophia. Not until he died could someone else be the heir of Electress Sophia. Therefore, to make someone else king before Edward VIII's death required a modification of the Act of Settlement. Were Edward VIII to have actually quit, to have unilaterally declared that he refused to reign, that he was walking off the job, then he would have been acting in defiance of the will of Parliament, as expressed in the Act of Settlement. As a constitutional monarchist, Edward VIII was more respectful of the wishes of the Legislature.
King Edward VIII was the only sovereign in British history (since the reign of William the Conqueror) to declare he wished to voluntarily cease to be king. What followed was a very precisely choreographed dance. In the Instrument of Abdication of 10 December 1936, Edward VIII did not say "I abdicate", but said it was his desire to stop being king, and it was his desire that appropriate legislation be enacted ("I declare [...] My [...] determination to renounce [...and] that effect should be given to this"). The next day, 11 December 1936 Parliament drew up and passed the "His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act". This Act had four legal consequences:
Therefore, Edward VIII didn't abdicate on his own. What he did do is state his wish to voluntary cease being king, and, once legislation was put into place, be allowed by Parliament to do so. Of course, in the final analysis, Edward VIII ceased to be king only because he wished to do so, and did so of his own will. In that sense, he did abdicate. But the British constitution requires both king and Parliament to participate in an abdication, and an abdication cannot take place without either king or Parliament.
The complete text of the Declaration of Abdication Act and of the Instrument of Abdication
can be found at the following URL:
Of England's forty-two monarchs since 1066, from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II, two were forced to abdicate after they were deposed, one was deemed to have abdicated, and one voluntarily chose to cease being king.
Monarchs Forced to Abdicate:
It is true that members of the royal family do not have any formal constitutional functions. They do not, however, have the same freedom as the rest of the nation's citizens to behave and say in public what they wish. For example, if they intend to make a speech which could be considered controversial, it is courteous for them to send a copy of their speech beforehand to the appropriate government minister. The Sovereign and his heir do not vote in elections, general or local ones, because they must remain politically neutral and it would be considered unconstitutional for them to do so. Until 1999, the members of the royal family who held a hereditary peerage were subject to a 'legal incapacity to vote', as members of the house of lords. The House of Lords Act of 1999 has removed that disqualification for all peers who lost the right to sit in the House of Lords, including the prince of Wales, the dukes of Edinburgh, York, Gloucester, and Kent, and the earl of Wessex. Traditionally, HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and HRH The Princess Margaret did not vote because of their closeness to HM The Queen even though they have always been legally entitled. Further, the members of the royal family do not stand for election to political or non-political positions. The royal family's public role is to stand for unity and neutrality.
The members of the royal family are bound by the Act of Settlement and the Royal Marriages Act when planning to marry. Since the spouse of a member of the royal family is instantly in a special position, as the possible parent or ancestor of a future sovereign, it is indeed perfectly relevant for the Crown to have a say in whom a member of the royal family marries. If any member of the royal family refuses to accept that authority they may act as they wish, but forfeit their rights and privileges. If they wish to retain the privileges of their rank, they have a duty of obedience to the law - and it is perfectly reasonable that permission to marry should be part of the law (every European royal family and many mediatised ones have "house Laws" regulating marriage). Even in "ordinary" families, parents indicate their consent or disapproval of the choice of spouse of a family member, and the consequence of disobedience may occasionally lead to alienation in a family. There isn't anything particularly odd or unusual about this.
In the case of the royal family, Princess Margaret's decision not to marry Peter Townsend was not least because she was persuaded that as someone so close to the Throne she had a duty of obedience to royal tradition and to the teachings of the Church of England (as they then stood). In both the cases of the Duchess of Windsor and Princess Margaret, it was not the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 which stood in the way of their marriages. Rather, it was the laws of the Church of England, and the impossibility at that time of being married to a divorced person and being able to receive the Sacraments (a necessary part of the Coronation service).
When a man marries a princess or a queen, he does not take his wife's rank and become automatically a prince or a king. In (English) common law a man retains his name upon marriage. Conversely, when a woman marries a prince or a king, she becomes automatically a princess or a queen; this is in keeping with (English) common Law whereby a woman is entitled to her husband's name. If the husband of a queen were permitted to be known as king, he would then technically rank higher than his wife the queen.
The husband of a princess or a queen can have a peerage or a title conferred upon him by the Sovereign. Three examples when a peerage or a title was bestowed on the spouse of a princess or a queen:
It is worth noting that the British Constitution does not make any provision for the position of a husband to a Queen (see the question: 'What is the title of a Queen's husband?' below). A man who marries a princess who later becomes queen or who marries a queen regnant, does not become king. Queen Victoria succinctly summarized the situation:
'It is a strange omission in our Constitution that while the wife of a King has the highest rank and dignity in the realm after her husband assigned to her by law, the husband of a Queen regnant is entirely ignored by the law.'(Uncrowned King: The Life of Prince Albert, by Stanley Weintraub, The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc., New York, 1997)
15. When a woman marries a prince, why does she use her husband's Christian name in her title instead of her own name?
The wife of a prince takes her husband's Christian name in her title as do all married royal women. This is because it is the correct style for any married woman ('Mrs' followed by her husband's Christian name and then his surname.) When a woman is known as 'HRH Princess [her Christian name] of [Gloucester, or Great Britain, or Kent, or York, etc...]', this indicates she is a princess by birth. When a woman is known as 'HRH Princess [her husband's Christian name] of [Gloucester, or Great Britain, or Kent, or York, etc...]', this indicates she is a princess by marriage. That is why it is correct for the former Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz to be known as 'HRH Princess Michael of Kent' instead of being known as 'HRH Princess Marie-Christine of Kent'.
The situation is slightly different when a woman is married to a prince who happens to be a royal duke or the Prince of Wales. When a woman is married to a royal duke she is known, for example, as 'HRH The Duchess of Kent', not 'HRH Duchess [her husband's or her Christian name] of Kent'. When a woman is married to the Prince of Wales, she is known as 'HRH The Princess of Wales', not 'HRH Princess [her husband's or her Christian name] of Wales'.
The ways of addressing royal women change once there is a divorce. In the case of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, Diana was entitled to 'HRH The Princess of Wales' while she and Charles were married. Following her divorce, Diana ceased to be both a Royal Highness and a princess because she was no longer married to a Royal Highness and prince. (These were hers only by marriage not by birthright.) Accordingly, Diana became known by the name 'Diana, Princess of Wales'. In the case of Sarah, Duchess of York she was entitled to be known as 'HRH The Duchess of York' while she and Andrew were married. Following her divorce, she too ceased to be both a Royal Highness and a princess because she was no longer married to a Royal Highness and a prince. (Again, these were hers only by marriage not by birthright.) Sarah is therefore known by the name 'Sarah, Duchess of York'. This style is common to divorced wives of British peers which was the situation in which Diana and Sarah were in August and May 1996, respectively. (Note, however, that Sarah is not addressed as 'Your Grace'.)
There are three types of queen in practise in Britain, but only one of them is sovereign.
HM Queen Elizabeth II is a queen regnant who is a constitutional monarch. She took an oath at her Coronation to rule according to the laws and customs of the people. Her Majesty is the Head of State of the United Kingdom and is Head of the Commonwealth. She is Sovereign of the British Orders of Knighthood, Sovereign Head of the Order of St. John, Lord High Admiral, and, in theory, is all-powerful, the source of justice and the fountain of honour. However, her power is limited by the (unwritten) Constitution. The Queen's real power lies in her being able to deny absolute power to anyone else. For example, it is in her power to dismiss the prime minister and dissolve Parliament.
HRH Princess Elizabeth succeeded her father, King George VI, upon his death on 6 February 1952. Seventeen months later, she was crowned as HM Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953 at Westminster Abbey.
The website called "The Working Day of Her Majesty The Queen" will be of interest to those who wish to gain an insight into HM The Queen's daily work as sovereign: http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page312.asp
The full titles of Queen Elizabeth II are:
The transformation from the single imperial crown held by queen Victoria to the 16 crowns held in personal union today by Elizabeth II took place as part of the process of the transformation of the British empire into a free association of independent states. In the 19th century, many British colonies were granted limited self-government under the crown, and this autonomy increased with the creation of Dominions, the first of which was Canada (1867). In the years following the first world war, a series of "Imperial Conferences" of Dominion heads of government were held. After the 1926 Conference, a declaration was issued that the dominions were:
autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic and external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations
This declaration of intent was implemented in 1931 by the Statute of Westminster, which granted immediate legislative independence to Canada, South Africa and Ireland, and was extended to Australia, New Zealand and Newfoundland if ratified by the Parliaments of those countries. Newfoundland reverted from Dominion to Colonial status in 1934 without ever ratifying the Statute; Australia and New Zealand ratified it in 1942 and 1947 respectively. The key section was clause 4, which stated that:
No Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this Act shall extend, or be deemed to extend, to a Dominion as part of the law of that Dominion, unless it is expressly declared in that Act that that Dominion has requested, and consented to, the enactment thereof.
The importance of this for the monarchy was that any future legislation of the UK parliament affecting the succession to the throne required the assent of each dominion in order to have effect in that dominion. This was recognised by the drafters and specifically called out in the preamble as a convention to be followed in the future:
. . . it would be in accord with the established constitutional position of all the members of the Commonwealth in relation to one another that any alteration in the law touching the Succession to the Throne or the Royal Style and Titles shall hereafter require the assent as well of the Parliaments of all the Dominions as of the Parliament of the United Kingdom
The convention was followed in the Abdication crisis of 1936, and the Abdication Act of that year called out the assent of Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The Irish Free State assented separately, through the passage of the External Relations Act of 1936.
The Commonwealth thereby became an association of independent nations linked by common allegiance to a shared monarch. The monarch was represented in each country by a governor-general appointed by the Crown on the advice of the government of that country. This convention was subverted by the Irish Free State, which in 1936 removed all reference to the monarchy from its constitution and abolished the position of governor-general, and in 1937 adopted a new constitution creating an Irish presidency; the only role left to the monarchy was in connection with the accreditation of Irish envoys abroad. Nevertheless, Ireland was allowed to remain in the Commonwealth until 1949, at which point it formally declared itself to be a republic, which it had been in practice for many years. Allegiance to the monarch as a condition of Commonwealth membership was formally removed when India secured agreement in 1949 to remain in the Commonwealth after it became a Republic in 1950. Since 1995, the Commonwealth consists of 16 independent monarchies under the queen, 6 monarchies with their own monarchs, and 32 republics. With the acceptance of Mozambique into the Commonwealth in 1995, even the unspoken qualification of a common British colonial heritage no longer applies.
These changes were also reflected in the royal styles and titles. Edward VII was "by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India", which in his time described a single imperial domain. George VI's titles, although superficially very similar, were still appropriate to describe the major change which had taken place in the structure of the Commonwealth: "by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India." However, this royal style was not sustainable after the Crown was transformed from a common allegiance held by all Commonwealth members to a position as Head of the Commonwealth which included republican members. Consequently, the Royal Styles and Titles of the queen were changed on her accession so that she has a separate royal style for each country, all incorporating the common element: "Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth . . .", (see question 12).
At first sight the answer is "No". However, there are three cases where the situation is not entirely clear: the Cook Islands, the six Australian states, and Scotland. A useful rule of thumb is to test the ability of government of the candidate territory to affect the royal succession in that territory. By this test, the Cook Islands is, for all practical purposes, a separate monarchy, while the Australian states and Scotland are probably not.
Most of the Commonwealth dependent territories are still governed through the United Kingdom, Australia or New Zealand. There are two states which have maintained a free association with New Zealand – the Cook Islands and Niue. Under the Cook Islands Constitution of 1965, the queen is head of state "in right of New Zealand". At that time her representative was appointed by the governor-general of New Zealand, and the New Zealand parliament retained considerable powers to legislate on behalf of the Cook Islands. A very similar arrangement was made for Niue in 1974. However, in 1981 the Cook Island constitution was amended in two significant respects: (i) the queen's representative was appointed directly by the queen herself and (ii) the Cook Islands parliament was granted complete legislative independence of New Zealand in both internal and external affairs. As a result, the current relationship of the monarchy to the Cook Islands is effectively identical to that of any independent Commonwealth monarchy, even though the queen is still nominally head of state "in right of New Zealand". In particular, if the royal succession in right of New Zealand were changed, this would require the separate consent of the Cook Islands before it applied there.
The second obscure case is that of the Australian states. This arises because the state governors maintain a direct relationship with the Crown independently of the Governor-General. The framers of the Australian constitution deliberately chose to do this in order to give the states relief against a possibly oppressive federal government. Under the Statute of Westminster, the preexisting relationships between the British Crown and parliament and the Australian states were preserved intact, so that the governors of Australian states continued to owe allegiance to the UK Crown rather than the Australian one. Through the Australia Act of 1986, these residual links were adjusted, so that the governors in the Australian states now represent the Australian crown, but they remain in direct relationship with the queen. It has been argued that this direct relationship creates separate state crowns, but since the states were and are unable to affect the succession to either the UK or the Australian crowns as it applies in their territory, it seems difficult to sustain this position.
Nevertheless, in the debate about whether Australia should become a republic, decided by referendum in 1999, the possibility was raised by both monarchists and republicans that the individual states might decide separately. If different states made different decisions, this might result in the creation of one or more state monarchies. In particular, the government of Queensland amended the state constitution in 1977 to "entrench" the role of the governor as representative of the Crown -- i.e. it could only be changed by a referendum of Queensland voters. As insurance, the entrenchment position was itself entrenched. This persisted until a new state constitution was adopted in 2001. After 1977, members of the Queensland legislature swore separate allegiance to "the queen of Queensland", as well as to the Queen of Australia. In practice, the queen of Queensland was a symbolic fiction. However, if the Australian people as a whole had chosen to create a republic in 1999 but the vote of the people of Queensland had not met the provisions of entrenchment, it is unclear what the actual effect of this would have been: whether the governor of Queensland would henceforth have represented the Australian President, as successor to the Australian Crown, or whether a successor Queensland Crown, still held by the queen, would have come into existence. In the event, the circumstance did not arise.
These considerations do not apply to Canada because the lieutenant-governors of the Canadian provinces are appointed by the Governor-General, and always have been. Thus, they can only represent the monarchy represented by the Governor- General, so the fate of the Canadian monarchy is automatically reflected in the provinces, unless special provision is made otherwise. For litigation purposes, the Canadian crown is said to be divisible, so that, for example, the Crown "in right of Saskatchewan" might press suit against the Crown "in right of Prince Edward Island", but this does not imply the existence of separate provincial monarchies in the same sense as is proposed for the Australian states.
Finally, there is the case of Scotland. In opening the new Scottish Parliament on Jul 1, 1999, its Presiding Officer Sir David Steel stated that it was "constitutionally correct" to refer to the queen as "Queen of Scots", from which it might be inferred that devolution had had the effect of separating the Scottish Crown from that of the United Kingdom. He did not give any justification for this statement, and it appears to be incorrect. Clause I of the Acts of Union of 1707 united the former Scottish and English crowns "forever" in the crown of the United Kingdom. The Scotland Act of 1998, which created the new Scottish Parliament, incorporated the Acts of Union in clause 37, and in Schedule 5 specifically stated that the Crown, including the succession, and the Union were among the "reserved matters" that were defined, in clause 29, to be outside the competence of that Parliament.
The following table lists the dates of independence under the monarch and, where applicable, transformation from Commonwealth monarchy to republican status for each country, apart from the United Kingdom, which is or has been a Commonwealth monarchy. There have been 35 Commonwealth monarchies at one time or another, with a peak of 18 between 1983 and 1987. The current count is 16.
This table is based on a list posted to ATR by Rupert Barnes on 11 December 1997 (the 66th anniversary of the Statute of Westminster), with confirmation and additional material drawn from various web-sites and other resources, notably The Commonwealth (http://www.thecommonwealth.org/)
HM The Queen was born HRH Princess Elizabeth of York on 21 April 1926. She naturally celebrates her birthday privately on this date.
As sovereign, Her Majesty's official birthday is marked with a military parade called the (The Queen's) Birthday Parade (popularly known as "Trooping the Colour"). It is held publicly in early June (either the first, second or third Saturday) in London in a ceremony which dates back to the early 18th century.
Trooping the Colour ceremony is based on the days when mounted guards and sentries kept watch at royal palaces and such in London. These guards carried or 'trooped' the flags of their battalion which could be seen and recognised by the soldiers. In 1748, it was decided that the parade would mark the official birthday of the sovereign with King George II being the first monarch to attend the ceremony. (Some sources say the first time the parade marked the sovereign's birthday was in 1805 for George III.) It became an annual event in 1820 with the accession of King George IV. Later still, following King Edward VII's accession in 1901, it became a regular custom for the monarch to take personally the salute. The parade is followed by the appearance of the royal family (and their guests) on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with a fly-past by the RAF. This royal tradition has evolved over the years and has become a tourist attraction enjoyed not only by the assembled public but by television spectators around the world.
In 1947, HRH Princess Elizabeth participated in Trooping the Colour for the first time in her capacity as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards. Later, in 1951, she took the salute for her father King George VI who was ill.
This year, Trooping the Colour will be held on Saturday, 17 June, 2006.
The style His (or Her) Majesty is reserved for those individuals who are kings or queens. Elizabeth II as queen is styled Her Majesty. If she was a princess who was the daughter of a king or queen, she would be styled Royal Highness (HRH). (HM was "HRH Princess Elizabeth" during her father's lifetime.)
In the United Kingdom, the style HM is also the style of the wife or the widow of a king.
The children of HM The Queen (Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward) are styled HRH because they are children of the sovereign, a queen. Their style and title are allowed to them as children of the sovereign.
The children of HRH Princess Margaret (David and Sarah) are not HRH because princesses do not usually transmit their titles to their children. Instead, David and Sarah's names and titles come to them from their father, the Earl of Snowdon. As children of a peer, David is allowed the courtesy use of his father's subsidiary title of Viscount Linley, while Sarah is allowed the use of the prefix 'Lady' before her Christian name followed by her surname. The children of HRH Princess Anne (Peter and Zara) and HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent (James and Marina) are in a similar situation as those of HRH Princess Margaret. They are the children of a royal mother but take their rank from their father.
There has been one exception to this rule in this century. On 9 November 1905, King Edward VII bestowed the style 'Princess Royal' on his eldest daughter, HRH Princess Louise. On the same day, His Majesty elevated the daughters of Princess Louise to the rank of 'princess' with the style of 'Highness'. With this unilateral decision on the part of their grandfather the King, Lady Alexandra Duff (1891-1959) and Lady Maud Duff (1893-1945) no longer held their rank from their father (Sir Alexander Duff, Duke of Fife) but rather from the will of the Sovereign.
King George V issued Letters Patent on 30 October 1917 regulating who would be entitled to the style of HRH and the title of Prince (or Princess). Since that date, the style of His (or Her) Royal Highness is reserved for:
It is also the correct style for the wives of those who are entitled to bear the style of HRH. A widow does not lose the style of HRH upon her husband's death, whereas a divorced wife loses the style of HRH following her divorce. Before their divorces, Diana was allowed the style and title of "HRH The Princess of Wales", while her sister-in-law Sarah was allowed the style and title of "HRH The Duchess of York". Neither were entitled to such forms of address as "HRH Princess Diana", "Princess Diana of Wales", or "HRH Duchess Sarah", "Duchess Sarah of York" despite what was and still is reported by the media.
Since 1917, there have been three exceptions to this rule:
First: the Duke of Edinburgh. On the day before his marriage to the present Queen, Lt. Philip Mountbatten was created "HRH The Duke of Edinburgh". King George VI was seemingly under the impression that since he had given Philip the style of HRH, it meant he was also giving him the title of prince, which was not so. It wasn't until 22 February 1957 that HM The Queen corrected this situation and made her husband a Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Second: the Prince of Wales and his sister the Princess Royal. On 9 November 1948, HM King George VI "issued letters patent under the Great Seal ordaining that any children born to the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh would have the title of prince or princess and the style of Royal Highness." (Prince Charles: A Biography, by Anthony Holden, 1979). Thus, Charles (born less than a week after this decision) and Anne (born less than two years later) were to enjoy the style of HRH before they would have been entitled to it upon their mother's accession as Queen.
On the wedding day of HRH The Earl of Wessex to Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones,
a press release from Buckingham Palace announced the queen's decision
(made with the couple's agreement) that any children they have should
not be given the style His or Her Royal Highness, but would have courtesy
titles as sons or daughters of an earl. While royal styles and titles
have usually been conferred and withdrawn by way of letters patent or
royal warrants, precedents show that such instruments are not necessary,
and there is no reason to doubt that the press release correctly expresses
the sovereign's will, which is all that matters.
At present, there are eighteen members of the Royal Family who are entitled to the
The following list should be a help to anyone who has ever wondered if Princess
Margaret is the daughter of HM The Queen or if Princess Anne is her sister, who were
Her Majesty's parents, or how many grandchildren Her Majesty has.
N.B.: Her Majesty does not have any surviving aunts or uncles; Her Majesty
does have a number of surviving maternal cousins, however.
No, it isn't true. The only thing which Her Majesty has done is to agree to allow discussion
of the issue (whereby the right of succession passes to the eldest child of the sovereign
regardless of gender, that is, females would have the same right of succession as males).
Neither Parliament nor the Queen have decided to do anything beyond discussing the issue.
For additional information, see various issues of the "Electronic Telegraph" (the online
version of "The Daily Telegraph" newspaper) including those of 13 February 1997
(issue 629) and 28 February 1998 (issue 1009).
Yes, Prince Philip was a British subject before he became naturalized in 1947. In fact, he
had been from birth because of the Sophia Naturalization Act . This Act, passed in 1705,
gave in perpetuity the right of British citizenship to Sophia's non-Catholic descendants.
At the time of Prince Philip's naturalization in February 1947, no one seemed aware that
this procedure was unnecessary, not even his uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten who "worked
diligently towards the granting of Philip's British citizenship" (Prince Philip: A Biography,
by Denis Judd, London: Michael Joseph Ltd., 1980). This fact was discovered only after
the legal victory of his cousin, Prince Ernst August of Hanover, in which he won his right
to British citizenship. In 1956, HRH Prince Ernst August of Hanover (1914-1987) sought
and won his battle to claim the status of British citizen because of the Sophia Naturalization
Act. Prince Ernst August's claim to this right was based on the fact that he was a lineal
descendant of the Electress Sophia and a Protestant.
Some alt.talk.royalty members feel quite strongly that Prince Philip did indeed renounce
his right of succession to the throne of Greece in 1944 with permission of King George II
of the Hellenes. They also feel that Prince Philip renounced his titles of Prince of Greece
and Prince of Denmark (he was born HRH Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark) when
he became a naturalized British citizen and assumed the surname Mountbatten in February
However, other members of alt.talk.royalty feel just as strongly that Prince Philip did
not renounce either his succession rights or his princely titles. They believe that since there
isn't any documentary proof showing Prince Philip renounced his titles or his rights these
events did not occur. Their argument rests on the fact that no one has been able to cite the
text of the renunciation, the date it was executed, the date it became effective, or even the
clause in the House laws of the Royal House of Greece permitting a Prince to renounce.
(Prince Philip is the only Greek prince who is ever said to have renounced his rights and
his titles.) They view it as a case in which Prince Philip simply stopped using his Greek
and Danish titles and that he never formally relinquished them. (Foreign rules and regulation
such as British Home Office naturalization procedures did not have any effect on Prince
Philip's title or his style of HRH as a Prince of Greece. As such, those who put forth these
arguments say that he, his children and male-line grandchildren are Princes/Princesses
of Greece and Denmark, in addition to any other titles they may hold.) Other individuals
take this argument further by pointing out that even if Prince Philip renounced his rights
of succession to the Greek throne, it was not enacted under Greek law. Lastly, they
believe there isn't any primary documentary evidence that shows this so-called renunciation
was accepted (publicly or privately) by the Greek Sovereign.
At the present time, six members of the royal family hold a ducal title. The titles and their
holders are (in alphabetical order):
Since its creation in 1337, this dukedom has been reserved for the son and heir apparent
of the Sovereign. The title was first created on 3 March 1337 when King Edward III
bestowed it on his eldest son, Edward (later known as the Black Prince). When Edward,
Duke of Cornwall died in his father's lifetime in June 1376, "all his peerage dignities (none
of which devolved on his son in consequence of the spec. rems. thereof) lapsed to the
Crown." (source: The Complete Peerage, volume III, page 437) Edward's younger
surviving son, Richard (the future King Richard II), became heir apparent of his
grandfather King Edward III, but did not inherit the title Duke of Cornwall. A few months
later, in November 1376, Richard was created Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall and
Earl of Chester. When he acceded as King Richard II in 1377, all his peerage titles
merged in the Crown.
Prince Charles became heir apparent in 1952 upon his mother's accession as Queen
Elizabeth II. Prince Charles, as the oldest son of the Sovereign, inherited the title Duke
of Cornwall, as well as the (Scottish) titles Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of
Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.
If Prince Charles dies in the lifetime of his mother the Queen, all of the peerages he holds
(as heir apparent) would revert to the Crown. No one inherits them, not even his son
Prince William. Following Prince Charles's death, HM The Queen could make her
grandson, Prince William, "Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester" and these would be his
for life or until he succeeded to the Throne. Prince Charles's other titles (Duke of
Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, etc...) would not be given to or inherited by Prince William
as these are reserved for the oldest son of the Sovereign.
Edinburgh was first created as a dukedom for Prince Frederick (1707-1751), eldest son
and heir of the future King George II. On 26 July 1726, Prince Frederick was created
Duke of Edenburgh (as it was then spelled), Marquess of the Isle of Ely, Earl of Eltham,
Viscount of Launceston, Baron of Snaudon (as Snowdon was then spelled). When his
father acceded to the throne in 1727, Prince Frederick became heir apparent and
inherited the title Duke of Cornwall. When Frederick died in 1751 in his father's lifetime,
his titles (Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, etc...) lapsed (reverted) to the Crown
while his title Duke of Edinburgh devolved on (was inherited by) his son and heir, the
future George III. George was Duke of Edinburgh from 1751 until 1760 when he
acceded to the throne as King George III and all his honours merged in the Crown.
The second creation was for Victoria's second son Alfred (1844-1900), who was made
Earl of Ulster, Earl of Kent, and Duke of Edinburgh on May 24, 1866.
The titles became extinct with his death on July 30, 1900.
Lt. Philip Mountbatten (as Prince Philip was then known), was created Duke of
Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich in the peerage of the United Kingdom
in November 1947.
The grant of a hereditary dukedom to a royal consort creates a peculiar situation,
because of the confluence of two factors:
At present, there are eighteen members of the Royal Family who are entitled to the style HRH:
The following list should be a help to anyone who has ever wondered if Princess Margaret is the daughter of HM The Queen or if Princess Anne is her sister, who were Her Majesty's parents, or how many grandchildren Her Majesty has.
N.B.: Her Majesty does not have any surviving aunts or uncles; Her Majesty does have a number of surviving maternal cousins, however.
No, it isn't true. The only thing which Her Majesty has done is to agree to allow discussion of the issue (whereby the right of succession passes to the eldest child of the sovereign regardless of gender, that is, females would have the same right of succession as males). Neither Parliament nor the Queen have decided to do anything beyond discussing the issue.
For additional information, see various issues of the "Electronic Telegraph" (the online version of "The Daily Telegraph" newspaper) including those of 13 February 1997 (issue 629) and 28 February 1998 (issue 1009).
Yes, Prince Philip was a British subject before he became naturalized in 1947. In fact, he had been from birth because of the Sophia Naturalization Act . This Act, passed in 1705, gave in perpetuity the right of British citizenship to Sophia's non-Catholic descendants. At the time of Prince Philip's naturalization in February 1947, no one seemed aware that this procedure was unnecessary, not even his uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten who "worked diligently towards the granting of Philip's British citizenship" (Prince Philip: A Biography, by Denis Judd, London: Michael Joseph Ltd., 1980). This fact was discovered only after the legal victory of his cousin, Prince Ernst August of Hanover, in which he won his right to British citizenship. In 1956, HRH Prince Ernst August of Hanover (1914-1987) sought and won his battle to claim the status of British citizen because of the Sophia Naturalization Act. Prince Ernst August's claim to this right was based on the fact that he was a lineal descendant of the Electress Sophia and a Protestant.
Some alt.talk.royalty members feel quite strongly that Prince Philip did indeed renounce his right of succession to the throne of Greece in 1944 with permission of King George II of the Hellenes. They also feel that Prince Philip renounced his titles of Prince of Greece and Prince of Denmark (he was born HRH Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark) when he became a naturalized British citizen and assumed the surname Mountbatten in February 1947.
However, other members of alt.talk.royalty feel just as strongly that Prince Philip did not renounce either his succession rights or his princely titles. They believe that since there isn't any documentary proof showing Prince Philip renounced his titles or his rights these events did not occur. Their argument rests on the fact that no one has been able to cite the text of the renunciation, the date it was executed, the date it became effective, or even the clause in the House laws of the Royal House of Greece permitting a Prince to renounce. (Prince Philip is the only Greek prince who is ever said to have renounced his rights and his titles.) They view it as a case in which Prince Philip simply stopped using his Greek and Danish titles and that he never formally relinquished them. (Foreign rules and regulation such as British Home Office naturalization procedures did not have any effect on Prince Philip's title or his style of HRH as a Prince of Greece. As such, those who put forth these arguments say that he, his children and male-line grandchildren are Princes/Princesses of Greece and Denmark, in addition to any other titles they may hold.) Other individuals take this argument further by pointing out that even if Prince Philip renounced his rights of succession to the Greek throne, it was not enacted under Greek law. Lastly, they believe there isn't any primary documentary evidence that shows this so-called renunciation was accepted (publicly or privately) by the Greek Sovereign.
At the present time, six members of the royal family hold a ducal title. The titles and their holders are (in alphabetical order):
Since its creation in 1337, this dukedom has been reserved for the son and heir apparent of the Sovereign. The title was first created on 3 March 1337 when King Edward III bestowed it on his eldest son, Edward (later known as the Black Prince). When Edward, Duke of Cornwall died in his father's lifetime in June 1376, "all his peerage dignities (none of which devolved on his son in consequence of the spec. rems. thereof) lapsed to the Crown." (source: The Complete Peerage, volume III, page 437) Edward's younger surviving son, Richard (the future King Richard II), became heir apparent of his grandfather King Edward III, but did not inherit the title Duke of Cornwall. A few months later, in November 1376, Richard was created Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester. When he acceded as King Richard II in 1377, all his peerage titles merged in the Crown.
Prince Charles became heir apparent in 1952 upon his mother's accession as Queen Elizabeth II. Prince Charles, as the oldest son of the Sovereign, inherited the title Duke of Cornwall, as well as the (Scottish) titles Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.
If Prince Charles dies in the lifetime of his mother the Queen, all of the peerages he holds (as heir apparent) would revert to the Crown. No one inherits them, not even his son Prince William. Following Prince Charles's death, HM The Queen could make her grandson, Prince William, "Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester" and these would be his for life or until he succeeded to the Throne. Prince Charles's other titles (Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, etc...) would not be given to or inherited by Prince William as these are reserved for the oldest son of the Sovereign.
Edinburgh was first created as a dukedom for Prince Frederick (1707-1751), eldest son and heir of the future King George II. On 26 July 1726, Prince Frederick was created Duke of Edenburgh (as it was then spelled), Marquess of the Isle of Ely, Earl of Eltham, Viscount of Launceston, Baron of Snaudon (as Snowdon was then spelled). When his father acceded to the throne in 1727, Prince Frederick became heir apparent and inherited the title Duke of Cornwall. When Frederick died in 1751 in his father's lifetime, his titles (Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, etc...) lapsed (reverted) to the Crown while his title Duke of Edinburgh devolved on (was inherited by) his son and heir, the future George III. George was Duke of Edinburgh from 1751 until 1760 when he acceded to the throne as King George III and all his honours merged in the Crown. The second creation was for Victoria's second son Alfred (1844-1900), who was made Earl of Ulster, Earl of Kent, and Duke of Edinburgh on May 24, 1866. The titles became extinct with his death on July 30, 1900.
Lt. Philip Mountbatten (as Prince Philip was then known), was created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich in the peerage of the United Kingdom in November 1947.
The grant of a hereditary dukedom to a royal consort creates a peculiar situation, because of the confluence of two factors:
Consider the most likely scenario, that the Prince of Wales survives both his parents (scenario A). At the death of his mother, he will become sovereign. At the death of his father, he will become duke of Edinburgh. Either event may happen before the other: in either case, the dukedom will merge when the last parent dies. A less likely scenario is that the Prince of Wales does not survive both his parents. Then: (a) if Charles dies after his mother but before his father, the dukedom will merge in the Crown at the death of Philip. (b) If Charles dies after his father but before his mother, the dukedom will pass from Philip to Charles to William, and merge when William becomes king. (c) If Charles dies before both his parents, repeat scenario A with William instead of Charles. Further, even less likely variations, can be imagined. (One exotic variant has Charles renouncing his rights to the throne in favor of his son; the dukedom would then pass to Charles while the Crown passes to William).
Note that the dukedom will not necessarily merge in the Crown. Here is one scenario where it doesn't: both Charles and William die after Philip but before Elizabeth II, and William leaves a daughter. In that case, the Crown passes to William's daughter and her descendants, the dukedom passes to Henry and his descendants. But, given that the Queen has a son who has two sons, it is far likelier that the dukedom will merge sooner or later.Will Edward inherit the dukedom of Edinburgh?
On the day of the marriage of the Earl of Wessex (June 19, 1999) it was announced by Buckingham Palace that "The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and The Prince of Wales have also agreed that The Prince Edward should be given the Dukedom of Edinburgh in due course, when the present title now held by Prince Philip eventually reverts to the Crown."
The announcement makes clear that the grant of Edinburgh to Edward will only take place after the present title has merged (which, as discussed above, may not happen but is most likely to do so). What is slightly less clear, although it is implied, is that Edward will receive a new grant of the dukedom of Edinburgh. This ambiguity has been a source of confusion, because the announcement may be read to say that the present dukedom will be given to Edward. That is not the case: it cannot be given to anyone, it can only pass according to the remainder defined in the Letters Patent of creation, unless modified by an Act of Parliament (which is always possible, but unlikely).
The "agreement" between the Queen, Prince Philip, and the Prince of Wales, should be thought to be more of a commitment among mother, father, and son, rather than a legally binding contract. The Prince of Wales is involved because, in most likelihood, he (as HM King Charles III) will grant the (new) Dukedom of Edinburgh to his brother, after the death of their parents, and the reversion of the present title to the Crown. Prince Philip is involved in the agreement out of respect for his role as father, and his having been the Duke of Edinburgh for over 50 years, rather than any sense that he controls the inheritance of his titles. And the Queen's role is in explaining why she is not granting a dukedom to her son upon his marriage, as she had done when she created Prince Andrew as Duke of York.
Gloucester, with its long history as an earldom, was first created as a dukedom in August 1385 for Thomas "of Woodstock" (1355-1397), youngest son of King Edward III. In later years, Thomas became dissatisfied with his nephew the King (Richard II) and sought to depose him. Thomas was arrested and murdered while in captivity. Because he had been declared guilty of treason and his estates and goods forfeited, his son did not inherit his title Duke of Gloucester.
The present creation of the dukedom of Gloucester dates from March 1928 when HRH Prince Henry (1900-1974), son of King George V, was created Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Ulster, Baron Culloden. Henry, whose elder unmarried son HRH Prince William (1941-1972) predeceased him in a flying accident, was succeeded by his younger son HRH Prince Richard (b. 1944) as Duke of Gloucester at his death in 1974. Prince Richard will be succeeded in his turn by his son because this peerage is a hereditary one in the male line.
The first duke of Kent was HRH Prince Edward (1767-1820), son of King George III. Edward was created Duke of Kent and Strathearn, Earl of Dublin in April 1799. At his death, all his honours became extinct as he had but one surviving legitimate child, a daughter, the future Queen Victoria.
The present creation of the dukedom of Kent dates to when HRH Prince George (1902-1942), younger son of King George V, was created Duke of Kent, Earl of St. Andrews, Baron Downpatrick in October 1934. George died in a plane crash while on active service in W.W.II and was succeeded by his elder son HRH Prince Edward (b. 1935) as Duke of Kent. Just like the dukedom of Gloucester, the dukedom of Kent is a hereditary one (in the male line) and Prince Edward will be succeeded in due time by his elder son.
As the dukedom of Lancaster has never been conferred again since the Middle Ages, it will be dealt with here only briefly. In 1267, King Henry III's younger son Edmund (1245-1296) received the county, honour and the castle of Lancaster. Edmund's grandson Henry was created the first Duke of Lancaster in 1351. King Henry IV, a descendant of this first duke, declared that the Lancastrian inheritance would no longer form part of the other possessions of the Crown and would descend to his male heirs. As such, it is considered the personal prerogative of the monarch and the title Duke of Lancaster is held by the Sovereign. Today, the duchy of Lancaster comprises acreage in various counties and provides a source of income for the monarch.
Robert III, King of Scots created his eldest son, David (1378-1402), Duke of Rothesay on 28 April 1398. This title and that of Duke of Albany (created for David's uncle Robert) were the first dukedoms to be made in Scotland. David's peerage dignities reverted to the Crown at his death because he died in the lifetime of his father and without leaving any children of his marriage.
The title Duke of Rothesay and those of Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland have been reserved for the eldest son of the king of Scotland since an Act of Parliament made them so in November 1469. (But as The Complete Peerage, volume XI, page 209, note "e" points out: "The act of 1469, however, as far as regards the Dukedom of Rothesay, seems but a confirmation of the limitation of that title as [...] it was originally so granted in 1398 [...]").
Since the union of the Crowns of England and Scotland in 1603, these traditional titles belong to the Sovereign's eldest son. Just as Prince Charles inherited the title Duke of Cornwall on becoming heir apparent in 1952 upon his mother's accession, he has inherited the titles Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.
In August 1385, Edmund "of Langley" (1341-1402), son of King Edward III, was created Duke of York by his nephew King Richard II. Edmund's successor as Duke of York, Edward, was killed at Agincourt. The title eventually merged when Edward IV came to the throne in 1461.
The present creation of the dukedom of York is a recent one and dates to July 1986 when HRH Prince Andrew (b. 1960), second son of HM Queen Elizabeth II, was created Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron Killyleagh. At the present time, Prince Andrew has two children, daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, who will not be able to inherit the dukedom as it was created with the remainder to his heirs male. Should Andrew die without leaving any sons, his title (or more accurately, the 1986 creation of it) will become extinct. The title still belongs to the Crown, however, and the Sovereign is free to create it anew for another member of the royal family.
Wessex has no history as a peerage title. It was last held as a feudal title by Harald Godwinesson (d. 1066). It was announced on June 19, 1999 (the day of the marriage of Prince Edward with Sophie Rhys-Jones) that he would receive the titles of Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn. It is the first time that a prince receives a title no higher than Earl. There is, however, a promise to grant him a title of duke of Edinburgh "in due course" (see above).
The difference between an heir apparent and an heir presumptive is as follows:
- the next in line to the Throne whose right to succeed cannot be defeated by the birth of
of someone with a superior right to succeed
- the next in line to the Throne whose right to succeed could be defeated by the birth of
someone with a superior right
It is possible for a woman to be heir apparent, under the following circumstances. Suppose king X has an eldest son Y, and Y has an only daughter Z. Suppose that Y dies while X is still reigning: then Z becomes heir apparent, because no one can ever displace her in the order of succession.
Also, it happened once that a woman was heir apparent, albeit due to a peculiarity of the Act of Succession: Princess Anne of Denmark (future Queen Anne) was heir apparent to her brother-in-law William III after the death of Queen Mary, because she had priority over his issue.
Since the title was first created in 1301 for the son of King Edward I, there have been twenty-one English Princes of Wales.
The title is traditionally bestowed upon the heir apparent and he is usually the eldest son of the sovereign. There have been times when the heir apparent and Prince of Wales was not the eldest son of the sovereign but rather the grandson: Prince of Wales number 3 (future Richard II) and number 16 (future George III).
The title 'Princess of Wales' belongs to the wife of the Prince of Wales. It is not a title bestowed on a sovereign's daughter.
A Prince of Wales's role is to wait. He has no formal functions and has no constitutional powers (although he can act as the Sovereign's deputy). Today's Prince of Wales, however, receives cabinet papers and gives audiences to cabinet ministers (The Monarchy and the Constitution, by Vernon Bogdanor, 1995).
The Twenty-One Princes of Wales:
There are seven princesses who bore the style "Princess Royal" since it was first used in the seventeenth century.
The style "Princess Royal" is usually bestowed upon the eldest daughter of the sovereign. It is "regarded as a style rather than a rank or title, as it is purely honorary, bearing no particular connotation of precedence" (The Royal Encyclopedia, edited by Ronald Allison and Sarah Riddell, 1991)
The style Princess Royal came into being when Queen Henrietta Maria (daughter of Henri IV, King of France and wife of Charles I, King of England) wished to imitate the way the eldest daughter of the French King was styled ('Madame Royale').
There can be only one Princess Royal at any given time because the style is held for life. It therefore cannot be bestowed upon the eldest daughter of the reigning sovereign during the lifetime of a current Princess Royal. The style is granted by Royal Warrant not created by Letters Patent. It is not automatically given to the eldest daughter, but is conferred at the discretion of the reigning sovereign.
There were two princesses who were eligible for the style but did not receive it (that is, there were no impediment preventing the style being bestowed): Princess Mary (the future Queen Mary II), daughter of King James II, who could have been granted the style between 1685 and 1688, and, Sophia Dorothea, Queen in Prussia, daughter of King George I, who could have been granted the style between 1714 and 1727.
The granting of this style does not rest on any particular merit and does not confer any particular privilege to the holder. There isn't any investiture ceremony nor are there any specific duties attached to it. The style is not inherited on the death of a Princess Royal.
The Seven Princesses Royal:
Some Acts , Proclamations and Instruments passed by the Parliaments of England and Great Britain are online. The selected documents in the following list feature a brief explanation followed by an URL for online viewing (except for the Sophia Naturalization Act)
The "Bill of Rights" (its official name since the Short Titles Act 1896) was a statute passed in 1689 guaranteeing the rights of Parliament against the arbitrary rule by the Sovereign. It limited the Sovereign's power and subjected Him to law, and decided that the succession to the Throne would no longer be based only on hereditary right but could be altered by Parliament. Thus, succession to the Throne was denied to King James II , his heirs general and to those who were Catholic or married to Catholics. (There isn't any ban on marriages to atheists, Hindus, Mormons, Muslims, Rastafarians, or any religion other than the "Popish" religion.) Note that the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement, seen below, refer only to the disqualification of someone who marries a Papist. No provision is made for the disqualification of someone who (like HRH the Duke of Kent) marries someone who later becomes a Papist.
The Act of Settlement was passed in 1701 in the reign of King William III. It was designed to ensure a Protestant succession to the throne. It set the succession as William III (the then sovereign) for his life, then Princess Anne of Denmark (later Queen Anne), then Princess Anne's descendants (the last had already died), then William III's descendants (he had none), then Princess Sophia, electress and duchess dowager of Hanover, then the heirs of Sophia's body being Protestants. Note that it doesn't mention who, if anybody, was to succeed if Sophia's heirs died out. This means that there is a finite number of persons who are eligible, under this Act, to succeed to the British Throne, that is, the descendants of Sophia. The non-Protestant disqualification, which is not actually laid out in the Act of Settlement but in a previous Act (see the Bill of Rights, above), is a personal disqualification, namely doing the wrong thing disqualifies that person for the rest of his life, but does not disqualify his children.
Noel McFerran has the original text at http://www.jacobite.ca/documents/1701settlement.htm with modernized spelling and punctuation. But the Act has been amended several times since. A scan of the text as currently in force (inclusive of various amendments made to it since 1701).
The Sophia Naturalization Act was passed in 1705. It gave to Electress Sophia of Hanover and "the issue of her body" the right of British citizenship in perpetuity, that is "that they [...] should be naturalized, and be deemed [...] natural born subjects of England".
The Act is cited as "4 & 5 Anne c. 16", and the text is available in Statutes of the Realm (reprinted Buffalo, N.Y.: William S. Hein, 1993, vol. 8, p. 487). However, this right of British citizenship is excluded to Roman Catholics, as can be seen in Article II of the Act which reads in part:
Provided always and be it further enacted [and declared] by the Authority aforesaid That every Person and Persons who shall be naturalized by virtue of this Act of Parliament and shall become a Papist or profess the Popish Religion shall not enjoy any Benefit or Advantage of a natural born Subject of England but every such Person shall be adjudged and taken as an Alien born out of Allegiance of the Queen of England to all Intents and Purposes whatsoever Any thing herein contained to the contrary notwithstanding.It is worth noting that any foreign royals who have been made British subjects by this Act (as in, for example, HRH Princess Margriet of the Netherlands or HM King Constantine II of the Hellenes) are not British royals. This is correct up to the effective date of the British Nationality Act of 1948 when the Sophia Naturalization Act was repealed by name. Any descendant of Electress Sophia born after 1948 cannot claim British nationality under the Sophia Naturalization Act.
The Royal Marriages Act was an Act of Parliament passed in 1772 by request of King George III after two of his brothers married without his permission women he considered unsuitable as wives of princes. The RMA stipulates that all descendants of George II, other than the sovereign and the descendants of princesses who have married into foreign families, are required to obtain the consent of the Sovereign, signified under the Great Seal and declared in Council, before any marriage is contracted. The Act contains a clause that states if consent is refused, those who are 25 years or older can inform the Privy Council of their intention to go ahead with the marriage; then, unless within twelve months both Houses of Parliament (the House of Lords and the House of Commons) show their disapproval, the marriage may lawfully take place. If the marriage is not approved and still takes place, it is considered null and void and any children are regarded as illegitimate. The RMA can determine whether a marriage is valid or not, but it does not affect the constitutional position of the individual (that person retains his place in the line of succession) although it does affect those of his children (they do not have a place in the line of succession). Further, it would seem that the RMA applies not only to marriages within Britain but outside of the country as well. (Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex, son of King George III, married without permission, in Rome on 4 April 1793, Lady Augusta Murray. Their marriage was held to be invalid in August 1794 by the Court of Arches, even though it had occurred out of Britain, because the permission had not been granted.) Lastly, the RMA, which is still in effect, extends to infinity (it has no cutoff point).
While some might argue that the Royal Marriages Act is a piece of anachronistic law that has no relation with today's mentality, others disagree. As long as there is a hereditary monarchy, it is reasonable to exercise some control sort of veto over the marriage choices of those in line to the throne. Perhaps the RMA should be revised, instead, but the principle behind it is no more anachronistic than hereditary monarchy itself.
On 17 July 1917, King George V issued a Proclamation which stated that the male line descendants of the royal family would bear the surname Windsor.
King Edward VIII succeeded his father George V in January 1936. He was determined to marry Wallis Simpson (they first met in 1931) following her October 1936 divorce from her second husband. The government and leaders of the Church of England were convinced that neither the country nor the Dominions would accept a queen who had been twice divorced. Despite all advice, King Edward VIII went ahead with his intention to marry the woman he loved. He had to make a choice about his future and ultimately chose Mrs Simpson. In early December 1936, King Edward VIII informed the Prime Minister of his decision to cease being king. And so, the Instrument of Abdication was signed on 10 December 1936 and it became law the next day when Parliament passed the Declaration of Abdication Act.
In the 1950s, a man named Charles Farran found what he considered to be a loophole in the Royal Marriages Act. He pointed out that since Queen Alexandra (wife of King Edward VII) was a descendant of a princess who had married into a foreign family, she was not covered by the Royal Marriages Act of 1772. (This Act contains a clause which exempts descendants of all princesses who marry into foreign royal houses, even those descendants who marry back into the British line and their descendants, from requiring the Sovereign's permission before marrying). As descendants of a British princess who married into a foreign royal family, Queen Alexandra and her descendants were exempt from the Act's requirements. Therefore, depending on whether or not Queen Victoria can be considered to be a princess who married into a foreign royal house (that is, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha), everybody who could be covered by the Royal Marriages Act has a Farran exemption (*) and so the Act is dead. Farran's arguments do not seem to bother the present royal family who behaves as if there isn't any substance to them. After all, there hasn't been any court ruling one way or another on this point.
It is worth noting that at no point does the Royal Marriages Act define precisely the word "princesses" or the phrase "into foreign houses".
The requirements of the Royal Marriages Act were applied when the present Duke of Fife (a descendant of HRH Princess Louise, daughter of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) asked for permission to marry a Roman Catholic and was refused, leading to his subsequent marriage to a Protestant. This is the only occasion when the Royal Marriages Act was recently applied. In the cases of HRH Prince Michael of Kent and his nephew the Earl of St Andrews, both were given permission to marry Roman Catholics under the Royal Marriages Act. The Royal Marriages Act is quite explicit about the exemptions and it would be inappropriate and wrong for a court to second guess what an 18th century parliament intended but did not say. The only reason the Royal Marriages Act is applied where it shouldn't be (e.g. to the current royal family) is that none of those affected have felt the need to challenge it.
The Royal Marriages Act has not been repealed, and there aren't any plans at this time to do so. The Farran exemption has never been applied to a British marriage, it is simply one man's opinion and carries no legal weight. Members of the royal family, including their Hanoverian cousins, still seek permission to marry according to the Royal Marriages Act.
* a list of the individuals covered by the Farran exemption can be seen in an a.t.r. post called "Royal Marriages Act coverage", by William Addams Reitwiesner, dated Sep 7, 1996
When sending a letter to HM, the envelope should read as follows:
The Private Secretary to HM The Queen
If he does, he certainly hasn't posted it on our newsgroup. We sincerely doubt that Prince William, or any other royal for that matter, would want the world to know his e-mail address. We can't vouch whether he or other royals are lurking in a.t.r. or any other newsgroup.
The following information about palaces and places of burial of Britain's royal family is an
excerpt taken from the "Royal Landmarks for alt.talk.royalty FAQ" (the remainder of this
mini-FAQ can be seen at:
Places of Burial:
A mini-biography of Diana, Princess of Wales in the form of questions and answers (such as when was Diana born, who are the members of Diana's immediate family, what was Diana's title during her marriage and after her divorce, and was Diana stripped of "HRH" following her divorce) can be found at the website called "Diana, Princess of Wales". To view the site, please follow the link at this URL: http://users.uniserve.com/~canyon/diana.html
This is a matter of tradition. No sovereign has reigned in England under a name not given at baptism, and only one did in Scotland (John Stewart reigned as Robert III from 1390 to 1406, because of the dislike for king John Baillol).
Until the advent of the Hannoverian dynasty in the 18th century, British princes received only one name at baptism. Since 1714, monarchs have always had a choice. Several monarchs chose to reign under a name that was not their first:
Only George VI reigned under a name under which he was not known; this can be explained by the desire to bridge over the unpleasant memories of Edward VIII's abdication back to the long and stable reign of George V. (Edward VIII himself was privately known by his last given name David, but Edward was his first name and the one under which he was publicly known before he acceded.)
The current prince of Wales has four to choose from: Charles, Philip, Arthur, George. Tradition suggests that he will choose one of the four, and that some special reason would have to impel him not to choose "Charles". Should he choose Philip, he would be the second of the name (Mary I's husband was proclaimed king). Should he choose Arthur, he would be the first of the name since the conquest.
There are too few cases in English or British history to establish a rule. Here are the precedents:
One can also note a near-miss: when George IV's daughter and heiress presumptive married prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, a dukedom of Kendall was mooted for him, but he apparently turned it down.
In short, no two husbands of queens were treated alike. However, it is unlikely that the case of Mary I's husband will arise again.
Scottish and English sovereigns were numbered separately, as long as the kingdoms were separate. Note that English and British sovereigns are numbered since the Conquest; also, they are usually numbered only if that Christian name has been born by more than one ruler (thus one says "Queen Victoria" and not "Queen Victoria I").
With the personal union of the crowns in 1603 sovereigns used dual numbers when applicable, e.g., James VI and I (6th of Scotland and 1st of England). Since the union of the kingdoms in 1707, a single numeral has been used for each sovereign, and it has been the one consistent with the English rather than the Scottish sequence of sovereigns: William IV (rather than III), Edward VII (rather than I). Soon after the accession of Elizabeth II, it was announced that, henceforth, the highest numeral from either sequence would be chosen, so that the next Richard will be the 4th, but the next James will be the 8th.
The case is interesting only if the king does not already have a son (who would then immediately succeed). There are two possibilities: (a) if the deceased king left a daughter, she could be displaced by the birth of a brother, but not by the birth of another daughter. (b) If he left no children, the child, male or female, should logically succeed.
But neither case has ever occurred, nor is either addressed explicitly in legislation, so any answer is speculative. The case occurred in Spain in 1883, where a similar succession law existed, and a regency was put in place (see the ATR FAQ for how other countries handled the same situation). But the Regency Act has no provision for a regency without a sovereign (or with an unknown sovereign).
In cas (a) above, the eldest existing daughter could be proclaimed conditionally. This is suggested by the accession of Victoria in 1837. William IV had died, leaving Queen Adelaide, a 45-year old widow. Victoria was proclaimed queen "saving the rights of any issue of his late Majesty King William IV. which may be born of his late Majesty's consort". While not a legally binding document, the proclamation hints at how the matter would be handled.
Part III: British Noble Families
In UK law, a peerage is an incorporeal heriditament (a non-corporeal form of property, a sort of virtual real estate), being one of the several dignities, including baronetcies and knighthoods, which can be created by the Crown.
At one time, the term nobility applied to all ranks above commoners and included earls, barons, knights and esquires. With the establishment of the House of Lords came a distinction between hereditary nobility (that is, the peerage) and the lower ranks with gentry still considered as noble. By the 19th century, however, the gentry was excluded from the term nobility. (The English and Irish gentry are not recognized in British law as nobility, but the Scots are.)
The Peerage is made up of two parts: one part is the separate ranks in the peerage (see question 2 below) and the other part is the five separate peerages. These separate peerages are the peerage of England, of Scotland, of Ireland, of Great Britain, and of the United Kingdom. Peers were created in the "peerage of England" or the "peerage of Scotland" up until 1707 when these two kingdoms combined under what is known as the Act of Union. Peers created after this date were in the "peerage of Great Britain". Peers continued to be created in the "peerage of Ireland" until 1801 when Great Britain and Ireland were combined in a second Act of Union. Peers created after this date were in the "peerage of the United Kingdom".
Exceptions and interesting points worth noting:
The five British peerage ranks in order of seniority are duke, marquess, earl, viscount and baron.
Note that baronet (which is a hereditary dignity, however), knight, esquire and gentleman are not titles of nobility and do not form part of the peerage.
In Great Britain, a peer is a noble. The status of nobility does not extend to his wife or to his children. Unless they possess a noble title in their own right, family members are considered commoners. It is only when a peer dies that the eldest son inherits his father's title and becomes noble. Daughters do not usually succeed to their father's titles unless it is specifically included in the creation of the title.
The eldest son of a duke, marquess or earl is allowed to use one of his father's (or mother's, if she is a peeress in her own right) subsidiary peerage titles as a social courtesy, while the eldest son of a viscount or baron is allowed Honourable before his Christian name. (Note that while the eldest son and heir might have the use of his father's secondary title, his father remains the actual holder of such a title, and that as a courtesy peer the heir is legally not a peer but a commoner.)
The younger sons and the daughters of a duke or marquess are allowed the use of Lord or Lady before their Christian names. The younger sons of an earl are allowed the use of Honourable before their Christian names while the daughters are allowed the use of Lady before their Christian names. The younger sons and the daughters of a viscount and a baron are allowed the use of Honourable before their Christian names.
If a daughter of a peer marries a commoner (a non-titled person), she retains her precedence as a daughter of a peer. If she marries a peer, however, her precedence becomes that of wife of the peer. In other words, if she marries "down" (a non-titled person), she keeps her precedence. If she marries "up" (a titled person), she takes on her husband's precedence.
Children of married daughters of peers do not have any titles or courtesy styles unless their father is a title holder or their mother is a title holder in her own right. Also, if a peer marries a spouse with children from a previous union, those children do not have a right of inheritance to the peer's titles nor do they enjoy the precedence of children of the peer.
Anyone who is not the sovereign or the holder of a substantive (as opposed to courtesy) peerage. This includes all members of the royal family who are not peers, and all members of peerage families except the actual peer: for example, Prince Harry of Wales, the Princess Royal, the earl of Arundel (son of a duke) are all commoners.
While this definition is legally correct, it seems counter-intuitive to many, in part because it is so different from the continental usage. This tends to generate confusion and debates, and use of the word should perhaps be avoided where possible.
Peerages (such as "Duke of Edinburgh") cannot be renounced. The second Viscount Stansgate tried to do that but it didn't work. As a consequence, there is now a procedure called "disclaiming" a peerage. The Peerage Act 1963 allowed hereditary peerages of England, Scotland, Great Britain or the United Kingdom to be disclaimed for life. (It also allowed hereditary peeresses to be members of the House of Lords, and for all Scottish peers to sit in the House of Lords.) In the example of Lord Stansgate, he has disclaimed his peerage and is now known as Mr. Anthony (Tony) Wedgwood Benn. The new peer has to disclaim within 12 months of succeeding or reaching the age of 21, whichever came last, and once he has applied to sit in the House of Lords he cannot disclaim.
Once a peerage is disclaimed it is an irrevocable decision and the peerage no longer exists during the lifetime of the disclaiming peer. Further, no other hereditary peerage is conferred on the disclaiming peer. A life peerage, on the other hand, can be bestowed on one who has disclaimed his hereditary peerages (as in the examples of the former 2nd Viscount Hailsham and the former 14th Earl of Home). Life peerages cannot be disclaimed, however. As soon as a peer has disclaimed his peerage, he reverts to the status held before he inherited the peerage. The wife of a disclaimed peer also reverts to the same style as her husband. If the wife inherited any courtesy style from her father, she may revert to its use. The children of a disclaimed peer retain their precedence as the children of a peer, and any courtesy titles and styles borne while their father was a peer. It is open to any child of a disclaiming peer to say that he or she no longer wishes to be known by these styles.
Succession to the disclaimed peerage is not accelerated (that is, the oldest son does not get the peerage as soon as his father has disclaimed it), nor is it diverted (to a brother or cousin, for instance). The peerage is in suspended animation until the disclaimed peer dies. The next person is then eligible to succeed normally under the terms of the remainder.
Some peerages are inherited in the male line, while others can be inherited by females. Other peerages fall into abeyance when there are sisters, and others have sliding remainders. Each peerage is (or can be) different.
The most important piece of information is the exact text in the patent creating the peerage. There it will usually say what is to happen to the peerage on the death of the grantee. The usual phrase in hereditary peerages (not life peerages) is something which means "and the heirs male of his body legitimately born".
Peerage law determines what is meant by "heirs male", "of his body", and "legitimately born", but doesn't affect the devolution of the peerage as defined in the patent. Since the Sovereign in the "fons honorum" (fount of honour), the Sovereign can issue whatever peerage he/she wants with whatever remainder he/she wants.
The only titles which can be bought legally in Europe are Scottish baronial titles. These feudal titles are eligible for purchase and can change hands by contract between ordinary citizens. Further, these titles confer heraldic privileges and precedence.
Peerage titles are created by the Crown unlike manor titles which can be bought from a previous owner or from a firm specializing in the selling of these feudal titles. (Often, the sale of feudal titles are held at auctions to the highest bidder.) The purchase of a 'lord of the manor' title does not make one a nobleman because it is not a peerage title. It is a feudal title only, although it might carry some historic association. It does not confer any status, nobiliary rights or privileges. Possession of such a title (or even a coat of arms) does not make one a noble, although it does in Scotland.
There isn't anything wrong with buying or selling lordships of the manors, but it is wrong to refer to them as "British titles". The holder of a manorial lordship is not styled "Lord (or Lady) of the Manor", although he/she can describe himself/herself as such, just as one describes oneself as a "chartered accountant". A lordship confers no style or precedence whatsoever, nor carries prestige or social advantage.
More information on this topic can be found at the following web sites:
Buying a coat of arms does not make one a noble. Websites that advertises the selling of coat of arms should be approached with caution. If the website says something like "a coat of arms is a pictorial representation of a name", be aware that this is simply untrue. Further, selling a "coat of arms for a name" is dishonest. Selling someone with a particular name a coat of arms as if it is theirs is fraudulent. In some countries, using a coat of arms which does not rightfully belong to you as an individual is illegal.
A coat of arms is a pictorial form of identification belonging to a person, a particular family or a corporate body. It does not belong to a name. For most names, there is more than one coat of arms, but most people with that name will have no association whatsoever with the arms, unless they are of proven descent from an individual who possessed or was granted the arms in the first place.
If you have the surname Spencer, for example, you are no more entitled to associate yourself with the arms of the Earl Spencer than you are to claim the earldom itself. Conversely, if you are called Smith and you do have a coat of arms, you could change your name to Jones and still use the same coat of arms. The arms belong to you and your heirs as people, not to your name.
More information about coat of arms can be found in the rec.heraldry FAQ (especially Question 3: How can I find my coat of arms or my family's coat of arms?) which can be viewed on the WWW at: http://www.heraldica.org/faqs/heraldry.faq
Part IV: Resources
It is amazing what one can find on-line about British royalty, nobility and related topics. The following sites are but a sampling of what one can discover while surfing the 'Net. This list is not meant to be definitive; rather it is a starting point for research. The FAQ compiler and maintainer does not make any judgements as to the contents or opinions found at these sites. If you are using the World Wide Web (aka WWW, W3, Mosaic, Netscape, Lynx), you can reach these pages at the following URLs:
I - Official Website:
II - Websites which predominantly feature British royalty and nobility:
III - Websites with some British royalty and nobility content:
I - Associations:
II - Mail Order:
III - Commemoratives:
IV - Periodicals:
V - Publishers:
I - Magazines:
This section features a selection of electronic (on-line) magazines that occasionally feature articles about members of British royal and noble families.
II - Videos:
- the following video titles are not available for purchase or rental from the FAQ
compiler and maintainer (please do not email the FAQ compiler and maintainer
asking to buy or rent these videos)
The following list of books is divided into four sections:
N.B.: the selection of titles is not meant to be exhaustive but will provide a suitable introduction to those seeking more information about British royal and noble families.
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