On Royal Titles

Once again, the Duchess of Sussex has found herself in hot water. This time, her offense is making comments about the importance of voting at an online event called When All Women Vote. She said, in part:

You’re just as mobilized and energized to see the change we all need and deserve. This fight is worth fighting and we all need to be out there mobilizing to have our voices heard. If you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. If you are complacent, you are complicit. We can make a difference in this election and we will make a difference in this election.

Piers Morgan has characterized these remarks are a “brazenly partisan” intervention in US politics, and he’s called on the Queen to strip both the Duke and Duchess of Sussex of their royal titles

First, some background. The Duke of Sussex enjoys the style of ‘Royal Highness’ and the titular dignity of ‘Prince’ because he is a child of a son of the Sovereign (see the Letters Patent issued by George V in 1917), while the Dukedom of Sussex, the Earldom of Dumbarton, and the Barony of Kilkeel were specially granted by Her Majesty. The Duchess of Sussex, on the other hand, doesn’t hold any titles in her own right; she uses the feminine versions of her husband’s titles because of the longstanding convention that a wife takes the status of her husband.   

The Queen can’t unilaterally rescind any of the Duke’s peerage titles. That can only be accomplished by Act of Parliament. She could, however, potentially strip the Duke of his style of Royal Highness and the titular dignity of Prince since those are ultimately subject to the Monarch’s pleasure. She could also deny the Duchess the right to use the customary courtesy titles—when George VI re-conferred the style of Royal Highness on the Duke of Windsor, he made sure that Wallis Simpson wouldn’t enjoy it once she married the Duke (nevertheless, she remained free to style herself ‘Duchess of Windsor’).  

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have already stepped back from their roles as frontline royals, so stripping them of their styles and titles wouldn’t accomplish anything besides making the Monarchy look petty. And given the allegations against the Duke of York, many people would likely find it highly inappropriate if the Sussexes were punished for the Duchess’s fairly anodyne comments while Prince Andrew retained his full suite of titular perks.  

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1 Response to On Royal Titles

  1. Mark Loch says:

    Great post!

    Hope you are doing well.



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