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So does Kate get to be a queen or what?

Well, that’s complicated – and it gets even more so when you ask if she gets a title upon marriage…

Image: The British Monarchy

WHILE BRITAIN RESPONDS to the long-awaited news that Prince William – the second in line to the throne – has asked longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton to marry him, thoughts have turned to how the new princess-to-be should be addressed.

In order to resolve that issue, though, we first have to examine whether Middleton is actually entitled to any title of her own – and if not, what of William’s she is allowed to borrow.

First of all, the fact that Middleton is marrying William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales (the royal family, according ot tradition, doesn’t use its surname of Mountbatten-Windsor; when William and his younger brother Harry need to use a surname for military duty, they take ‘Wales’) doesn’t necessarily bestow her to any kind of position or title by itself.

The only one to which she will be entitled is to share that of her husband-to-be; his being styled ‘Prince William of Wales’ means that she is officially Princess William of Wales. In order to make it quite clear that her name isn’t William, however, she will commonly be known as Princess Catherine (her actual name).

Rather, however, it is customary in the British royal family for the sitting monarch (in this case, obviously, Queen Elizabeth II) to give their descendants titles just as they are about to wed – it’s essentially their wedding present. While the first-in-line is always given the title of Prince of Wales anyway, others of the royal family get titles on marriage. Charles’ brother Andrew, for instance, was made Duke of York on the same day he married Sarah Ferguson, who therefore became Duchess.

In Charles’ case, he was also given the title of Duke of Cornwall at the age of four (an honorific title which, when in Scotland, is changed to ‘Duke of Rothesay’). This is important, for reasons we’ll come back to.

Duchess Catherine of … Connaught?

Some titles being mooted for William upon his marriage include that of the Duke of Clarence – an appropriate one, as it is the official house of Willia, his brother, father and stepmother – as well as Duke of Cambridge, Duke of Sussex, or the potentially republican-baiting Duke of Connaught. In any of those cases, Princess Catherine would also become the Duchess of such a place. (It is within William’s remit, however, to turn down such a title if he should want to).

If and when Charles ascends to the throne, then in addition to his previous titles, William also assumes the title of ‘Prince of Wales’, making Princess Catherine the Princess of Wales. Currently, that title belongs to William’s stepmother Camilla, though because if its significance (most British people still associate the title with that of William’s late mother Diana) she refers to Charles’ other title of Duke of Cornwall – remember that? – or, when in Scotland, she becomes Duchess of Rothesay.

If William himself ascends to the throne, Princess Catherine would then become a Queen, though not in the same way that Queen Elizabeth is. Catherine, as Queen, would not be a ruler herself (unlike Queen Elizabeth, who is a ‘queen regent’, in that she is the head of state and not the spouse of a ruling king). Instead, as the wife of the king, she would be a queen consort, but nonetheless would become Queen Catherine.

(As a side note, when Charles takes the throne, Camilla is also entitled to refer to herself as a queen consort, but again – given the public affection with which Charles’ late ex-wife is held, it is widely understood that Camilla will simply retain the title of ‘Duchess of Cornwall’, which Charles keeps.)

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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