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Harry’s and Meghan’s kids won’t be born royal — unless the queen changes the rules

Here’s a look at the Royal Wedding ceremony of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were wed at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle May 19, 2018. Here's a look at the ceremony of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were wed at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle May 19, 2018. Here's a look at the ceremony of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Q: What titles will Harry and Meghan Markle’s children have?

A: Let’s skip chattering about the bride’s gorgeous dress, the groom’s unorthodox facial hair and the recently-tapped official successor to the throne of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of other realms and territories walking the American former-actress who is biracial and divorced down the aisle — how would we address the happy new couple’s future kids?

Let’s break it down.

A quick course in royal titles

Titles are held by members of “the Peerage” of Great Britain. These honorifics can be either inherited by birth or granted by the monarch.

They also may come with property and with membership in the now less politically powerful and more symbolic than in the past House of Lords.

These are the different peerage titles in descending order of precedence: duke, duchess; marquess, marchioness; earl, countess; viscount, viscountess; baron, baroness.

Upon their marriage, Queen Elizabeth granted Harry and Meghan the titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Prince Harry, sixth in line to the throne (as long as his brother Prince William doesn’t have another child and bump him down another spot), retains his title of “prince.”

When addressing someone of the royal family, it is appropriate to use “his royal highness” or “her royal highness,” depending on the person’s gender.

Harry’s titles include: His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales, the Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel.

Women who are married to a peer like a prince are granted the courtesy of using the female version of his title. For example, Kate Middleton’s title by marriage is Her Royal Highness Princess William of Wales, Duchess of Cambridge.

So, Meghan Markle’s title by marriage, in addition to Duchess of Sussex, is Her Royal Highness Princess Henry of Wales.

It may sound strange, but it’s tradition.

Back to the kids

Here’s where things get complicated: King George V, Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather, restricted the use of certain titles when he issued what amounted to royal instructions, called “the 1917 Letters Patent.”

These letters patent reserved the right of the use of the title of “prince” or “princess” and the style of “royal highness” to “all children of the sovereign, all male-line grandchildren of the sovereign and the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales.”

Queen Elizabeth changed the rules with a new set of instructions called “the 2013 Letters Patent,” which allowed all of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s children, regardless of gender or birth order, to be titled “prince” and “princess” and use the “his and her royal highness” style.

If she had not done so, William and Kate’s first-born child, His Royal Highness Prince George, would still have been a prince, but Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Cambridge would have been Lady Charlotte Mountbatten-Windsor.

Queen Elizabeth could do the same thing for any potential children of Harry and Meghan’s, if she wants to. It must be nice to be queen.

But as of now, Harry’s children will be lords and ladies until his father, Prince Charles, assumes the throne. Then, according to tradition, Harry’s children will be “grandchildren of the sovereign” and allowed the use of the HRHs, prince and princess and so on.

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