Explaining How Titles Work

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle cannot use the title of Sussex as their family last name. While it is understandable that Harry, in particular, thinks he can legally change his children’s surname from Mountbatten-Windsor to Sussex, this is not how titles are meant to be used.

That is why we will break down Harry’s frame of mind and how it is supposed to work. Also, we will not explain how other Dukedoms with no royal ties, ie, Westminster, work. When we talk about the changing of princely titles later in the article, we’ve left out the HRHs.

Why Prince Harry Thinks His Family Name Is Now Sussex

Okay, so Prince Harry’s ignorance is beginning to wear thin if he genuinely believes that he and Meghan can use their Sussex title as the surname for their children. It is a designation, not a name, given by the monarch, which was Queen Elizabeth II at the time of the May 2018 wedding.

For those who have been following the royals casually will know that when Harry and Prince William were boys and later young men, they were the sons of the Prince of Wales, who is now King Charles III. They were Prince William of Wales and Prince Henry of Wales at birth.

In the army, they were known as William Wales and Harry Wales.

[Credit: People Magazine]

You can see in the picture above that both brothers have their names on their uniforms and their “last name” is Wales. Why? Because they were unmarried at the time. Also, they were both princes. If a royal has a prince or princess title, they take the designation of their royal parent [in this case, Charles as the Prince of Wales] as a surname.

That brings us to Harry (and Meghan)’s reasoning why Archie and Lilibet now go by “Archie and Lilibet Sussex” at school. Because their father is the Duke of Sussex, they would use Sussex as a last name because they hold Prince and Princess titles.

Princes and Princesses do NOT have surnames. However, if an Earl has children, their children have last names. That brings us to how it works for other members of the royal family who are NOT Princes and Princesses.

The Children Of An Earl

[Credit: HELLO! Magazine]

The picture above you see is of James and Louise, the children of Prince Edward. Edward was still the Earl of Wessex at the time of The Queen’s funeral. Louise and James, despite being The Queen’s two youngest grandchildren, did not have Prince and Princess titles given to them at birth at the request of their parents. Though, they were eligible for them and they were given the choice to take them up upon turning 18.

Louise known as Lady Louise, is now 20 and chose not to take up her Princess title. James is not 18 yet but will maintain the same rights as his sister to decide whether he wants to become Prince James, even though The Queen is now deceased.

James, at the time of his grandmother’s death, was Viscount Severn, one of the titles given to his father when he married his mother. Upon his father being given the Dukedom of Edinburgh, James became the new Earl of Wessex.

James and Louise have what are known as courtesy titles as the children of an Earl. They use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor. Princess Margaret’s children, David Armstrong-Jones and Sarah Chatto (formerly Armstrong-Jones), also have courtesy titles. Upon their mother’s marriage to their father, Antony Armstrong-Jones, the Queen made her brother-in-law the Earl of Snowdon, which meant her sister became the Countess of Snowdon.

At birth, David was given the courtesy title of Viscount Linley. He was known by this title until his father died in 2017 when he took on the title of Earl of Snowdon. His son, Charles, is now Viscount Linley and his daughter, Margarita, was allowed to use the title Lady.

The York Title

[Credit: Town and Country Magazine]

There has been some confusion over the York title. So, Prince Andrew was given the Dukedom of York when he married Sarah Ferguson in 1986. The Dukedom is usually designated to the second son of the monarch.

When Princess Beatrice was born in 1988, she became Princess Beatrice of York. Two years in 1990, Princess Eugenie was born and became Princess Eugenie of York. Now, this is where people need clarification.

When Beatrice and Eugenie entered the workforce as adults, they used Beatrice and Eugenie York as their names. Even when they married, they continued using these names rather than their husbands’ surnames in professional settings. The screenshots below are from LinkedIn.

However, the line of succession on the Royal Family website lists the York girls as Princess Beatrice, Mrs Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, Princess Eugenie, and Mrs Jack Brooksbank. This is what they are known as on the Court Circular.

Much like the current rules for the Dukedom of Edinburgh, the Dukedom of York cannot be passed down as it is reserved for the monarch’s second son. Prince Harry is out of luck here as his uncle Andrew is a) still alive and b) the Queen was alive when the Sussex title was granted. When Prince Andrew dies, it is possible the title will be kept in reserve for Prince Louis, Prince William’s second son.

Princely And Courtesy Titles – What’s The Difference?

So, a Princely title is usually given to the children of a monarch. So, when King Charles and Princess Anne were born, they were given the titles Prince and Princess because their mother was the eldest daughter of the King at the time of their births.

Their younger brothers, Andrew and Edward, were also given Prince titles. However, their cousins, David and Sarah, despite being children of Princess Margaret, were not given Prince and Princess titles. The reasoning for this is that their mother would not be Queen as Elizabeth and Margaret were King George VI’s only children, and there were no sons who could pass the title Princely titles down.

The Dukedom of York – The Birth Of Queen Elizabeth II And Princess Margret And The Dukedom Of Edinburgh (Prince Philip)

When someone has a Princely title, they are usually not required to have a last name. As we stated earlier, princes and princesses usually take the designation of their royal parent. So, in the case of the late Queen Elizabeth II, at birth, she was Princess Elizabeth of York, as her father, the future King George VI, was the Duke of York as the second son of King George V. Princess Margaret was born as Princess Margaret of York. When the Duke of York became King George VI, Elizabeth and Margaret ceased to be Princesses of York.

When Princess Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten (formerly Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark), she became the Duchess of Edinburgh. Her father gave Philip the dukedom of Edinburgh before their marriage. Upon Charles and Annes’ births, they became Prince Charles of Edinburgh and Princess Anne of Edinburgh.

Upon his mother’s accession to the throne in February 1952, Charles was given the title of the heir apparent to the throne. He became the Prince of Wales in July 1958.

When their mother became Queen, Charles and Anne took different titles. Charles would have become the Duke of Cornwall as it was the most senior title he inherited. Once he became Prince of Wales, this became the senior title.

Until she married Mark Phillips, Princess Anne was known as The Princess Anne. She became known as The Princess Anne, Mrs Mark Phillips during her first marriage. The Queen gave her only daughter the title of Princess Royal in 1987. The previous holder was Princess Mary, Anne’s great-aunt, The Queen’s aunt, and daughter of King George V. Princess Mary died in 1965.

So, Charles and Anne’s “last name” was Edinburgh for a time. It changed upon their mother’s accession. It was never going to be permanent.

The Dukedom Of Cambridge

wedding anniversary
[Credit: Town & Country Magazine]

Prince William became Duke of Cambridge when he married Catherine Middleton in April 2011. When each of their three children was born, they were given the designation of Cambridge when they were at school. Prince George would be George Cambridge, Princess Charlotte would be Charlotte Cambridge and Prince Louis would be Louis Cambridge.

Upon the death of the Queen, which happened to be Prince Louis’ first day going to school with his brother and sister, the children went through three surnames in two days. When they went to school on the day Her Majesty died they were Cambridge. When they left school that day, they were Cornwall Cambridge. However, the next day, their grandfather, now the king, made their father The Prince of Wales, hence the children going by Wales as they do now, making them George Wales, Charlotte Wales and Louis Wales.

This is similar to their father and uncle, going by William Wales and Harry Wales in the army and at school.

Now, the surnames that George, Charlotte and Louis have gone by are not legally binding. Meaning that their names were not changed to reflect this in the eyes of the law.

The Sussex Title Is Not A Name

Harry’s argument that Sussex is now his family name is correct, but it’s also incorrect. Yes, that is confusing. We get it. The Sussex children could use the name at school if they resided in the UK, as it is their father’s duchy. However, the true family name is Mountbatten-Windsor, which both Archie and Lilibet were born witt, like Louise and James were.

The only way for Sussex to be Archie and Lilibet’s last name is if it is changed by deed poll. Archie and Lilibet have never been to Sussex. They have no connection to Britain. It is stupid that they have princely titles. They should’ve remained Master and Miss. Or, they could’ve been given courtesy titles. It was suggested that Archie could’ve been the Earl of Dumbarton. But Meghan threw a fit because it contained the word “dumb”. This is a brazen insult to the people of Dumbarton. Lilibet would’ve been Lady Lilibet.

But no. The parents demanded titles for the kids so they could be “equal” or, in Meghan’s mind, better than the Wales children. However, George, Charlotte and Louis are the children of the future king. There is nowhere to go for them but up. Archie and Lilibet will not get new titles once their uncle (the one they don’t even know) becomes king.

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About Author

C.J. Hawkings has written for the now-defunct Entertainment website, Movie Pilot and the still functioning WhatCulture and ScreenRant. She prides herself as a truth seeker and will do (almost) anything for coffee or Coke No Sugar. Oh! And food!

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