An often heard argument against the children of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex having a right to a (courtesy) title is that the children of Princess Anne don’t have a title either, and they are doing just fine. While that may be the case, there’s also a straightforward reason as to why they don’t have titles. They aren’t entitled to one.
The 1917 Letters Patent state, “It is declared by the Letters Patent that the children of any Sovereign of the United Kingdom and the children of the sons of any such Sovereign and the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales shall have and at all times hold and enjoy the style, title or attribute of Royal Highness with their titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their respective Christian names or with their other titles of honour.” This was amended to include all the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (i.e. The Duke of Cambridge’s children, George, Charlotte and Louis), mainly because if George had been born a girl, she would have been “Lady” rather than “Princess,” while changes to make the succession gender neutral were already underway.1
The 1917 Letters Patent clearly limits the right to the style of HRH and the title of Prince(ss) to a (limited) male line of the sovereign. It might be superfluous to say so, but Princess Anne is a woman, and therefore her children do not fall under the 1917 Letters Patent.
If they had wanted to prevent the Queen’s eldest grandchildren from being born without titles, the solution here would have been to offer Princess Anne’s (future) husband, Mark Phillips, a peerage. The children of a Duke are entitled to be styled as Lord or Lady, with the eldest son and heir often using his father’s subsidiary title by courtesy.2 The children of an Earl are entitled to be styled as Lady or The Honourable, with the eldest son and heir often using his father’s subsidiary title by courtesy.3
However, Mark Phillips himself revealed in their pre-wedding interview that he had not been offered a peerage and that he would not have accepted one if he had been offered one. (From 3:57) Thus, Princess Anne’s children were destined to be born without titles, and they will remain so unless they are granted one or if they marry someone with a title.
- London Gazette
- Titles and forms of address: a guide to their correct use p.50-51
- Titles and forms of address: a guide to their correct use p.70-71