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Is Kate A Princess? Should Kate Be Called Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge?

Monday, September 29, 2014

A while ago I asked what people called Kate casually. I was specifically wondering if there was a divide based on nationality. Did the Europeans tend to call her Duchess Kate, while Americans gravitated toward Princess Kate, etc? Ultimately, I don't think there was a really solid conclusion, or perhaps more precisely, there seems to be no particular correlation between nationality and preferred title. Plenty of Americans call her Duchess Kate, while Princess is also used widely throughout Western and Eastern Europe and the world.



That question was to determine how you refer to Kate in daily conversation, not how she is titled were you to stick to the rules. Now, looking at the situation as it is, rather than as we make it...What are Kate’s titles, is she a princess? Is she a duchess? How is she named? It seems confusing and heaven knows there has been disagreement, but it should be quite simple. To know what Kate’s titles are, to know if she is or is not a duchess or a princess, or what have you, we have only to look at William for the answer. Was Kate born royal? No. But, she is a royal now. She married William and she derives every single royal element from that union. Kate walked into the Abbey as Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, but she was transformed at the altar. If William holds a title, he shares it with his wife. Every one of them, as his oath plainly states:
With this ring, I thee wed; with my body, I thee honor; and all my worldly goods, with thee I share.


Brief interlude, this always makes me think of the Scarlet Pimpernel. The two most perfect weddings in movie history are Maria von Trapp's in the Sound of Music, an almost royal wedding in itself, and the ethereal ceremony in the Scarlet Pimpernel. That's awesome, too. Woah, this is getting pretty girlie. Let's move one... :)

Is Kate a princess?
Yes, Kate is a princess. No one denies William is a prince now that he holds a peerage that precedes the princely title. (amended) Her spouse William is a Prince of the United Kingdom and as his wife, she holds all his corresponding titles, so she is a Princess of the United Kingdom, just as we say Princess Michael of Kent, even though her Christian name is Marie-Christine. Furthermore, when William filled out George’s birth certificate he designated Kate as a “Princess of the UK.” I am not going to gainsay the expert. He is a prince, so she is a princess. Plain and simple.



N.B. She is Princess William of the United Kingdom. She is not Princess Kate in her own right, and that is where confusion seems to take hold. Only women born royal are princesses in their own right, i.e Princess (insert Christian name). So, the Princess Royal is truly Princess Anne—she did not receive the title from a spouse. Eugenie and Beatrice are the same, they are princesses all by themselves. But, Kate is Princess William because she is royal by marriage, not by birth.


Similarly, Kate is a countess. William's Scottish title is Count of Strathearn and so as his wife, Kate is the Countess of Strathearn.

The Countess of Strathearn at the Order of the Thistle in Scotland Carrying Her Strathearn Tartan
July 5, 2012

Lastly, she also shares William's Irish title and so is the Lady Carrickfergus. Below, we see her in Ireland shortly before her marriage. 

William and Kate in Ireland before their marriage

You see the pattern. Kate married William and she shares his titles. Duchess, Princess...someday Queen. 

Is it proper to call Kate Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge? 
No.  That is actually the pattern you would use for a divorced woman.  For example, when Diana and Charles were married, Diana was The Princess of Wales. When they divorced, her HRH was taken from her, as was her title The Princess of Wales, because she no longer was married to the Prince of Wales, but she was allowed to retain the style as a part of her name, so she was: Diana, Princess of Wales.  Had she remarried, she would have lost Princess of Wales after her name. It functioned like a last name. This is why Sarah Ferguson is still called Sarah, Duchess of York, but she is not The Duchess of York. Kate should never be Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, but she will be HRH the Duchess of Cambridge until she (and William) ascends to a title that takes precedence over her husband's dukedom.



Which brings us to... What Will Kate's Next Title Be?
I very much hope that it will be Princess of Wales, and I fully expect it to be. When the unhappy, but inevitable day arrives, and Her Majesty passes away, Charles will be the King of England and the position of the Prince of Wales will be empty. The Prince of Wales is always the heir to the throne, but it is not an automatically inherited title. You may be the heir, but not have been granted the title The Prince of Wales. I find it nearly inconceivable that Charles will not invest William as the Prince of Wales. He is quite old-school and it is important to maintain these traditions within the monarchy. When William is made Prince of Wales, Kate will become The Princess of Wales. This will be quite exciting as we have not had a Princess of Wales, titled as such, since the very beloved Diana. 


Again, important to note that Camilla is currently The Princess of Wales. She has the right to that title, and could be styled as such if she chose. When she married Charles it was decided she would be styled by one of Charles' secondary titles to avoid public backlash. Princess of Wales was so closely associated with Diana, and their history being what it was, she chose to forego the iconic title to keep the peace. Certainly, a very wise move.

There is one title that plays by its own rules and that will be the highest title Kate will receive. When William is crowned King at Westminster Abbey, Kate will be anointed and crowned Queen. She will not be Queen William, she will be very properly Queen Catherine. 



What Does Kate Use As a Last Name?
Asking then what the royals do more casually gets just a bit more complicated. While there is an official family last name, they often use their titles as we use last names. So, you will notice that both William and Harry would use “Wales” on military fatigues since their father is the Prince of Wales and they are Princes William and Harry of Wales. We call Beatrice and Eugenie the York girls, etc, etc.


There are two stories about Kate and her last name.  The first is that at the wedding reception (the final, smallest, most exclusive evening reception at Buckinghan Palace) William introduced Kate as Mrs. Wales. Certainly a sweet story, although difficult to confirm. Given he had been Wales all his life and had just that day been shifted to Cambridge, I do not think it unlikely that he still thought of Kate as the new Mrs. Wales, rather than Cambridge.


The second is that Kate was shopping near her home and forgot her purse. When she asked the shop keeper to hold the item, he requested a name, and she gave “Mrs. Cambridge.” Again, hard to say. It could very well be true, after all even if on the day of their wedding William called Kate Mrs. Wales, by now it seems likely they have made the switch to Cambridge. George will be George Cambridge, it is their primary title, etc. Again, I wasn't there, I cannot positively confirm. That's the story...go with your gut.




So, in the end, I continue to support the right to call Kate what you choose. She is styled Duchess of Cambridge, but she is as much a princess as she ever can be, and as much a princess as she is a duchess.  

50 comments:

  1. Duchess, Princess .. One thing is sure : YOU are the expert on her ! I think Mrs Cambridge (I believe the story) should read your blog when the situation becomes confusing. You're doing a wonderful job !

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    1. Merci! You are very kind! I am very happy you popped in and read this morning. :)

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  2. Hi Jane. There's been a rumor that by the time Charles will be King, Camilla won't use the title Queen Consort, but Princess Consort, the same as the current Duke of Edinburgh' title: Prince Consort. If this really happened, Kate won't be Queen, but Princess Consort.

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    1. As I understand it, they were only saying that to pacify the masses. Charles did an interview a few years ago and mentioned Camilla being Queen. I really can't see Catherine being Princess Consort regardless. She is in a different public category to Camilla.

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    2. Anon 1:47...Thanks for your post. So here is my take...it does not directly follow that Kate would not be Queen. The DofE is Prince Consort because they can't very well call him King... Camilla won't be Queen (at least for the moment, this is the public line) because of the animosity many Brits still hold against her over the situation between Diana and Charles. Despite the public line that she will not be called Queen, it is pretty clear that Charles has every intention of making her Queen IF he feels that is possible "politically." Kate's Queenship is a little far in the distance to predict, but unless the monarchy was damaged in some way and it was determined that downgrading Queen Consort to Princess Consort helped their public image, there is no reason why Kate will not be crowned Queen when the time comes.

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    3. My understanding is that the reigning monarch can make the determination of what his wife will be called. Correct? Also, I understand that there is some talk from Clarence House to have her be called Princess Camilla

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  3. Still trying to process the fact that the shopkeeper had to ask her name . . . .

    This was very informative - thanks for posting it!

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    1. I felt that way, too, when I read the story. Doesn't he look at a magazine stand once every while? :) Ah well, boys. :)
      Thanks for reading!

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  4. LOVE the Sound of Music wedding. Thank you.

    Dang, the thought of "Kate will be anointed and crowned Queen" made me seriously teary and joyful and excited all at once. I hope I see it.

    Thank you for the explanations. I was already aware of correct styles and titles, but it is always a good reminder with the misinformation around.

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    1. Thanks Edythe! So glad you came by and read.
      It will be a pretty emotional day when Kate is crowned, that is certain. :)

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    2. I hope I live to see it. It will be amazing.

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  5. When Charles becomes King, William will automatically become Duke of Cornwall and as that is a much older title, would take precedence over the Cambridge Dukedom. Catherine would therefore become HRH the Duchess of Cornwall and Cambridge, until such time as William is created Prince of Wales.

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    1. Yes, as the first born to the king, William will automatically inherit the secondary titles currently held by the Prince of Wales: Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesey, Earl of Carrick, and Baron Renfrew and Lord of the Isles and Great Steward of Scotland... At least traditionally this should happen... As you point out, a Dukedom precedes all other titles here. Kate is already a Duchess, despite longevity of the title, we won't see a change from Duchess to Princess unless William is invested as Prince of Wales. Again, can't imagine that not happening! It will be pretty exciting. :)

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    2. The title Duke of Cornwall etc. is not secondary to the title Prince of Wales. They stand alone. The eldest son of a monarch is automatically Duke of Cornwall - Prince Charles has had that title since he was 5. The instant Charles becomes king, William becomes Duke of Cornwall.

      So Catherine's next title will be Duchess of Cornwall.

      As you mention, being created Prince of Wales has always been at the discretion of the monarch and today, probably also after consulting the Welsh Assembly (not in existence on previous occasions). History shows that it usually takes 6-9 months before the title is given (using Edward VII and George V as recent examples).

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    3. They are secondary titles to the current Prince of Wales, which is the capacity in which they are currently known. So, in this instance, for the purpose of designation only, they are secondary titles.

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  6. Jane,

    This is indeed a very confusing and diverse topic! Thanks for the post.

    However, I do think that the Duke of Cambridge's princely title is "Prince William of Wales", as upon marriage the territorial designation referring to his father's title was replaced by the Cambridge dukedom. So, as I understand the matter, Prince William is "Prince William of the United Kingdom", while Prince Harry is still "Prince Henry of Wales" as he is an unmarried prince. Which means that technically the Duchess of Cambridge is not "Princess William of Wales", but "Princess William (of the United Kingdom)", as you pointed out.

    I am very much anticipating the day when Prince William will become Prince of Wales - I am curious if they are going to drop the Cambridge title (which is what normally happens), and what will happen with their children's titles: will it be Prince George of Wales, then? Or Prince George of Cambridge? Or will George even become Duke of Cambridge?

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    1. I am so sorry it took me so long to post all these comments! It was a crazy day at the office. You are absolutely right, and it is a point that I entirely overlooked. (I will amend the main post!) So, yes, Prince William is a prince regardless of the "of" part. In the same way Beatrice & Eugenie are princesseses...
      You ask a very interesting question about George...and gosh, I am not entirely sure. Just guessing from following the logic. George would not be a Duke, and would not automatically inherit the Duke of Cambridge title. That is certain. Harry is still kicking about as Prince Henry of Wales and William didn't receive his title until he married and really entered a new stage of life. NOW, if William were king tomorrow through a series of calamitous events, then George should in theory automatically inherit the secondary titles we have already mentioned are held (immediately) by the heir of the monarch...including a duchy or two. Unless there is some law about coming to your majority that I am not aware of. Possible... BUT, with Charles on the throne and William the Prince of Wales, I would think that George would be Prince George of Wales. This whole four generations thing hasn't happened a lot recently, but gosh it's cool to think about. It would be so weird for him to stay George of Cambridge while his parents were the Prince and Princess of Wales. I will read up on it and get back to this, but if anyone else has thoughts (or greater knowledge, Miss Maggie where are you when we need you!) definitely weigh in!

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    2. When William and Kate become the Prince and Princess of Wales, George will be known as Prince George of Wales, not Cambridge. Princess Margaret was born HRH Princess Margaret of York as her parents were then the Duke and Duchess of York. When they ascended the throne, Margaret was restyled as The Princess Margaret, indicating her status as child of the sovereign.

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    3. I'm sorry. I really feel as if I was born in the wrong place and time. I LOVE royal information and I feel so at home with what I know. Thank you for giving me more information.

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  7. Thanks, Jane. This was very informative, but it led me to a question I've been dying to have answered. Charles' sons were immediately princes. Andrew's daughters were born princesses. I remember Anne declining the titles prince and princess for her children, but what about Edward's children. Why aren't the children of princes and princesses automatically given those same titles? Curious minds need to know! :-)

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    1. Ah ha! Now, this I can answer. The Letters Patent of 1917, by George V, limited the HRH status to the children of the sovereign and the children of the sovereign's male children. At some point (not recently) it was amended that the eldest male child (in this case, George) of the heir (William) of the Prince of Wales should also receive an HRH. Then, the Queen further amended when Kate got pregnant to say that if Kate had a daughter, she would also receive and HRH. But, back to your main point, Anne is a girl and her children were not automatically entitled to a title and she declined the Queen giving them any title when they were born. Really, I know it seems harsh, but the Letters Patent of 1917 were meant to limit the number of HRHs out there and there is something to be said for it.
      Charles is a proponent of paring down the BRF, and you remember that during the diamond Jubilee, the Queen limited the balcony appearance to only the 7 most senior royals. To survive, they have to keep the focus on the primary members.
      I hope that answers your question. In 1917 it was assume that in general a female daughter of the monarch would marry a nobleman and her children would gain titles based on their father's status. Now, as we marry commoners more often :) this is not always the case.

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    2. Very interesting! I get the whole need to pare down the family (although I love those whole family moments on the balcony), but what about Edward's children? Has he turned down the title prince for James? And does the queen need to offer the title of princess for Louise? I always had the feeling Andrew is competitive with Charles, and if his children are princes then his will be princesses, but maybe I'm just pinning my family dynamics onto them! :-) Edward seems happier lately, so maybe not so needy? Thanks for all your hard work! I love these history lessons when Kate sightings are scarce!

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    3. I believe I read that Edward and Sophie did turn down the titles in order to allow their kids to have a more normal life. I believe Andrew and Sarah didn't care one whit about it. The York girls won't have their children as prince or princess because they are female.

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  8. Hello! I read this story too (i think she wanted to buy a wetsuit but i'm not sure!), When she said that her name was "Mrs Cambridge", the house keeper said "that is an uncommon name" and then she smiled, don't know if it's true but I find this story cute!
    Sorry for my bad english, i'm from France!
    Love your blog Jeanne :)

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    1. Bienvenue! Je pratique mon français avec vous... :) No, I am joking, I will spare you. You are correct, it was a wet-suit according to the story. I thought it was super cute, too! I hope it was true and I think it relatively likely. :)
      Thanks for reading the blog. I am always stoked when France checks into the blog!
      Warmly, Jane

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  9. Hi Jane,
    great written post! Thank you for making this clear. I'm not proficient in royal titles but it's very interesting.
    The first photo is absolutely stunning!! It took my breath away!

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    1. I thought someone would love that! It is such a beautiful picture of her. She was radiantly beautiful on that occasion.
      I love the titles and hierarchy, too. Certainly not an expert, but I love studying it.

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  10. I'm from the US. People here refer to her as the Duchess Kate or Kate Middleton. I doubt a proper way of addressing her will ever take place. Kate seems to be more of a celebrity figure in the eyes of the public and is called by her "nickname" aka Kate Middleton. Not even Catherine as much as William wants that.

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    1. No, no, people will always call her what they will. I don't really mind that at all. After dating her as Kate for as long as he did, it is unlikely they will ever buck the trend.

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    2. I get bothered by the fact that (2016) people in the media still refer to her as "Waity Katy"

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  11. I was recently reading that Queen Elizabeth made Prince Philip a Prince of the United Kingdom in 1957 and he is called" Prince Philip". There was a lot of speculation when William and Kate married that he had wanted the Queen to formally allow her to be called "Princess Catherine." However, the Queen would not. Whether or not that is true, I don't know. But, I would almost be willing to bet that when Kate becomes the Princess of Wales, (King) Charles will formally make her a Princess in her own right to please William--I hope he will.

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    1. Philip was born a Prince (of Greece and Denmark), but gave up his royal titles when he married (then Princess) Elizabeth. He became the Duke of Edinburgh upon their marriage, making Elizabeth the Duchess of Edinburgh. You are correct that she didn't make her husband a Prince of the United Kingdom until 1957, 10 years after their wedding.

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  12. I wonder what the official family last name is. How strange to grow up as William Wales, and then have that change throughout your life as you get more titles.

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    1. Their official last-name when needed is Mountbatten-Windsor.

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    2. I always thought it was "Wales". "Mountbatten-Windsor" makes sense as well, given their ancestry: the other day I was watching Tina Brown's interview about Princess Diana where she said that back in the day whenever anything was written in the press about the royals, journalist called it "whacking the Germans" :D

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    3. Only the children of the Prince of Wales go by "wales", the rest of the family (Edward's kids) go by Mountbatten-Windsor

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  13. Wow! Reading all this in one go makes my brain nearly explode! People I know always call her Kate Middleton because that's how she was known for so long when she and William were dating.
    Sometimes I wish people would call her by her title because that is who she is now. She is no longer a commoner to the public, she is a Duchess (and she definitely looks, plays -and can live up to- the part)!!!
    Even William in speeches and things -when on tours especially- always calls her Catherine, so I feel as though we should respect them and call her the same.
    I've noticed that when she does 'well' like successful tours and having a baby, people call her the Duchess of Cambridge, but when she is caught out walking the dog, shopping (or is the victim of a dress mishap), she is down-graded to Kate Middleton.
    Phew!
    Thanks for the wonderful post, Jane. These quirky and informative posts are just as exciting as royal engagements!

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  14. I found this very interesting, however, Kate will not be Queen. She will be Queen Consort. She was not royal in her own right and therefore will not be Queen. Because she will be married to a reigning King, she will become Queen Consort. Though I think that William may pass over the title all together to George. William will be much older when he is crowned and he never showed that much interest in it, so he may decide to pass it to his son instead. Just a thought.

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    1. I can't imagine for 1 second that William won't do his duty. Just like Charles. The man has prepared for this since 1952. For them duty is everything. They would never dishonor the Queen's memory

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  15. Ok duchess of cambridge and princess william. And Queen one day. But surely kate is not a prince? The title of this post confuses me a bit.

    Here in holland in the public media they say Prince william and his wife Kate. Kate, prince williams wife. Or, catherine, the duchess of cambridge (as if she was divorced right?) Well, anything better then kate middleton.

    Funny story. I have a friend who lives in the UK for work and when i recently saw here i said: Prince williams wife is pregnant again, you knew that?. She said no which suprised me as it was that same week of the announcement and she lives in the uk. And then she had this thinking look and suddenly said: is she then the duchess of cambridge? Yes my dear. But the none followers her in NL wouldnt know either i guess.

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    1. Oh man, you should be confused. This is Jane Barr's brain misfiring. I don't know how many times I have looked at this post and I always see princess. Your mind truly does fix what it doesn't like... BUT, I have amended the post title. I wonder if people realized it was a mistake and said nothing, or thought I was actually musing on the possibility she is in fact a prince. :)

      I laughed at your story, too. One of my reader's had another hilarious story earlier about chatting with her husband about the Duchess begin pregnant and twenty minutes later he said, "hey, did you see that Kate Middleton is pregnant, too?" Some people only know her by one of her names or titles. :)

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  16. Has it crossed anyone's mind that Prince Charles may die before his mother the Queen does? He's looking very old these days yet it seems the very resilient Queen might March on forever. If Charles does pass first, does William inherit Charles' titles to the letter or does it get more complicated because a link in the chain would be missing (meaning Charles never became king)?

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    1. He will inherit all except for Prince of Wales automatically. That title has to be conferred by the monarch.

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  17. ...if Prince Charles passes before his mum HM Queen Elizabeth II then, HM heir becomes Prince Andrew York (similar to Hm dad King Bertie), and Prince Andrews daughter/s Princess Beatrice/Eugene move up to become direct heirs (!?). Prince Charles heirs would no longer be HM heir (one must be alive to accend the Throne after HM passes...), a dead older son cannot rein. Prince Charles in such scenario would not have been King therefore, Prince William or Harry would no longer be heir/spare to Throne as their dad was not King Charles... .

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    1. If Charles dies first then it goes William, George, Charlotte, Harry. In no way does it skip to Andrew unless all of them pass first. Then Andrew becomes heir

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  18. No.
    If Charles dies before the Queen, Prince William is her heir. The monarchy descends in a *direct*
    line wherever possible, moving sideways only if there's no alternative. So the line of
    inheritance goes Charles, William, George, Princess X, Harry, Duke of York, Beatrice, Eugenie,
    Edward, Viscount Severn, Lady Louise and all the children of the Queen's children to Zara
    Tindall and presumably, her child. Only once all the "heirs of her body" have been
    exhausted, does it start going off into the Queen's cousins' lines etc. I think they stop
    counting after 20-something! Here's the table but obviously, after Prince George, everyone now
    moves down one as the baby princess becomes no. 4 and Harry is 5th. And that's from the
    official royal web site.

    THE LINE OF SUCCESSION
    SOVEREIGN
    1. The Prince of Wales
    2. The Duke of Cambridge
    3. Prince George of Cambridge
    4. Prince Henry of Wales
    5. The Duke of York
    6. Princess Beatrice of York
    7. Princess Eugenie of York
    8. The Earl of Wessex
    9. Viscount Severn
    10. The Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor
    11. The Princess Royal
    12. Mr. Peter Phillips
    13. Miss Savannah Phillips
    14. Miss Isla Phillips
    15. Mrs. Michael Tindall

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    1. Would Lady Louise be an heir? The letters of succession weren't changed until 2013 and Lady Louise was already born.

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  19. Actually the reason Camilla could be called princess consort rather than queen is because she was previously divorced and even though the most of the queen's children were divorced. This goes back to Wallace Simpson Era. (personally because of this issue I don't think Charles should be king) Kate has never been married before therefore she would automatically be Queen. Also as the first daughter of a direct heir since Princess Anne, Princess Charlotte is next in line for the Princess Royal title, although only after Princess Anne has died.

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  20. Kate is not a princess in her own right - but princess by marriage - because she was born a commoner. Lady Diana became a Princess in her own right when she married Prince Charles because she already had a title before her marriage and therefore had the right to become a princess. This is part of the constitutional law of the United Kingdom as pertaining to the monarchy. However I do think its old fashioned and I think Kate should just be Princess Catherine. Obviously after the queen dies if Prince Charles takes the throne (because he may die first or he may abdicate the throne in favor of William - again cause of the Wallace Simpson arguement) then she would become a princess in her own right.
    Think of it like an upgrade you have to complete level one before getting to level two, you can't jump from level one to level three. Kate and William have always reminded me of a modern version of King George and Queen Elizabeth (Our present queens parents) don't know why but I feel there is a similarity there and I think the Williams great grandmother would have been quite fond of her. I also wonder if the queen feels the same way since she has loaned Kate special pieces of jewellry which belonged to her mother (see tiara above as an example).

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    1. Diana wasn't even a princess in her own right. Her father was an Earl, so she was Lady Diana. She was a princess through Charles

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