1917 Letter's Patent, Duke of Albany, Duke of Clarence, Duke of Cumberland, Duke of Sussex, Duke of Windsor, Edward VIII, King George III, Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, Prince Henry of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Royal Marriages Act of 1772, Titles Deprivation Act 1919
The wedding of HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has been announced to take place in May at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
One of the biggest speculations concerning the marriage is what Peerage Title the couple will receive. It has become the tradition with Her Majesty, the Queen, to elevate a member of the Royal Family to the Peerage by granting them a title of Nobility on their wedding day. Prince Andrew was created Duke of York at his wedding, Prince Edward was created Earl of Wessex at his wedding, and Prince William was created Duke of Cambridge at his; therefore it is logical to assume Prince Harry will also be granted a Peerage Title on his wedding day.
But which one? The odds on favorite seems to be Duke of Sussex, followed by Duke of Clarence. There are also other options. The Dukedoms of Albany and Cumberland have been suggested but they are forever in limbo it seems. The last holders of these titles, Prince Charles-Edward, Duke of Albany 1884-1954 (later reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) along with Prince Ernest-Augustus II, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale 1845-1923 were deprived their Peerage titles in 1917 for bearing arms against the United Kingdom in World War I under the Titles Deprivation Act 1917.
Under the provisions of this Act the legitimate lineal male heir of the 1st Duke of Albany was allowed to petition the British Crown for the restoration of the peerages. Because subsequent descendants have married in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act 1772, there were theoretically no people alive who can make such a petition according to British Law. The last person eligible to petition the Crown was Prince Friedrich-Josia of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who died in 1998. Since the the Royal Marriages Act 1772 was repealed by the subsequent Crown Act of 2013 it remains to be seen if the current heir, Prince Andreas of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, can Petition the Crown to regain this title.
In 1799 the double dukedom of Cumberland and Teviotdale, in the Peerage of Great Britain, was bestowed on Prince Ernest-Augustus, fifth son of King George III of the United Kingdom and Hanover. In 1837 Ernest-Augustus became King of Hanover and on his death in 1851 the title descended with the kingdom to his son King Georg V, and on Georg’s death in 1878 to his grandson Ernst-August II. In 1866 Hanover was annexed by Prussia but King Georg V died without renouncing his rights. His son, Ernst-August II, not only maintained his claim to the kingdom of Hanover, he was generally known by his title of Duke of Cumberland.
The title was suspended for Ernst-August II’s pro-German activities during World War I under the 1917 Titles Deprivation Act as it was for his son (Prince Ernst-August III 1887-1953, reigning Duke of Brunswick). Under the Act the lineal male heirs of the 3rd Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale have the right to petition the British Crown for the restoration of his peerages. To date, none have done so. The present heir and current head of the House of Hanover is Prince Ernst-August V (born 26 February 1954), great-grandson of Prince Ernst-August II, 3rd Duke of Cumberland and Tiveotdale. He is the senior male-line descendant of George III of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It is very unlikely that the current head of the House of Hanover will petition the Crown to have this title restored.
Unless these two Dukedoms are formally and legally renounced these titles will likely remain in limbo. Dukedoms such as Connaught belong to Ireland where the Queen no longer reigns so that Dukedom is no longer an option. The Dukedom of Windsor is so associated (tainted) with King Edward VIII the chance it ever being re-created for another British Royal is highly unlikely.
There is also the possibility that the Queen will grant the royal couple a lesser title such as Earl or even Marquess. At this time Prince Harry is 5th in line to the throne. The Duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth to their third child in April and if all goes as planned this will make Prince Harry 6th in line to the British throne. Since Prince Harry will be further down in the order of succession a lesser title becomes a possibility, however slight it is.
I know they’re not even married yet but I need to mention the titles of any subsequent Children. Under the provisions of the 1917 Letter’s Patent any children born to the Royal Couple during the life time of the Queen will NOT have a royal title. Under the provisions of the 1917 Letter’s Patent the royal title is limited to the grandchildren of The sovereign in the male line. Prince Harry and Meghan’s children will be great-grandchildren in the male line of the sovereign thus making them ineligible for a title.
The Act only provided a title for a great-grandchild in the male line of the sovereign when that child is the eldest son, of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. In this instance, Prince George of Cambridge. The Queen did amend the 1917 Letter’s Patent to include ALL children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The Queen could do something similar with the children of Prince Harry and Meghan. However, in the long run it won’t be necessary. Any children born during the reign of the Queen will automatically gain the title Prince/Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland when the Queen passes away; for they will no longer be great-grandchildren of the sovereign, they will be the grandchildren of the new sovereign, King Charles III.