A version of this story appeared in the March 10 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had their first child, Archie, he wasn’t granted a royal title. It’s not clear whether one was offered by Queen Elizabeth II and refused, or not offered at all. But it raised eyebrows.
That’s because the custom would have been for the monarch to offer a title such as Earl to someone so high up the line of succession. The assumption many made was that Prince Harry and Meghan declined a title to allow their new son to live a more normal life, away from the limelight and official duties.
A royal source at the time didn’t elaborate but pointed out to CNN that Archie would automatically become a prince when his grandfather acceded to the throne. Our hypothesis back then was that any children of the Sussexes would take their royal titles when the time came.
So, when Lilibet Diana was born in 2021, little fuss was made over her lack of official title. But, over time, as tensions escalated between the Sussexes and the rest of the royal family it wasn’t clear if they would still want to align their children to the institution or, perhaps, leave it up to the kids to decide when they were older.
This week, we found out. Confirmation that both Sussex children will use their royal titles was subtly dropped into a short statement from a spokesperson for the couple that read: “I can confirm that Princess Lilibet Diana was christened on Friday, March 3 by the (Bishop) of Los Angeles, the Rev John Taylor.”
Buckingham Palace made no official comment amid the ensuing media frenzy questioning why the titles were being reaffirmed now. Some wondered why the Sussexes would want their young children to take the titles when they have been so critical of the monarchy since relocating stateside.
A spokesperson for the couple on Thursday told CNN that the titles were the children’s “birthright,” before adding that the “matter has been settled for some time in alignment with Buckingham Palace.”
Meanwhile, a palace source told us that Lilibet’s new title was in line with the precedent established by the 1917 Letters Patent issued by George V, which confer the title of Prince or Princess on the male-line grandchildren of the sovereign.
The implication here is that King Charles III was fully aware and approved of his grandchildren using their titles. Theoretically, if he hadn’t endorsed the move, the King could have stripped their titles away – though that would have required him to issue new Letters Patent to supersede the historical guidance. Despite some previous reports, there has never been any suggestion from the palace that he intended to do so and, frankly, it would only have exacerbated already-fraught family relations.
Archie and Lilibet’s titles have subsequently been updated on the royal family’s website. Under the line of succession to the throne, the “Master” and “Miss” references have been replaced with “Prince Archie of Sussex” and “Princess Lilibet of Sussex” in the rundown at numbers six and seven, respectively, confirming the United States is home to the world’s newest prince and princess.
Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet’s titles weren’t the only updates to the monarchy’s website this week. On Friday morning, Buckingham Palace announced that the King had conferred the title of Duke of Edinburgh upon his youngest brother, Prince Edward, on the prince’s 59th birthday.
The title – which was previously bestowed upon their father, Prince Philip – will remain with Edward throughout his life and revert to the Crown upon his death. Though he is still technically also the Earl of Forfar, Edward will now use the title of Duke of Edinburgh as it is more senior.
Edward’s wife, Sophie, now becomes the Duchess of Edinburgh, while their son, James, Viscount Severn takes his father’s other previous title of Earl of Wessex. There is no change for the couple’s daughter, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor, due to the centuries-old law of primogeniture, which puts male heirs ahead of women.
Like the acknowledgement of the Sussex children’s titles, Prince Edward’s new title isn’t entirely unexpected. Back when he and Sophie wed in 1999, it had been announced that the dukedom would pass to him following Philip’s death. However, the lack of movement in the two years since his father’s passing sparked speculation over whether it would actually happen.
Prince Edward reflected on his father’s legacy in a chat with us at St. James’ Palace back in 2021. Take a look.
In the royal diary
The royal family will make their way to Westminster Abbey on Monday for the annual Commonwealth Day service. As head of the Commonwealth, the King will be accompanied by the Queen Consort as well as other senior royals, including the Prince and Princess of Wales, the new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh and Princess Anne and her husband, Vice Admiral Tim Laurence.
Following the service, the royals will return to Buckingham Palace to welcome the Commonwealth secretary-general, high commissioners, foreign affairs ministers and other members of the Commonwealth community for the traditional Commonwealth Day reception.
What else is happening?
Coronation holy oil consecrated in Jerusalem.
The sacred oil that will be used to anoint King Charles III at his May 6 coronation has been consecrated at a Christian holy site in Jerusalem. The “chrism oil” was created using olives harvested from two groves on the Mount of Olives, a mountain ridge to the east of Jerusalem’s Old City, which holds religious importance to Christians. According to Buckingham Palace, olives from the Monastery of Mary Magdalene and the Monastery of the Ascension were pressed just outside Bethlehem, where Christians believe Jesus was born. Read more on this story here.