You would think this was harmless and fun without much controversy… but you’d be wrong!! You wouldn’t know it from reading the comments on this blog because they are 99% very positive. However, I also run my own royal history page on Facebook (link below) and while that page is also pretty civil you will see some squabbling from time to time. If you’re on Facebook you can follow that page if you’d like.
I would to mention a few of my observations to why discussing royalty can be controversial.
1. First of all not everyone is following royalty for the same reasons. Plus, some peoples interest in the topic may not be as deep or as intense as others which lead me to this observation. Before I relate what it is I want to say, I imply no judgment at all. It seems there are two groups of people that are interested in royalty. One group, I call royalty watchers, follow royalty like they would follow any celebrity, be they an actor or an actress, singer or musician or sports figure. Often, as I have observed, many of these types of royalty watchers began watching royalty due to the influence of Diana, Princess of Wales. Therefore, there interest may be limited to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry of Wales, and may be extended to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and other immediate members of the British Royal Family. But there is a limited focus and interest.
2. The other group that are interested in royalty are like myself, they are more of an historian than royalty as celebrity watcher. That means often our knowledge and interest is not just with the British Monarchy (although it may be our favorite) or the current British Royal Family; our interests stretch far back into history and across all monarchies of Europe and even the world. Again, both groups are fine. If you’re interest is not that deep, whatever level you enjoy royalty is fine!
The problem, as I have observed, these two groups often clash.
3. It seems as if they clash over two areas. These two areas are Diana, Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla) and the knowledge and usage of titles and correctly addressing the members of the royal family. I apologize for generalizing the situation so if you don’t fit in these categories I understand. It seems the more historical minded people have no problem accepting the Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla) into the royal family and seeing her one day being queen along side her husband, future King Charles III. The more casual royalty watcher, those that began watching royalty due to the influence of Diana, Princess of Wales, tend to still hold Diana in very high esteem and cannot stand either the Prince of Wales or the Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla) very much. With some there is outright hated. So that can be a controversial topic and an area of conflict.
Another topic that is surprisingly controversial is the usage of titles. Now, I must admit the proper usage of styles and titles is a bit confusing and can take a while to learn, but it can be done. I have found that the more historically minded the royalty watcher they generally do know this information. What I see in the casual royalty enthusiasts can be divided into three categories: a) There are those who do not understand the proper usage of titles or the laws governing how titles are created and inherited and what happens to some of them when the heir to the throne becomes the sovereign or the title becomes extinct. This group is eager to learn about these things. b) The second group may have some knowledge on the subject but they are grossly misinformed and are often wrong. I find this group to be a challenge to deal with because they often do not like to be corrected when they’re wrong and will often stubbornly cling to their misinformation. c) That last group are the very casual royalty watcher who could care less about this topic!
The proper usage of titles and the rules and laws governing them was a big interest of mine so I don’t think I am being too pedantic about this topic considering how much misinformation there is and given the fact that there are people that do want to understand how the system works. Someone has to set an example or all we get is this misinformation! Even keep in mind often the American media and even the British media gets this stuff wrong!!! (even a King got it wrong once)*
Here is a quick run down about how to refer to the members of the royal family. One thing many royalty watchers get upset about is the fact that the press on both sides of the pond still call the wife of Prince William (HRH The Duke of Cambridge) Kate Middleton!! The proper way to refer to the wife of HRH The Duke of Cambridge is, simply, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge. It is not Princess Catherine or Duchess Catherine. You do not call members of royalty by their first name if they have a peerage title. For example, its not proper to say “Prince Charles” he is to be called HRH The Prince of Wales. It is alright to drop the HRH and call him the Prince of Wales.
We do not call the Queen, Queen Elizabeth or just Elizabeth, it is proper to refer to her as Her Majesty, The Queen or simply The Queen. Her husband is not to be called “Prince Philip”, he is to be referred by his title, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. Now if members of the royal family are not the sovereign and they do not have a peerage title, you refer to them by their style Prince of Princess, their first name and the territorial designation they would inherit from their father. For example, Prince Harry is officially, HRH Prince Henry of Wales because he is the son of the Prince of Wales. The Duke of Cambridge was HRH Prince William of Wales until he received his peerage title.
Princess Beatrice is HRH Princess Beatrice of York because her father is HRH The Duke of York. The Queen, incidentally, was born HRH Princess Elizabeth of York for at the time of her birth her father, future King George VI, was HRH The Duke of York.
For those Princes or Princess without a peerage title to be able to use the predicate “The” in front of their name is reserved only for the sons and daughters of the sovereign. For example, if tomorrow the Prince of Wales were to ascend the throne as king, HRH Prince Henry of Wales would then become HRH The Prince Henry. He would be known as that until he is given a peerage title. Also, if the Prince of Wales were to be king tomorrow, the Duke of Cambridge would automatically inherit the titles Duke of Cornwall in the Peerage of England and the titles Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, and High Stewardship of Scotland, which are the Heir Apparent’s titles in the Peerage of Scotland. The titles Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester are not hereditary and would merge with the crown when the current Prince of Wales becomes king. King Charles III would then be able to re-create his son Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester whenever he sees fit. Until then he known by his double peerage titles while in England, HRH The Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge.
That is only the tip of the iceberg. I am sure I will type more about this in the future. Suffice it to say whenever the question of titles and its rules and regulations come up there is often some misinformation which leads to debate and conflict. I don’t claim to be the font of all knowledge on this topic for I am still learning myself. I know a few royal authors that know quite a bit more than I.
Even sometimes the sovereign himself doesn’t know the rules! * In 1947, Prince Phillip of Greece and Denmark renounced his Greek and Danish titles to become a British subject (something he already was, but that is another story) in order to marry the heiress presumptive to the throne, HRH Princess Elizabeth of York. He became Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten (taking the Anglicized name of the Princely House of Battenberg that his mother was from). The day before the wedding King George VI endowed Philip with the style His Royal Highness and the titles, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich. However, this did not create him a Prince of the United Kingdom as many, including the King, thought! Despite renouncing his Greek and Danish titles (not legally recognized in Britain anyway) HRH The Duke of Edinburgh was not a Prince! But that didn’t stop the press from continuing to refer to him as Prince Philip. I have a book on the royal family from 1951, a year HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh became queen, and it refers incorrectly to the Duke of Edinburgh as “Prince Philip.”
Some say King George VI did this intentionally and that is the point of debate. However, the matter was left unsettled for ten years. Various dignitaries of State suggested titles for the Duke of Edinburgh. They ranged from Prince Consort, the title Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria held, to the unusual, Prince of the Commonwealth or Prince of the Realm. The Duke of Edinburgh himself did not want any elevation of his titles. In the end The Queen, issued Letters Patent on February 22, 1957 giving her husband the style and titular dignity of a Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He has henceforth been known as His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, with the capitalized definite article “The”normally restricted to the children of the Sovereign.
I guess it can get complicated and no wonder titles can be quite the controversial subject!!!