Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, HRH The Princess of Wales, King Charles III of the United Kingdom, Peerage title, Prince William, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Royal Family, Style
Like yesterday’s post concerning how is a Queen Consort is refered to, I will look at how a Princess of Wales is addressed.
I do want to stress that the Princess of Wales is a Princess of the United Kingdom by virtue of her marriage to Prince William. In British Law the wife of a British Prince takes on the feminine form of her husband’s titles. Therefore, when Catherine Middleton married Prince William she became a Princess of the United Kingdom, also Duchess of Cambridge. Now she is the Princess of Wales.
However, she was not born royal and that does matter in how she is addressed and referenced.
Princess of Wales (Welsh: Tywysoges Cymru) is a courtesy title first held by the wife of a native Prince of Wales. Since the 14th century, it has been used by the wife of the heir apparent to the English and later British throne. The current title-holder is Catherine, wife of William, Prince of Wales.
From 1301 onward, the eldest sons of the Kings of England (and later Great Britain and the United Kingdom) have generally been created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, and their wives have been titled Princess of Wales.
Although not granted the title in her own right, the future Queen Mary I was, during her youth, invested by her father, King Henry VIII, with many of the rights and properties traditionally given to the Prince of Wales, including use of the official seal of Wales for correspondence.
For most of her childhood, Mary was her father’s only legitimate heir, and for this reason, she was often referred to as “the Princess of Wales”, although Henry VIII never formally created her as such. For example, Spanish scholar Juan Luis Vives dedicated his Satellitium Animi to “Dominæ Mariæ Cambriæ Principi, Henrici Octavi Angliæ Regis Filiæ”.
In modern times Welsh politicians suggested Princess Elizabeth (future Elizabeth II) be made Princess of Wales on her 18th birthday, but King George VI rejected the idea because he felt such a title belonged solely to the wife of a Prince of Wales and the Prince of Wales had always been the heir apparent.
Camilla, Charles III’s second wife, was the Princess of Wales from 2005 to 2022 but did not use the title due to its popular association with her husband’s first wife, Lady Diana Spencer.
Queen Elizabeth II of United Kingdom issued Letters Patent dated 21 August 1996, stating that any woman divorced from a Prince of the United Kingdom would no longer be entitled to the style “Royal Highness”. This has so far applied to Diana, Princess of Wales, and Sarah, Duchess of York. No longer being married to a Prince of the United Kingdom they are no longer
When a British prince marries, his wife also becomes a British princess; however, she is addressed by the feminine version of the husband’s most senior title on his behalf.
For example, William, was created Duke of Cambridge by the Queen on the day of his marriage to Catherine Middleton. Upon the wedding she was called HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.
And as mentioned above when a British prince marries, his wife also becomes a British princess.
Then once Charles became King his eldest son was (briefly) officially styled His Royal Highness The Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge while his wife Catherine became Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall and Cambridge, omitting both the ‘prince’ and ‘princess’ titles and their first names.
When addressing a person with a peerage title, whether they be royal or a member of the aristocracy, first names are omitted and replaced with their Style (form of address) in this case His/Her Royal Highness. That is followed by thier title.
The next day when William was then created Prince of Wales, that became the senior title held in his own right, and he and Catherine are styled His/Her Royal Highness The Prince/Princess of Wales.
However, despite being a Princess of the United Kingdom as the wife of a British Prince, a wife is not to be called Princess in front of her first name. That privilege is for members who are Prince/Princess of the Blood. In other words, those born into the Royal Family who are a Princess of the United Kingdom from birth.
Examples of this are: Princess Anne, the Princess Royal (HRH The Princess Royal), Princess Eugenie of York, Princess Beatrice of York and Princess Alexandra of Kent. These women were born members of the Royal Family.
If William, or his brother Harry, had not been elevated to a peerage title then thier wives would have gone by thier husband’s first names. In this case, Princess William and Princess Harry respectively. Remember the wife of a British Prince is addressed by the feminine version of the husband’s most senior title on his behalf.
Another example of this case is Princess Michael of Kent, the wife of the King’s first cousin once removed, Prince Michael of Kent. Although she is a Princess by virtue of her marriage to a British Prince, since he does not have a peerage title she is called Princess Michael of Kent. This is much like how a wife will be known by her husband’s name. Technically my wife could be known as Mrs Liam Foley.
There is also the case when a princess of blood royal marries a British prince. She also becomes a princess by marriage and will be addressed in the same way; an example of this situation was the late Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife: when she married the cousin of her mother, Prince Arthur of Connaught, she became Princess Arthur of Connaught, Duchess of Fife.
Therefore in conclusion the current Princess of Wales is simply addressed simply as HRH The Princess of Wales. Since she was not born a Princess of the blood royal it is incorrect to refer to her as “Princess Catherine” just as it was incorrect to refer to Diana as “Princess Diana” despite how she was called by the Press.
Incidentally, calling her Catherine, Princess of Wales is also incorrect because, as we have seen, that would indicate that she was divorced.