It’s been awhile since we spoke about titles. Back in the autumn, we chatted about how Camilla really is the Princess of Wales and about the oodles of titles that Princess Grace had and that Princess Charlene now holds. Today, we’re diving into the British title Princess Royal.
‘Princess Royal’ is the title traditionally conferred upon the oldest daughter of the British sovereign. Once the title is conferred, it is held for life. There cannot be more than one holder of the title at a time.
Princess Anne currently holds the title; the Queen conferred it in 1987 when Anne was 37 years of age. Consequently she went from being “Her Royal Highness The Princess Anne” to “Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.” She is the seventh holder of the title.
It all began when Queen Henrietta Maria, daughter of King Henry IV of France and wife of King Charles I of England, decided to bring this French royal tradition to England. In France, the oldest daughter of the King was given the title ‘Madame Royale.’ She decided the equivalent in England should be ‘Princess Royal’ and so here we are. It’s a bit of a funny and repetitive title we think. What Princess isn’t royal?? And yet it works somehow.
Here’s a short but sweet look at the six Princess Royals that led to Princess Anne.
Princess Royal #1
In 1642, Queen Henrietta (the lady who got this whole thing started) and King Charles’ daughter Princess Mary became the Princess Royal. That’s her in the portrait above dressed in all her finery and not looking too impressed. She married Prince Willem of Orange and so became a Dutch Princess as well. She passed away in 1660 of smallpox.
Princess Royal #2
This new tradition didn’t pick up again until 1727 when Princess Anne, the daughter of King George II and Queen Caroline, was granted the title. She was 18 years old. She married William, Princes of Orange in 1734 and decided to go by her new title, Princess of Orange, instead. However, as is tradition, she continued to hold the title Princess Royal until her death in 1759 of dropsy.
Princess Royal #3
Next up we have Princess Charlotte, daughter of King George III and Queen Caroline. In her case, the title Princess Royal was used from birth, even though it wasn’t officially conferred on her until 1789 when she was 23 years old. She later became the Queen of Wurttemberg (which is now modern day south west Germany) due to her marriage to The Hereditary Prince Frederick of Wurttemberg. She died in 1828, possibly from dropsy. Those were tough times…
Princess Royal #4
Next up is Princess Victoria, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria. Named after her mother, she was given the title in 1841 when she was one year old. She went on to become the Queen of Prussia and a German Empress due to her marriage to Prince William Frederick of Prussia. She died of cancer in 1901.
Princess Royal #5
Princess Louise was the fifth Princess Royal. The daughter of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, she was conferred the title in 1905 when she was 37 years old. She married the 6th Earl of Fife (remember that line in Macbeth? “The Earl of Fife had a wife. Where is she now”). From that marriage, she added the title Countess of Fife, and later Duchess of Fife. She passed away in 1931.
Princess Royal #6
Princess Mary was the only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. She married Viscount Lascelles, who later became the Earl of Harewood, in 1922 and so also held the tiles Viscountess Lascelles and Countess of Harewood. She was given the title Princess Royal in 1935, one year after Princess Louise passed away. Princess Mary was 35 years of age at that point.
Princess Mary lived until 1965 which explains why Queen Elizabeth never held the title (she succeeded to the throne in 1952 when her father King George VI died). Princess Mary is also the reason why Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond tiara is now still owned by the Earl and Countess of Harewood. To check out our post on that delightful tiara, click here.
Who knows what the future is for this title. If William and Kate have a daughter, she is the next person who could be styled as The Princess Royal (but only if or when William becomes King, of course). Since the rules of succession have changed, if she is the oldest child and not just the oldest daughter, she would also be next in line to become Queen. We wonder if she would then also be styled as Princess of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. We might just have to dive into that scenario some more in a future post. In any case, time will tell!