Dukes of Brunswick, House of Hanover, King George V of Great Britain, Letters Patent, Prince, Prince Albert Victor, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Princess Alexandra, Princess Maud, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom
During the Victorian era as the Royal Family expanded even more, requiring even further official standards in controlling the title of Prince and Princess in descent from the sovereign. On January 1864 came the birth of Prince Albert-Victor of Wales the eldest child of the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) and grandson of the then reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria. Within a few weeks after the birth of Albert-Victor, her fourth grandchild but first male-line grandson, Queen Victoria issued letters patent which formally confirmed the Hanoverian practice of granting children and male-line grandchildren of the Sovereign the style “His Royal Highness” with the titular dignity of Prince or Princess of the United Kingdom prefixed to their respective Christian names.
The 1864 Letters Patent did not address the future styling of any great-grandchildren of the Sovereign or even further descendants. The Practice up until 1864 within in the House of Hanover, as we have seen, for descendants beyond grandchildren in the male line from the Sovereign was to grant them the style “His/Her Highness” and Prince or Princess of the United Kingdom. Queen Victoria handled further needs of regulation of titles on a case by case basis.
HRH Prince Albert-Victor, Duke of Clarence & Avondale
One example was in 1898. Prince Edward (future Edward VIII), Prince Albert (future George VI) and Princess Mary (future Princess Royal) the children of Prince George, Duke of York, (the eldest living son of the Prince of Wales) and born in 1894, 95 & 97 respectively, were customarily granted the titled Prince/Princess with the style of “His/Her Highness” as great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria in the male line. Since these members of the Royal Family were in direct line of succession to the Crown Queen Victoria issued Letters Patent, dated May 28, 1898, granting the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales the style of Royal Highness.
On November 9, 1905 King Edward VII’s 64th Birthday created his eldest daughter, Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife, with the title The Princess Royal, the highest honour bestowed on a female member of the royal family. On the same day the King declared that the two daughters of the Princess Royal, Alexandra and Maud, would be granted title of Princess and the style of Highness. Although they were not daughters of a royal duke, they were sometimes unofficially referred to with the territorial designation “of Fife.” Princess Maud and Alexandra, precedence immediately after all members of the royal family bearing the style of “Royal Highness”. Other than female members of the Royal Family that were Heiress Presumptive this is the only example of the title Prince/Princess being transferred through the female line. Princess Alexandra became Duchess of Fife in her own right and married her second cousin Prince Arthur of Connaught. Their only child would provide King George V opportunity to amend the 1864 Letters Patent.
HH Princess Alexandra, 2nd Duchess of Fife
HH Princess Maud, Countess of Southesk
Alastair Arthur, 2nd Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (August 9, 1914 – April 26, 1943) was the only child of Prince Arthur of Connaught and Princess Alexandra, 2nd Duchess of Fife. He was a great-grandson of Queen Victoria through his father and also her great-great-grandson through his mother. Upon his birth as a great-grandson of a Sovereign he enjoyed the style of “Highness” and the title of Prince of the United Kingdom. However, this would be short lived.
Also in 1914 King George V had an opportunity to once again amend the 1864 Letters Patent regarding the children of Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick, a great-great-grandchild of George III. Letters Patent dated June 17, 1914 granted the title of prince and the style Highness to the children of Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick as senior heir to the House of Hanover.
HG Alaister-Arthur, 2nd Duke of Connaught and Strathern
In 1917, with the United Kingdom in the midst of the Great War with the German Empire, and with anti-German sentiment in the air, George V issued a royal proclamation altering the name of the Royal House from the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the House of Windsor and stripped members of the Royal Family of the usage of the German titles of Duke of Saxony, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and the like.
This also prompted George V to issue new Letters Patent, dated November 20, 1917, which restructured of the royal styles and titles by restricting the titles of Prince or Princess and the style of Royal Highness to the children of the sovereign, the children of the sovereign’s sons, and the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. This excluded Alastair-Arthur of Connaught who was a great-grandson of a former sovereign but was not the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales. He became simply Alistair-Arthur Windsor until he succeeded his grandfather as Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, and Earl of Sussex, on 1942. However, Alistair-Arthur did not enjoy his titles long and died in 1943 at the age of 28 “on active service” in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, in unusual circumstances.
The former reigning Duke of Brunswick, as head of the House of Hanover, refused to recognise the letters depriving himself and his children of the British and Irish princely styles and titles. Nothing further was said until 1931, when Ernest-Augustus, Duke of Brunswick (married to Augusta-Victoria, eldest daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II) issued a decree, in the capacity as the head of the House of Hanover and senior male-line descendant of George III of the United Kingdom, stating that the members of the former Hanoverian royal family would continue to bear the title of Prince (or Princess) of Great Britain and Ireland with the style of Royal Highness. This title and style remains in use to this day by his descendants, including the current head of the House of Hanover, Ernst August, Prince of Hanover. The decree by the head of the House of Hanover is not legally recognised in the United Kingdom or Ireland, and the titles are used as titles of pretense.
The 1917 Letters Patent remains the law in regulating the style of His or Her Royal Highness and the title Prince/Princess of the United Kingdom. There have been amendments made since them most notably Letters Patent issued by Queen Elizabeth II on December 31, 2012, which gave the title Prince or Princess and style Royal Highness to all children of the Prince of Wales’s eldest son the Duke of Cambridge.